Private U.S. citizens who have been caught on tape by U.S. intelligence are supposed to be “masked” so their privacy is protected.
When news stories appeared in early 2017 about Michael Flynn’s conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., an editorial in the WSJ wondered how Mr. Flynn’s call was so widely known.
Well, now we know. GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson on Wednesday released a declassified list of Obama Administration officials who in their waning days in power “unmasked” the conversations of Mr. Flynn, who was set to become President Trump’s National Security Adviser. It seems everyone but the night janitor wanted to know (to whom) Mr. Flynn was talking.
Obama, Flynn, Sally Yates
Documents released last week show that former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates first learned about the Flynn wiretapping from no less than President Barack Obama in a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting. At least one of the unmaskers must have told Mr. Obama.
The dates of the unmaskings raise further questions. The FBI’s interest in Mr. Flynn was supposedly triggered by conversations starting Dec. 29, 2016. Yet Mr. Flynn was first unmasked a month earlier—shortly after Mr. Trump named him security adviser.
Biden Has Some Explaining to Do
The McDonough unmasking takes place on Jan. 5, 2017—the day of the Oval Office meeting at which Mr. Flynn was discussed. Mr. Biden’s unmasking request was made on Jan. 12, 2017—the day the Washington Post reported on the Flynn-Russia conversation. Mr. Biden has some explaining to do.
All of this is fodder for U.S. Attorney John Durham as he tries to unmask the origins of the Russia collusion political ambush. The Flynn unmaskings, and the timely media leaks, take the story into the Obama White House.
The peaceful transition of power is a hallmark of American democracy, or at least it used to be. It isn’t supposed to be an opportunity for the Administration that lost the election to cripple its successors as they take power.