Two top Republican senators have expanded their request for records related to the “unmasking” of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to include information prior to the start of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation, which began in July 2016.
On Wednesday, acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified the names of those in the White House involved in revealing Flynn’s identity as a U.S. citizen corresponding with a foreign actor, as requested by Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Flynn had held discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition as the incoming national security advisor. This became the alleged basis for the grand Russian collusion conspiracy and the key to setting up Flynn in a perjury trap.
Names in the declassified report of White House officials targeting Flynn include top intelligence chiefs, including Obama CIA Director John Brennan, Obama Department of National Intelligence Director James Clapper, former Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“We write now both to reiterate our request for the declassification of additional information related to the unmasking of Americans around the time of the 2016 election, but also to expand the scope of our request to include information as early as January 2016,” Grassley and Johnson wrote. “Based on our investigation and recent press reports, we are increasingly concerned that the surveillance of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign began earlier than the opening of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation in late July 2016.”
Sens. Grassley and Johnson say the administration’s deep-state surveillance operation on the Trump campaign involved unmasking even more U.S. citizens tied to the campaign that preceded the official launch of Crossfire Hurricane. Since it is a crime to surveil American citizens without a probable cause, their names are usually redacted on surveillance transcripts. Unmasking uncovers their identities.
“It has become evident that the FBI, and possibly members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, were focused on U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign in early 2016, if not even earlier,” the senators wrote. “One example is that, in April 2016, FBI headquarters directed its New York Field Office to open a counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page, which on August 10, 2016, became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
The senators’ expanded request marks a significant escalation into the unraveling of the previous administration’s surveillance scandal dubbed “Obamagate” and “Spygate,” as new information reveals the level to which the Obama White House went to prevent President Donald Trump from holding power. On Tuesday, newly declassified excerpts from former National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s bizarre inauguration day email sent to herself confirm that Flynn was a prime target at a Jan. 5, 2017 Oval office meeting between Obama, Rice, Biden, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and then-FBI Director James Comey.
“From a national security perspective, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,” Rice wrote while the administration was conducting secret surveillance on U.S. citizens in the Trump campaign and transition team. “Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak… President Obama asked if Comey was saying the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially.'”
Three years later, and after a two-and-a-half year special counsel investigation with unlimited resources conducted by Robert Mueller buoyed by endless media coverage, the Mueller report found not one person on the Trump campaign, let alone the president himself, spied for the Russian government.