President Trump said Thursday that the Obama officials who sought to “unmask” former national-security adviser Michael Flynn in surveillance documents should go to jail for their actions.
“People should be going to jail for this stuff and hopefully, a lot of people are going to have to pay,” Trump said during a Fox Business interview that aired Thursday morning. “No other president should have to go through, and I’ll tell you, General Flynn and others are heroes, heroes, because what’s happened to them. They weren’t after General Flynn. They wanted him to lie about me. Make up a story.”
A newly declassified memo made public this week revealed the names of Obama administration officials who requested that Flynn’s identity be revealed in documents detailing the surveillance of the Russian ambassador, with whom Flynn was in contact. The unmasking requests were made between Election Day, 2016 and the end of the next January, while the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian contacts and Russian interference in the election was underway.
Trump said the officials committed the “greatest political crime in the history of our country” and mused about whether those involved would already be facing jail sentences if he were a Democrat instead of a Republican president.
“And I’m talking with 50-year sentences,” Trump said. “It is a disgrace what’s happened. This is the greatest political scam, hoax in the history of our country.”
Former vice president Joe Biden was among the Obama officials who purportedly requested that Flynn be unmasked, according to the memo. The Biden campaign shrugged off the presumptive Democratic nominee’s presence on the list, saying that “none of these individuals could have known Flynn’s identity beforehand.”
On January 12, 2017, the same day Biden’s office received the unmasking information on Flynn, the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius published a column stating that Flynn “phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times” in December, 2016. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak occurred the same day the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russia, including the expulsion of 35 Russians officials, in retaliation for Russian election meddling.
The Trump campaign dismissed Biden’s explanation, saying the presumptive Democratic nominee’s “limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable.”
“We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
The Justice Department last week made the controversial move of saying it would drop the criminal case against Flynn, who pled guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts but earlier this year withdrew his guilty plea.