According to declassified documents released Wednesday by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff requested the unmasking of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn on the same day as a crucial White House meeting that involved all the perpetrators of the Russian collusion hoax.
Denis McDonough, a longtime Obama loyalist and the president’s chief of staff during his second term, asked the NSA to unmask Flynn’s identity on January 5, 2017 related to an unspecified foreign intelligence report. That date is significant because it’s the same day that President Obama met with top aides including James Comey, James Clapper, Susan Rice, and John Brennan for the ostensible purpose of reviewing the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia’s attempted election interference. (Vice President Joe Biden also attended the Oval Office meeting. Biden made an unmasking request on January 12, 2017, the day David Ignatius at the Washington Post first reported on the Flynn-Kislyak call.)
The real purpose of the meeting, as new evidence suggests, was to discuss how to set up the incoming president and entrap Flynn. After the general briefing, President Obama asked Comey and Sally Yates, the number two at the Justice Department who would serve as acting attorney general until Trump’s appointee was confirmed, to stay behind. (Yates and Comey, it’s worth noting, both signed the initial FISA application on Carter Page.)
That’s when Obama informed Yates about Flynn’s infamous December 29, 2016 phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions. “At that point, Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation,” according to the special counsel’s 2017 interview with Yates. “Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act. It was not clear to Yates from where the President first received the information.”
It now appears that we know the source: McDonough. There are no other unmasking requests between Flynn’s call on December 29, 2016 and the January 5, 2017 meeting.
But that might not have been the only leak tied to McDonough. Mary McCord, former head of the National Security Division that was responsible for seeking the FISA warrants on Page, testified to the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 that “in theory” the leak to the Washington Post came from the Obama White House.
Igantius’ article first floated the outlandish Logan Act case against Flynn. “According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking,” Ignatius wrote. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about ‘disputes’ with the United States. Was its spirit violated?”
The illegal leak of classified government information is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison. The “senior U.S. government official” who tipped off Ignatius about the Flynn-Kislyak call has not yet been identified or charged with a crime.
McDonough’s request is the closest tie between President Obama and the framing of Michael Flynn; as this massive scandal unfolds, Barack Obama still has not been asked a single question about what he knew or when he knew it.