WASHINGTON – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is seeking broader information on any Obama-era officials who sought to reveal anonymized names in government documents that turned out to be people connected to Trump.
Graham’s request follows the release of a list of Obama officials who may have received information regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The list was recently declassified by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and turned over to several Republican lawmakers who released it.
President Donald Trump and his conservative allies have been fixated in recent weeks on the practice of so-called “unmasking” – or revealing an anonymized reference in a government document. The practice itself is common, meant to help officials better understand intelligence products. But conservatives have seized on it to assert that Obama-era officials inappropriately targeted those in Trump’s orbit, especially Flynn. They’ve dubbed the matter “Obamagate,” accusing President Barack Obama and others in his administration of “spying” on Trump’s campaign. Among those on the recently declassified list were former vice president Joe Biden and Obama’s former chief of staff.
Graham, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced last week he’d be launching a wide-ranging probe into Trump’s allegations, but rejected Trump’s entreaty that he call Obama as a witness.
Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Grenell and Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday asking for any inquiries made by Obama administration officials that would ultimately unmask the major players associated with Trump’s campaign in the weeks after Trump won the 2016 election.
The list includes Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, Chris Christie, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
The time period between the November election and the end of January 2017 is when the Obama officials on Grenell’s list sought information about an unnamed individual who turned out to be Flynn.
“Given the extensive number of requests for the unmasking of General Flynn’s name during this short time period, it raises the question of whether these or other officials sought the unmasking of the identities of other individuals associated with the Trump campaign or transition team,” Graham wrote in his letter.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke at length on the Senate floor Tuesday morning in support of the Graham-led inquiry.
“Senate Republicans are taking steps to issue new subpoenas to a wide variety of Obama administration officials with some relationship to the abuses I’ve just laid out,” McConnell said. “The American people deserve answers about how such abuses could happen. And we intend to get those answers.”
On Thursday, Graham’s committee will vote on a slew of subpoenas related to his probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, including boldfaced names like James B. Comey, Andrew McCabe, James Clapper Jr., John Brennan and Sally Yates.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted McConnell over his focus on Graham’s probe while the country is still amid a devastating pandemic, calling it a “wild conspiracy theory. Aimed at somehow smearing the fine reputation that President Obama has well deserved.”
“It is such a gross misuse of the power of the majority,” he said on the Senate floor.