President Donald Trump appeared on Fox Business early Thursday morning to comment on a list of Obama officials who reportedly “unmasked” members of his 2016 campaign and transition team, including then-national security advisor Michael Flynn — a list which includes former Vice President-turned-current 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.
Trump called the matter the “greatest political crime” in United States history and suggested Obama officials should face immediate consequences.
“It was the greatest political crime in the history of our country,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would have been in jail a long time ago, and 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.”
President Trump then laid into the Obama administration for its apparent efforts to target Flynn.
“People should be going to jail for this stuff and hopefully, a lot of people are going to have to pay,” Trump said. “No other president should have to go through, and I’ll tell you, Gen. Flynn and others are heroes, heroes, because what’s happened to them. They weren’t after Gen. Flynn. They wanted him to lie about me. Make up a story.”
“Unmasking” refers to requests made to intelligence agencies to identify specific individuals referred to in National Security Administration (NSA) reports — in this case, foreign intelligence reports tracking certain Russian officials, including a former Russian ambassador.
Where Russian officials placed calls to members of the Trump team, Obama administration officials asked for those Trump team members to be identified, ostensibly because the Obama White House was looking for evidence that the Trump team was impermissibly collaborating with the Russians to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified the list of “unmasking” requests last week.
The declassified list, released Wednesday by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) names Obama officials who “may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity in response to a request processed between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask an identity that had been generically referred to in an NSA foreign intelligence report.”
Although Biden is among those listed in the report, his rapid response director, Andrew Bates, told reporters late Wednesday that “all normal procedures were followed” and called the documents’ release a partisan attack.
“These documents have absolutely nothing to do with any FBI investigation and they confirm that all normal procedures were followed — any suggestion otherwise is a flat out lie,” Bates said. “What’s more, it’s telling that these documents were selectively leaked by Republicans abusing their congressional powers to act as arms of the Trump campaign after having them provided by a partisan official installed for this very purpose.”
Trump’s campaign fired back, calling Biden’s excuse “limp.”
“Joe Biden’s limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable. Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said Wednesday. “We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked.”
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