Attorney General Bill Barr has appointed a federal prosecutor to probe deeper into the “unmasking” requests that Obama administration officials submitted against Trump associates, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed Wednesday night.
In an interview with Sean Hannity, Kupec said that John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, would oversee the review, after Barr “determined that certain aspects of unmasking needed to be reviewed,” and implied it was part of John Durham’s criminal probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
“Unmasking inherently isn’t wrong, but certainly, the frequency, the motivation and the reasoning behind unmasking can be problematic, and when you’re looking at unmasking as part of a broader investigation — like John Durham’s investigation — looking specifically at who was unmasking whom, can add a lot to our understanding about motivation and big picture events,” Kupec explained.
Earlier this month, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified a list that showed 39 requests were made to unmask the identity of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn between late 2016 and January 2017. The list of officials showed that former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey, former vice president Joe Biden, and former president Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough all requested to see Flynn’s identity at different points.
In January 2017, Flynn’s identity was illegally leaked to the Washington Post from an unknown source, revealing that Flynn had calls with the Russian ambassador after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for interference in the 2016 election. Flynn was subsequently interviewed by the FBI and pled guilty to lying as part of the Robert Mueller probe. But after Barr appointed an outside prosecutor to review the case in February, the DOJ dropped its case earlier this month after determining the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
President Trump has said that Obama officials who sought to reveal Flynn’s identity “should be going to jail for this stuff.”
“They weren’t after General Flynn. They wanted him to lie about me. Make up a story,” Trump stated. “I’m talking with 50-year sentences. It is a disgrace what’s happened. This is the greatest political scam, hoax in the history of our country.”