Attorney General William Barr has assigned U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash to review episodes of “unmasking” by Obama administration officials before and after the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday night.
In a controversy that has grown since the DOJ moved to drop charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Republican lawmakers have also demanded more information about a list of Obama-era officials who sought to unmask Flynn, Fox News reported.
Unmasking is the intelligence term used for those instances when American citizens speaking to foreign nationals under surveillance have their identities revealed. It takes an official request for that to happen.
DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told Fox News’ “Hannity” that Bash is taking up the probe to support attorney John Durham’s investigation into the Russia investigation.
“The attorney general determined that certain aspects of unmasking needed to be reviewed separately as a support to John Durham’s investigation,” Kupec said, adding that Bash had been assigned to do just that.
“We know that unmasking inherently isn’t wrong, but certainly the frequency, the motivation and the reasoning behind unmasking can be problematic.”
She added that understanding who was unmasking whom would aid the investigation by helping to understand the motivation behind the action.
“The frequency, who was unmasking whom, all of these circumstances and events can shed light and give us a better understanding of what happened with respect to President Trump, his campaign and of course what happened after he was elected as well,” Kupec said.
The Trump administration recently released a list of Obama administration officials who made unmasking requests and who could have learned of Flynn’s identity through them.
Due to the presence on that list of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and comments from the attorney currently representing Flynn, Obama’s name has now become linked to the effort to target Flynn.
Other names on the list include former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
In response to Biden’s name appearing on the declassified list, Biden’s campaign said that Trump was just trying to distract from his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“These documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American government — including among career officials — over intelligence reports of Michael Flynn’s attempts to undermine ongoing American national security policy through discussions with Russian officials or other foreign representatives,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
.@JoeBiden camp responds to “unmasking” list: “These documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American govt…over intelligence reports of Michael Flynn’s attempts to undermine ongoing American national security policy” via @AndrewBatesNC pic.twitter.com/bNl9Fp5JH1
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) May 13, 2020
“[I]t’s telling that these documents were selectively leaked by Republicans abusing their congressional powers to act as arms of the Trump campaign after having them provided by a partisan official installed for this very purpose,” he added.
Kupec added that the D.C. Court of Appeals has invited the DOJ to give its opinion on the Flynn case and she maintained that the department had the “prosecutorial discretion” to decide to drop the case against Flynn.
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