Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell has declassified the names of Obama administration officials who were allegedly behind the “unmasking” of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to multiple reports.
The move, first reported Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, comes just days after the Justice Department dropped charges against Flynn for lying to FBI agents about Russian contacts he had during the Trump transition.
Grenell visited the Justice Department last week and brought the list with him, ABC News reports. It now falls to Attorney General William Barr to release the names publicly.
US citizens sometimes have conversations incidentally picked up through surveillance practices by the intelligence community that monitor foreign officials. Those citizens’ identities are supposed to be kept private, or “masked,” absent a warrant to reveal their identity.
US intelligence officials, however, can request the names of those citizens if they feel the information is pertinent to understand the intelligence. This process is called “unmasking.”
Since Grenell’s reported visit to DoJ headquarters, Barr said publicly that his department had received new information pertaining to Flynn’s case.
Asked by CBS last Thursday about the charges against Flynn of lying to the FBI, Barr said, “And as I said, the question of lying, you know, it’s something he would know about. On its face, as [former FBI] Director [James] Comey said, it’s not so clear. But the question of materiality is not something he would know about. That’s something that the government knows about. And we have now gotten into it, drilled down, obtained new information.”
In that same interview, Barr accused FBI officials of setting a “perjury trap” for Flynn, a likely reference to newly released documents which showed how top brass at the agency prepared for that fateful interview with the newly installed national security adviser in January 2017.
Flynn told FBI agents during that meeting that he did not discuss reducing sanctions against the Soviet nation with Kislyak during those conversations, however the bureau was already aware that this was untrue.
A four-page document released as part of a reexamination of the Flynn case showed the then-counterintelligence director of the bureau openly questioning whether the agency’s “goal” was to “get him to lie.”
“What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Priestap wrote. “If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] & he admits it, document for DOJ, & let them decide how to address it.”
The notes were taken in January 2017 by former FBI counterintelligence director Bill Priestap, following a meeting with former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to Fox News.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He later tried to withdraw that plea ahead of sentencing, claiming he did not intentionally lie.
Sidney Powell, Flynn’s lawyer, said that revelations from the document, which came prior to Barr dropping charges against the former Trump administration official, supported her accusation of investigative misconduct.
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