Senator Lindsey Graham pushed back Thursday against President Trump’s exhortation that he call former President Obama to testify to Congress about efforts by Obama administration officials to “unmask” former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.
“If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama,” Trump said in a Thursday tweet. “He knew EVERYTHING.”
Trump went on to specifically urge Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and frequently defends him, to “just do it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more talk!”
In a statement later on Thursday, Graham cautioned he is “greatly concerned about the precedent that would be set by calling a former president for oversight.”
“No president is above the law,” the South Carolina Republican said. “However, the presidency has executive privilege claims against other branches of government.”
Graham added that “both presidents are welcome to come before the committee and share their concerns about each other. If nothing else it would make for great television. However, I have great doubts about whether it would be wise for the country.”
Trump’s urging that his predecessor testify to lawmakers comes after a newly declassified memo named the Obama administration officials who requested that Flynn’s identity be revealed through the “unmasking” process.
“Unmasking” in this context refers to the process by which senior executive branch officials can request the identity of American citizens whose communications are picked up during surveillance operations against foreigners. In this case, Flynn’s December, 2016 communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were recorded because Kislyak was being surveilled.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s name and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were on the list of officials who requested Flynn’s identity.
Flynn pled guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts but withdrew his guilty plea earlier this year. The Justice Department moved last week to drop the criminal case against the former national-security adviser, a controversial decision that prompted a barrage of criticism from Trump’s political opponents, and resulted in the appointment of a retired judge to make the case against dropping the charges.