After months of investigating alleged Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be shifting its attention to the Obama administration’s surveillance and “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials.
Two top Republican senators have asked the FBI to turn over its applications for warrants to spy on Americans tied to its probe on Russia’s election interference during the 2016 presidential election. The committee also reportedly held a closed door meeting on Wednesday, focused on the “unmasking” of Trump officials by the Obama White House.
Via The Hill:
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is a member of the committee, sent Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a letter asking for any proposed or finalized applications.
“We are writing to request information regarding FISA-related actions by the FBI and the Justice Department in the course of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including the investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the two GOP senators said.
In addition to any proposed or finalized warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the two senators also want the court’s responses.
During the closed-door hearing with FBI officials on Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly explored the unmasking accusations more deeply.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, told Carl Ghattas, executive assistant director of the FBI national security branch, that he specifically wants answers during the closed-door hearing about the leaks surrounding President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned over contacts with Russia.
“There is a specific allegation that has been floating around that the conversations between Michael Flynn and [Russian] Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak came into the White House with Flynn masked,” Mr. Whitehouse told his fellow committee members. “And that a decision was made in the Obama White House to unmask him — which then led to leaks to the newspapers and so forth.”
Mr. Ghattas heads up the FBI’s operations and intelligence efforts involving national security matters. In March, Ms. Rice admitted to requesting the unmasking of some Americans redacted in raw intelligence reports but argued that the requests were part of her job and were not politically motivated.
To be fair, Tomasky is the one who threw out the race and gender cards. Rice, however, was more than happy to play along.
“Why me? Why not Jay Carney, for example, who was then our press secretary, who stood up more?” she asked.
Tomasky noted in the piece that Carney “isn’t an African-American woman, of course” and apparently asked Rice whether that is the key factor. Rice, in response, left the door open:
“I don’t know… I do not leap to the simple explanation that it’s only about race and gender. I’m trying to keep my theories to myself until I’m ready to come out with them. It’s not because I don’t have any.”
But Rice mentioned other prominent female figures – like Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice – who faced “ad hominem” attacks, suggesting a correlation.
She makes a good point about Jay Carney, a shameless liar who didn’t receive nearly the amount of negative press he deserved.
But there is no indication that he was ever involved in the unmasking of American citizens.