News & Politics

Is This the Leaker in the Flynn Unmasking Scandal?

President Barack Obama meets with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Communications Director Jen Psaki in the Oval Office, April 1, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On January 5, 2017, a meeting was held in the Obama White House in the Oval Office. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden attended. As Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist wrote, after this meeting took place, “high-level operatives began intensely leaking selective information supporting a supposed Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the incoming National Security Advisor was ambushed, and the incoming Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] was forced to recuse himself from oversight of investigations of President Trump.” In addition to setting up a perjury trap for Flynn, Obama officials also withheld exculpatory evidence and investigated Trump and his associates over alleged Russian collusion even though they had no empirical evidence of that collusion. According to Hemingway, the January 5, 2017 meeting was “key to the entire anti-Trump operation.”

Thin was the same meeting that Barack Obama spoke with Yates and Comey regarding details of wiretapped conversations of Trump’s incoming National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Trump transition, suggesting Obama was directly involved, and that the attempted coup against Trump was ordered by him.

On Wednesday, acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell the list of sixteen Obama administration officials who sought to “unmask” the identity of Michael Flynn during the presidential transition. Among those on the list were Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director for National Intelligence James Clapper.

Another interesting name on the list is Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. What makes his request perhaps the most interesting is that he made his request on January 5, 2017—the same day as the pivotal Oval Office meeting.

Can that really be a coincidence?

U.S. intelligence agencies are barred from spying on Americans without court approval, therefore, the names of citizens on NSA reports are masked to protect their identities. Flynn’s name, however, was “unmasked” on transcripts of his conversations with Kislyak, and subsequently leaked.

The phone call that resulted in charges being filed against Flynn, where he discussed Russian sanctions with Kislyak, took place on December 29, 2016. McDonough’s unmasking request is the first one made after that phone call took place.

Does this mean that Denis McDonough is the leaker? If so, did he do so at the direction of Barack Obama?

Even Adam Schiff acknowledged during the testimony of Mary McCord, a top national security lawyer at the DOJ, that, “at least in theory, the leak of that [Flynn’s call to Kislyak] could have come from the White House.”

Based on the timing of McDonough’s request, I think we know where it likely came from.

On Thursday, President Trump called for Barack Obama to testify on this matter, but Senator Lindsey Graham expressed reluctance to establish a precedent of calling on former presidents to testify. Perhaps the person Graham should be getting testimony from is Denis McDonough. We need him to testify under oath, why he sought the unmasking of Flynn, whether it was at Obama’s specific direction, and whether he was responsible for the illegal leak.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis