May 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Warner asks DNI for underlying intelligence reports in Flynn "unmasking"

Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday requesting that he declassify and make public the underlying intelligence reports in which Obama officials "unmasked" the identity of Michael Flynn, Politico reports.

Why it matters: Grenell's move last week to declassify the names of officials who asked for the identity of Flynn when he was caught up in foreign surveillance reports came at the request of a pair of Republican senators. It prompted backlash from Democrats who allege that Grenell is seeking to fuel President Trump's campaign to discredit the Russia investigation.

Details: Warner points out in his letter that there are thousands of unmasking requests each year, including as many as 16,721 under Trump in 2018.

  • He notes that they're each subject to a rigorous approval process to ensure the recipient needs the information for national security purposes.
  • In addition to providing the underlying Flynn reports, Warner asked Grenell to provide the rationale for declassifying the unmasking requests "given the potential compromise to sources and methods."
  • “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.

Warner also asked Grenell to "declassify and make publicly available any intelligence report concerning conversations" between Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

  • Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about discussing sanctions with Kislyak. The Justice Department moved earlier this month to dismiss the charges against Flynn, arguing that the FBI had no counterintelligence basis for conducting an interview with Flynn in the first place.
  • "These calls have been the topic of multiple investigations, trials, and plea agreements concerning General Flynn and merit being in the public domain," Warner wrote.

The big picture: Grenell also declassified an email this week from former national security adviser Susan Rice, who memorialized a January 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which then-FBI director James Comey raised his concerns to President Obama about Flynn's "frequent" contacts with Kislyak.

  • In a statement responding to the release of the email, Rice also called on Grenell to make the transcripts of all Flynn-Kislyak calls public.
  • "The American people deserve the full transcripts so they can judge for themselves Michael Flynn’s conduct," a spokesperson for Rice said.
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