Joe Biden wasn’t very convincing on Tuesday when it came to a question about the Obama administration’s efforts to snare Michael Flynn
On Wednesday, it got a lot worse.
It turns out, the former vice president was on the list of Obama administration officials who’d sought information about the FBI’s investigation of Flynn as President Donald Trump’s pick for national security advisor was about to take office in January 2017.
And that makes Biden’s response to a direct question from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday look like the words of a liar — or a fool. Neither is a good look for a man seeking the trust of the American people.
According to Fox News, Biden’s name was among top members of the Obama administration who made requests to “unmask” Flynn’s identity after his calls were picked up as part of normal surveillance of communications by then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
CBS News’ Catherine Herridge published the list in a Twitter post.
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) May 13, 2020
As summarized in a Washington Examiner report from April 2017, “masking” refers to the process American intelligence agencies use to protect the identities of American citizens whose innocent communications are picked up as part of surveillance activities.
A private citizen — as the retired three-star Gen. Flynn was before the Trump administration took office — would be identified by a number if he were picked in a conversation with a foreign surveillance target.
The true names of the individuals involved could only be released to those authorized to ask for the information — including, in this case, the man who was vice president of the United States.
Other names on Herridge’s list include then-FBI Director James Comey — surprise, surprise — then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and then-President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough. In short, it was a rogue’s gallery of anti-Trump activists. (And who do you think ended up with the information McDonough wanted?)
So, Biden might well have been authorized to “unmask” Flynn’s identity as a party to a conversation involving the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2017. His problem is that it makes what he said to Stephanopoulos look even shakier than it did on Tuesday.
During that interview, Stephanopoulos very clearly asked Biden what he knew about the investigation into Flynn.
Biden at first responded categorically — “I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn” — before launching into a tangent about how the whole thing was a distraction from the country’s real problems.
“I know nothing about those moves [by the FBI] to investigate Michael Flynn,” Joe Biden claimed.
Reminded he was in a January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with President Obama and the FBI Director about investigating Flynn, Biden admits “I was aware… but that’s all I know.” pic.twitter.com/SImLNoqhd7
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 & get the APP (@TrumpWarRoom) May 12, 2020
When Stephanopoulos insisted, noting that Biden was known to be present at a Jan. 5, 2017, White House meeting where Flynn was one of the main topics of conversation, Biden changed his tune and claimed he misunderstood the question.
“I was aware that they had asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it. And I don’t think anything else,” he said.
Well, either Biden or someone in his office apparently knew much more about it than that.
The list of those seeking to “umask” Flynn was declassified by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell. According to Fox, Grenell wrote in a document accompanying the list that each one “was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.”
However, Grenell added that: “While the principals are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information. This response does not include any requests outside of the specified time-frame.”
So, Biden was either not telling the truth about knowing only that “they had asked for an investigation,” or his office was seeking surveillance information about an American citizen without Biden being aware of it — which paints Biden as exactly the kind of doddering figurehead he looks like.
And it’s exactly the kind of image Democrats are trying to shake for their pathetic presumptive candidate in the run-up to the presidential election.
Some social media responses showed how hard that’s going to be:
— Robert Whitrock (@RobertWhitrock) May 13, 2020
That last entry! I wonder how “corn pop” is going to stutter his way out of this?
— Gary Baker (@deplorableGaryB) May 13, 2020
He probably forgot he was there, he can’t remember what State he is in, sleepy joe can’t even remember a question he is asked 2 seconds ago, that’s the best you got dems, that’s awesome guaranteeing another Trump victory 2020, #fourmoreyears
— atlantagor (@atlantagor) May 13, 2020
Regrettably, but not surprisingly, there were quite a few responses to Herridge’s Twitter post that defended the “unmasking” because the 16 requests that were honored were from individuals authorized to make them.
That might be technically true. But even a liberal has to know about the growing body of evidence and developments indicated Flynn was targeted for an unjust prosecution. It’s why the Justice Department moved to dismiss the criminal charge against him last week.
More to the point, the list is written proof that the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency either has no problem lying directly to the American people in a television interview (a la Bill “I did not have sex with that woman” Clinton) or doesn’t know what’s happening in his own domain.
The Trump campaign wasted no time in pointing out how pitiful this looks.
“Joe Biden’s limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable. Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement, according to Fox. “We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked.”
“Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”
The Biden campaign put out a statement as well, though it did nothing beyond seeking to blame Republicans and blasting Flynn instead of explaining the then-vice president’s actions.
.@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
Biden’s going to have to do better than that before November, unless he wants to think he’s either a liar or a fool.
It’s a good bet he’s both.
And the way things are going, the American people are going to find it out.
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