Suspect move by the FBI as the ‘Obamagate’ conspiracy theory blows up in GOP’s face (updated)

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In my earlier post, Lindsey ‘Stonewall’ Graham prepares for Stalinist show trials this summer, I thought that FBI Director Christopher Wray might be one of the witnesses being targeted by Sen. Graham’s committee:

Director Wray back in December backed the DOJ inspector general’s report which found that the Russia investigation was predicated and properly authorized, which caused “Dear Leader” to blow a gasket. Trump attacks FBI Director Christopher Wray over IG report, Russia investigation (excerpt):

Responding to the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released Monday, Wray implicitly disputed Trump’s claims that federal authorities mounted a “coup” attempt against him by investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think it’s important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization,” Wray told ABC News.

But on Friday, FBI Director Christopher Wray suddenly appears to have become a team player for Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr. The AP reports, FBI director orders internal review of Flynn investigation:

FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered an internal review into possible misconduct in the investigation of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn, the bureau said Friday.

The after-action review will examine whether any current employees engaged in misconduct during the course of the investigation and evaluate whether any improvements in FBI policies and procedures need to be made.

In announcing the review, the FBI, a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s wrath, is stepping into a case that has become a rallying cry for Trump supporters — and doing so right as the Justice Department pushes back against criticism that its recent decision to dismiss the prosection was a politically motivated effort to do Trump’s bidding.

The announcement adds to the internal scrutiny over one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s signature prosecutions during his investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It underscores how a case that was seemingly resolved by Flynn’s 2017 guilty plea has instead given way to a protracted, politically charged debate about FBI and Justice Department tactics during that investigation and the Russia probe more broadly.

The unusual review will be led by the bureau’s Inspection Division, which conducts internal investigations into potential employee misconduct. Trump has recently been sharply critical of the FBI, and suggested earlier this month that Wray’s fate as director could be in limbo. An FBI official said Friday that the review had been contemplated for some time and that the FBI has cooperated with multiple Russia-related internal inquiries.

Although the FBI does not have authority on its own to bring a criminal prosecution, the after-action review will look at whether any current employees engaged in misconduct deserving of discipline. The division cannot take disciplinary action against former employees.

You may recall that virtually every FBI and intelligence agency employee who was involved in the initiation of the Russian investigation into collusion with the Trump campaign, all household names now after being smeared by Fox News aka Trump TV, have since been fired or forced out of their jobs in a slow-motion “Saturday night massacre.” I believe that they are all ex-employees now — “It is not clear how many officials involved in the Flynn investigation remain with the FBI.” So what is the point of this investigation, other than William Barr’s rewriting the history of the Russia investigation with Trump’s alternative facts conspiracy theories?

The Justice Department noted that he was acting on the recommendation of U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of St. Louis, who was assigned by Barr to review the Flynn case.

“Director Wray authorized this additional level of review now that the Department of Justice, through Mr. Jensen’s work, has developed sufficient information to determine how to proceed in the Flynn case,” the FBI statement said. “However, Mr. Jensen’s work will continue to take priority, and the Director has further ordered the Inspection Division to coordinate closely with Mr. Jensen and ensure that the review does not interfere with or impede his efforts.”

A big effin’ deal largely lost in the media’s s wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage

NBC News and the Washington Post reported that the entire basis of the “Spygate” series on Fox News aka Trump TV for years, recently rebooted as the series “Obamagate,” blew up in the GOP’s face this week. Flynn’s name was never ‘masked’ in FBI report on phone call with Russian:

In a blow to GOP efforts to create a cloud of scandal around so-called unmasking, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News that Michael Flynn’s name was never redacted from an FBI intelligence report about his phone conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has admitted lying to the FBI about his phone call with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time.

The lack of masking was first reported in The Washington Post:

[I]t was the FBI, not the National Security Agency, that wiretapped Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s calls — a common and legal practice. And Flynn’s name was never redacted in its report:

“When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because it was essential to understanding its significance, said a former senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence. “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.”

Flynn’s name was unmasked in other intelligence reports about other conversations he had with foreigners, but not the one about the Dec. 29, 2016, phone call that got him in legal trouble, the sources said.

That call with Kislyak was monitored by the FBI under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant covering Kislyak, as is standard practice, current and former officials have said. The FBI monitors many former ambassadors and foreign officials working in the U.S. as part of routine counterintelligence inquiries.

A former senior intelligence official said FBI reports based on FISA collection, unlike reports from the National Security Agency, generally do not “mask” the names of Americans because the FBI is a domestic law enforcement agency and the conduct of Americans is part of its purview.

The Post’s Aaron Blake summarizes, ‘Obamagate’ suffers another significant, predictable blow:

In other words, breathless theories about how the unmaskings prove the Obama White House was involved in the leaks have crumbled — at least based upon what we know now.

There is much we still don’t know here. But what has been evident from the beginning is that this alleged scandal — “Obamagate,” as Trump has called it — has been built on a whole lot of baseless suggestion and inference. Proponents are exploiting the secretive but entirely common process of unmasking (which is alien to 99.9 percent of Americans) to construct an elaborate but extremely speculative conspiracy theory.

Republicans have long suggested that the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn was an improper effort to implicate Trump allies in a Russian election interference conspiracy — but it turns out there never was an unmasking. WTF?

Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, and Attorney General William Barr declassified a list of Obama administration officials who unmasked the names of Americans speaking to foreigners in NSA-generated reports as part of their review of information on Russian election interference. Grenell turned it over just to Senate Republicans, who are investigating.

Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was having none of that. Warner asks intel chief to fork over underlying ‘unmasking’ intel on Michael Flynn:

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has requested that the acting director of national intelligence hand over the underlying intelligence reports at the center of the so-called unmasking controversy.

In a letter sent Wednesday and obtained by POLITICO, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised concerns with Richard Grenell about the intel chief’s decision last week to declassify the names of Obama administration officials involved in unmasking the name in intelligence reports of a U.S. person later determined to be Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser.

“Selectively declassifying intelligence solely for political purposes undermines the Intelligence Community’s credibility, and erodes public trust in institutions critical to protecting the nation,” Warner wrote. He requested that Grenell “provide the Committee with the underlying intelligence reports in which the identity of the individual was ‘unmasked’” to be Flynn.

Likewise, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is demanding that the Trump administration publicly release the transcripts of Mike Flynn’s calls with Russia. Adam Schiff Just Turned The Tables And Used Trump’s Fake Obamagate Against Him:

Chairman Schiff said that the administration’s release of the list of Executive Branch officials that was compiled and then revised at the request of the Acting DNI was an overt political act during a pandemic to try to get the Mike Flynn unmasking bogus scandal off the ground.

Rep. Schiff is requesting that all transcripts or intelligence reports related to Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador be declassified and made public.

Trump opened this door with the since debunked Obamagate scandal involving the unmasking of Mike Flynn that never happened.

There could be a whole lot of trouble waiting for Trump on the other side if the transcripts and intelligence reports on Flynn’s conversations with Russia ever see the light of day.

Surprisingly, at least for the moment, it appears Acting DNI Grenell will comply. Politico reports, Grenell moving to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts:

Outgoing national intelligence chief Richard Grenell says he is in the process of declassifying some of the transcripts of phone calls between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.

“The [intelligence community] doesn’t have all the transcripts/summaries,” Grenell tweeted Friday. “But I already started the declassification for the few we received.

They should be released in full, though. The public deserves to see it.

Grenell’s comment came in response to a demand from House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who called on Grenell to declassify and release the transcripts of the heavily scrutinized calls between Flynn and Kislyak — an episode that has fueled myriad political storms in the Trump era.

Schiff’s request for the Flynn-Kislyak transcripts came after similar inquiries from Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.).

* * *

Under “unmasking” procedures, the officials didn’t know they’d be finding Flynn’s name in the reports until after they received them. Grenell’s release also included a certification from the National Security Agency that the requests were made lawfully and with proper justification.

It’s also unlikely the unmasking requests by former Obama officials were related to the Flynn-Kislyak calls — most were made prior to the calls, and the ones that followed came after the FBI had briefed top Obama administration national security officials about Flynn’s calls with Kislyak.

* * *

Schiff, who accused Grenell of making politically motivated disclosures of newly declassified information, is also requesting that Grenell declassify redacted versions of the intelligence reports requested by the Obama administration officials that might have included the unmasking of Flynn’s name. Those calls could include discussions between foreign officials who referenced Flynn or calls between Flynn and foreign officials who were under surveillance.

Typically, Americans captured on lawful foreign surveillance have their identities masked, but authorized national security officials are permitted to request unmasking of those intercepts if they submit justifications to the NSA, a process that has been relatively routine across the Obama and Trump administrations.

Grenell is days away from stepping down from his acting position following the Senate confirmation of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to the post on Thursday.

We’ll see whether these documents ever actually get released to the pubic now.

UPDATE: The geniuses behind the Founders Sing videos on Youtube have put together a video for “Billy belongs behind bars” Barr, a parody of Sir Paul McCartney’s “Band on the run.” Enjoy.




1 COMMENT

  1. Time for the Democrats, and for that matter all others, to start talking about HOAXGATE. This article is just the latest episode.

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