Former vice president Joe Biden appears on a declassified list of Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The list, obtained by CBS News, shows that Biden’s office made its request to see Flynn’s identity on January 12, 2017 — the same day that Washington Post columnist David Ignatius broke news of Flynn’s calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. While the NSA says it “cannot confirm” that those listed personally saw the information, the list also names former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, and former FBI director James Comey.
American citizens whose communications are incidentally picked up in national-security surveillance are protected by law. But they can be unmasked by a select number of U.S. officials, and it is illegal to leak unmasked information or use it for political gain.
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) May 13, 2020
Comey revealed in 2018 that he “sent” FBI agents to interview Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017, adding that it was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more organized administration.” Last month, a filing released in the Flynn case showed handwritten notes from an FBI official that questioned if the goal of Flynn’s White House interview was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
A transcript released last week showed Clapper admitting in 2018 that he “never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.”
Biden said Tuesday that he knew the FBI had “asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it,” when asked about his knowledge of the Flynn case — which the Department of Justice dropped last week after reviewing previously undisclosed exculpatory information. Biden initially claimed he knew “nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” but was forced to backtrack after ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pointed out Biden was reported to be in an Oval Office meeting on January 5, 2017, in which Flynn was discussed.
Former President Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough also requested access to Flynn’s name on January 5, 2017, the same day as the Oval Office meeting. Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said in testimony released with Flynn’s case dismissal last week that in the meeting, she was “so surprised” to hear Obama asking about Flynn’s call with Kislyak that “she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell handed over the list to Attorney General Bill Barr last week after declassifying it, but DOJ sources revealed yesterday that they were unlikely to release the list. The documents obtained by CBS News show that Grenell sent the list to Senators Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who are conducting a probe into Biden’s Hunter Biden’s business dealings and Joe Biden’s diplomatic work.
In a March letter to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Obama’s spokesperson claimed Johnson and Grassley were giving “credence to a Russian disinformation campaign” by asking to see “Obama administration records related to certain meetings connected to Ukraine.”