Senate Republicans asked Attorney General Bill Barr and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell for a list of Obama administration officials at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory, days after Grenell declassified their identities.
Picking up on a decision by Grenell this week to declassify the names of Obama officials who asked to learn the identity of an American citizen flagged in intelligence reports, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) followed on, asking that Grenell and Barr give them the names.
The American citizen who was “unmasked” by the requests was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The Trump administration dropped the charges to which Flynn had pleaded guilty last week, in a stunning example of politicization at the Justice Department.
Intelligence reports that capture the activities of U.S. citizens typically redact the identity of those Americans. Top-level officials can ask for those identities to be revealed, in a confidential process — “unmasking” them.
The conspiratorial notion that Obama officials requested Flynn’s name and then orchestrated a political prosecution to take down the National Security Adviser has animated the right’s focus on the so-called “unmasking.”
“We wholeheartedly agree that transparency is needed more now than ever,” wrote Johnson and Grassley in the letter. “One of the most significant unanswered questions about what occurred during the 2016 election is how many Americans were ‘unmasked,’ at whose request, and for what purpose.”
The moves also come after President Trump spent several hours fixated on President Obama, accusing him via Twitter on Monday of committing a crime and repeating “Obamagate” to a crowd of reporters. When asked what crime Obama allegedly committed, Trump replied, “you know what it is.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also criticized Obama this week in an internet interview with Lara Trump, the President’s daughter-in-law.
Read the letter here: