Of over 40 Potential Unmaskings of Mike Flynn During the Transition, Just One Led to Criminal Charges

Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson have just posted what they seem to think is a list of people who may have unmasked Mike Flynn’s identity in the transcripts of his conversations on December 29 and 31 with Sergey Kislyak.

As a threshold matter, what it actually shows, is that over 40 recipients of intelligence may have unmasked Mike Flynn’s identity in a finished NSA intelligence product between the 2016 election and inauguration. If they did, they did it by the book, with NSA approval per the accompanying letter from Paul Nakasone. And even if they unmasked Flynn’s identity, the person who did so may not have read it.

The implication is that one of these unmaskings was the one (or were the ones) that led to the discovery that Mike Flynn had secretly called up the Russian Ambassador and undermined US foreign policy, acting without specific orders from Trump (at least as the public record currently stands).

Mind you, almost all of them could not be. Only 8 of them post-date the calls between Flynn and Kislyak:

  • US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (1/11/17)
  • DNI James Clapper (1/7/2017)
  • Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew (1/12/17)
  • White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (1/5/17)
  • DDNI Michael Dempsey (1/7/17)
  • PDDNI Stephanie O’Sullivan (1/7/17)
  • CIA/CTMC 1/10/17
  • Vice President Joe Biden 1/12/17

And of those, only the McDonough unmasking corresponds even remotely to the time the IC discovered Flynn’s call, except we know FBI had already discovered it on January 4. Which is to say zero of these unmaskings could be the original one. A few people could be someone reading a transcript from the calls after the fact.

Except that some of these — such as the January 11 unmasking — are believed to relate to Mohammed bin Zayed’s secret trip to the US to meet Flynn and Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, and so are of another intercept.

There’s probably a very good reason why the original unmasking doesn’t show up on this list, which reflects only NSA products and only finished intelligence reports. According to Jim Comey’s testimony, the FBI found the Kislyak-Flynn calls, not the NSA.

And so the last couple days of December and the first couple days of January, all the Intelligence Community was trying to figure out, so what is going on here? Why is this — why have the Russians reacted the way they did, which confused us? And so we were all tasked to find out, do you have anything [redacted] that might reflect on this? That turned up these calls at the end of December, beginning of January. And then I briefed it to the Director of National Intelligence, and Director Clapper asked me for copies [redacted], which I shared with him.

That’s consistent with Mary McCord’s testimony, which made it clear no one had to refer this transcript to the FBI, because it was the FBI’s.

Also on page 2 of her notes, McCord noted mention of a “referral,” and noted that ultimately no referral was required, as the FBI maintained the information and would not refer a matter to themselves.

Plus, Jim Comey says this never became a finished intelligence product, even while he admitted that the FBI unmasked his identity.

We did not disseminate this [redacted] in any finished intelligence, although our people judged was appropriate, for reasons that I hope are obvious, to have Mr. Flynn’s name unmasked. We kept this very close hold, and it was shared just as I described.

So if this transcript was an FBI intercept that never made it into a finalized intelligence product, then it wouldn’t show up in a list of finalized NSA products.

All of which is to say this list — which Politico is running with as if it’s the Holy Grail — most likely has nothing to do with Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak, and shows that the Deep State picked up Mike Flynn during the transition in a good deal of reporting, with reports that more than 40 people had a glimpse at. But only one recording launched an investigation.

27 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Given the new activities of AG Barr and boasts of DJT, whoever did the unmasking deed for Mueller’s investigation is in deep trouble. However, that would mean that Mueller named his source (which he may have) or field office. It would be delicious if it were the SDNY Feebs that get fingered, seeing how they took out HRC but that would be too karmic for even a cheesy reality TV show. I’m not sure where Flynn and Kislyak were, but it’s more likely they were in DC than NYC.

  2. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy for clarity in this newly created GOP gotcha scandal as they stir the pot.

    How is this a scandal if over 40 authorized people in the government asked for information approved through NSA’s process? What does unmasking have to do with Flynn asking Russia/Kislyak not to respond to sanctions by Obama? Flynn lied to the FBI and Pence about it, admitting he lied, pleading guilty not once, twice.

    • Rugger9 says:

      EW makes it clear that none of the names on this list are the “droids they’re looking for” but like many other lists and numbers, makes it sound like there is an army of unethical conspirators to take down DJT. It was a favorite Joe McCarthy / Roy Cohn tactic to say thousands of pinkos were in the State Department (and the rest of the government and the Army…).

  3. Boy C says:

    So is the groundwork for Obamagate? Kick up dust, Obama, deep state, Biden, Susan Rice, Biden. Oh did we mention Biden? So Biden helping unmask Flynn to set him up is the new Biden Ukraine scandale? Just magnitudes of stupid. Or MAGA-nitudes.

  4. Molly Pitcher says:

    From WaPo:

    “U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in an order that John Gleeson, a retired judge and former federal prosecutor in New York, would present arguments opposing the department’s request to dismiss the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn and address whether Flynn should be held in contempt of court for perjury.”

    • Doug Fir says:

      Barr doesn’t seem like a Keystone Kops kinda guy, and it seems utterly predictable that Sullivan wasn’t going to roll over and let Flynn be spirited away. So what’s behind the motion to dismiss? Is it truly as desperate a “Hail Mary” as it appears? Is he setting up for the pardon? Or is he just making lotsa noise and confusion to keep the various girls and boys distracted?

      I wonder what his real game plan might be.

      • Frank Probst says:

        It might have worked, because Sullivan might not have wanted to deal with the shitstorm that would come with anything other than a shrug and a “Fine. Get the hell out of my courtroom.” He’s going to end up getting death threats for this. And Barr’s gotten away with every other abuse of power that he’s committed, so there’s no reason to think that he won’t away with this one.

        Trump will probably still pardon Flynn, but the situation has gotten so bizarre–and everyone involved knows it–that it’s probably unclear what a pardon would do. The judge is now asking about criminal contempt for perjury, which Flynn could probably also get a pardon for, but it’s probably not 100% clear what will happen if Trump orders even a blanket pardon, because the conduct of the DOJ AND the defense team is now in question. The lawyers may know a solid yes or no on this, but the legal questions have now gotten so wide and so complex that I don’t think anyone can say for sure how this is going to go.

      • subtropolis says:

        I commented in another post that it seems to me that Barr and Powell may have calculated — with the Ted Stevens case in mind — that Sullivan would be incensed at the supposedly horrible antics cooked up by Obama’s FBI and DoJ, and cleaned up by our hero Barr. But Sullivan isn’t stupid.
        Regardless, this motion appears to be the opening shot in the big “obamagate” gambit. They assumed that Flynn would be free and clear as the Senate Republicans begin issuing subpoenas to Comey, McCabe, Yates, et al.

  5. OldTulsaDude says:

    I apologize for being off-topic, but earlier I watched an interview as Jerry Nadler huffed and puffed and said we’re going to get to the bottom of yada, yada, yadi….

    I am getting tired of the Democrats carrying debate manuals to a gun fight and trying to shame the mobsters into submission.

    • P J Evans says:

      There are things Nadler is good for, but he needs someone to point him in the right direction.

  6. Ed Walker says:

    I wonder how many of the frothy right-wingers shrieking about unmasking know what it means.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      Exactly. We heard about unmasking a few years ago and IIRC Devin Nunez and the Fox News crew was leading the charge, constantly blabbing about it. But nobody commenting on it seemed to know what it meant. Maybe they did understand, but they liked the ambiguous sound of it, hoping people will misunderstand what it actually meant and would be enraged by it.

      To a lay person, it might sound like an invasion of privacy, like the corrupt government was conducting surveillance on US citizens without cause and reveling their private information for political purposes. Trump supporters who do understand what unmasking is loved the misinterpretation by Trumpists.

  7. Michael Pappas says:

    Assume this hypothetical: A mayor, who is not subject to a direct wiretap, takes dozens of calls from a local mob boss, which law enforcement intercepts pursuant to a lawful wiretap on said mob boss. The only conceivable scandal there is “Why the hell is the mayor talking to to the mob?” Claiming that “the cops were spying on the mayor!” would be asinine and an implied admission of guilt from the mayor’s camp. I couldn’t imagine any local paper reporting such a scenario in that way. Similarly, there was no “spying” on Flynn. The only scandal is that Flynn was talking to the Russian Ambassador, a known top Russian spy, and a bunch of Turkish and Saudi officials. For some reason, the media is disingenously blind to the obvious context here.

    • FlynnFlam says:

      Bad analogy. Flynn was acting in his official capacity contacting an official from Russia who we have diplomatic relations with- how is that remotely the same?

      • Rayne says:

        No. Bad argument on your part. Flynn was NOT a federal employee at the time he contacted Kislyak in December 2016; he did NOT have authorization on the part of the still-extant Obama administration to conduct any diplomatic effort (hello, Logan Act violation).

        Bring a better game to this community.

      • Michael Pappas says:

        What Rayne said — Flynn was a private citizen at the time. Also, what the senior Obama officials first saw were transcripts of a phone conversation between a known Russian spy Kislyak and a masked US private citizen where the masked private citizen was placating the Russians and telling them not to worry about Obama’s sanctions for sabotaging our democracy and a bunch of other suspicious statements. Of course you unmask the identity. The legal process was followed. The irony is that more facts about Flynn’s conduct are going to come out as a result of Barr’s shenanigans and it won’t be pretty for the Trump camp. Judge Williams is sitting on a bunch of confidential documents submitted by the prior prosecution team that reflect what he labeled as “treasonous conduct by Flynn” Not even the House Intelligence committee has seen those, but now they likely will.

        • Heisenberg says:

          You’re totally hopeless. Much of the unmasking requests took time BEFORE phone conversation of Kislayk and Flynn. If you don’t see how that follow then you’re totally hopeless.

  8. curveball says:

    Sorry if I overlooked this already being dealt with. How difficult would it be for an enterprising member of Congress, or other, to unmask the unmaskers of the unmaskers? Meaning: get a list of examples/instances in which Sen. Grassley, Sen. Johnson, or pick any other pertinent Republican, sought to unmask someone.

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