As #ObamaGate trends on Twitter, new documents reveal former Vice President Joe Biden was among the leaders who requested Gen. Michael Flynn’s unmasking in the wiretapping of conversations between him and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, which is credited with spurring the two year Mueller investigation into alleged Russian collusion between President Trump and Validimir Putin.
The investigation later found no collusion between Trump or his campaign staff and the Kremlin.
Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor for the Trump administration, was charged with lying to the FBI after investigators questioned him on whether he communicated with the Russian government between Trump’s election – Michael Flynn was appointed the incoming NSA at the time of the conversations – and Trump taking office.
The interview between Flynn and FBI agents has gained increased scrutiny at the time and in recent weeks for a number of reason that point towards potential illinent and political bias in the investigators motives.
While Flynn did lie to agents, his statements in no way covered up or were related to any underlying crime. To be prosecuted, a defendants lie usually must hide ‘material’ information about some other crime. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to cover up. Secondly, critics will cite his actions as violating the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from conducting foreign policy. However, no one has been prosecuted under that law in its 150+ year history, and Flynn was, at the time, the assumed incoming National Security Advisor, and did not commit to any specific policy on behalf of the United States.
The interview was also informal, as investigators did not make clear that this was an ‘on the record’ interrogation.
According to Axios, “In early Jan. 2017, the FBI determined that its counterintelligence investigation into Flynn — part of the larger probe into the Trump campaign — should be closed.” Though the the case was left open just in case, at the request of Peter Strzok, which could have been the “insurance policy” he and fellow disgraced FBI agents Lisa Page discussed via text message in late 2016.
Many top officials in the FBI did not see a reason to keep the investigation open, and based on the phone call alone, did not see evidence of any material crime being committed.
“The filing [from the Flynn investigation] quotes the notes of the FBI’s counterintelligence chief as saying: ‘What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?'” The presence of potential bias raised questions at every turn whether charges brought against Michael Flynn were worth being pursued at all, considering the lack of ‘material’ relevance of his lies towards any actual crime and the appearance of bias.
On its face, based on the substance of the call, the investigation was set to close due to a lack of any underlying crime. However, because Flynn misrepresented the truth during an informal questioning, the FBI decided to pursue a ‘lying to the FBI charge,’ not a charge relating to the substance of his call.
Officials outside of the FBI did not know the identity of Michael Flynn until he was “unmasked”. All Americans who are caught in the wiretapping of foreign leaders or persons of interest, like ambassador Kislyak, have their names redacted in reports in order to protect their identities from unwarranted spying. In rare circumstances, officials make requests to ‘unmask’ Americans.
During an interview with NBC’s George Stephanopoulos, Joe Biden claimed to have no knowledge of the unmasking:
During an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden was pressed by George Stephanopoulos over what he knew about the Obama administration’s moves to investigate Flynn, and whether there was anything improper done.
“I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” Biden initially said Tuesday, calling the topic a “diversion” from the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephanopoulos, though, pressed Biden again, questioning whether he attended an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 5, 2017 — during the presidential transition period — where Flynn apparently was discussed.
“No, I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted,” Biden said. “I’m sorry.”
“I was aware that there was—that they asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it, and I don’t think anything else …”Fox News
In a shocking report that came just a day after Biden claimed to have no knowledge of the investigation into Flynn beyond it potentially existing, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell sent a list of officials who requested to unmask the identity of Flynn and investigate the interactions to GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, who later made the documents public.
Fox News reports, “the list revealed that then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made unmasking requests seven times between Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 11, 2017. The list revealed that Clapper made three requests from Dec. 2, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017; and that Brennan made two requests, one on Dec. 14 and one on Dec. 15, 2016. Comey also made a request on Dec. 15, 2016. On Jan. 5, 2017, McDonough made one request, and on Jan. 12, 2017, Biden made one request.”
The Daily Wire points out Joe Biden made his request “on the same day that The Washington Post revealed Flynn’s identity,” January 12th, 2017.
Senator Rand Paul unloaded on Joe Biden, saying “the fact that Vice President Biden and all of the president’s inner circle individually requested to unmask General Flynn is very troubling.”
“Unmasking involves revealing the identity of an American’s private phone conversation without a constitutional warrant, to eavesdrop on that conversation,” Paul added. “What makes this even more troubling is that this American was a high-ranking adviser to an incoming president of the opposite party. This is incredibly troubling and shocking that the previous administration, under President Obama, under Vice President Biden’s specific instruction, was eavesdropping on an American, an American adviser to the next president.”
Paul later added, “the fact that Vice President Biden is directly involved with unmasking of a political opponent – think about it. You remember we went through this thing called impeachment? They said the president was using the government to go after a political opponent? This is Vice President Biden using the spying powers of the United States to go after a political opponent; he’s caught red-handed here. Vice President Biden is caught red-handed eavesdropping on a political opponent’s phone calls.”
Paul later invited Grenell to testify about the unmasking of Flynn before the Senate, but he turned down the offer.