Attorney general taps prosecutor to look into episodes of 'unmasking' by Obama administration officials




Attorney general taps prosecutor to look into episodes of \
Attorney general taps prosecutor to look into episodes of \'unmasking\' by Obama administration officials  

WASHINGTON - Attorney General William Barr has tapped an outside federal prosecutor to look into episodes of unmasking involving Obama administration officials - the latest in a series of probes by the Justice Department on issues that matter to President Donald Trump and his allies.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday night that Barr has appointed John Bash, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, to look into instances of unmasking before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Unmasking is a common and, until recently, an obscure government practice to reveal the identity of someone who's mentioned in an intelligence report. But it became a hot-button topic among conservatives after the declassification of a document listing the names of government officials who requested to unmask former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the weeks before and after Trump's election. The list includes former Vice President Joe Biden, former Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and several high-ranking intelligence and law enforcement officials.

What is 'unmasking?': How intelligence agencies treat U.S. citizens

Republicans have seized on the issue to raise questions about possible wrongdoing during the Obama administration. In 2017, then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., alleged that the Obama administration may have improperly identified Trump transition officials in classified reports.

The declassified documents state that the officials who requested to unmask Flynn had authority to do so.

Kupec acknowledged that unmasking isn't "inherently wrong" but the reasoning behind such requests can raise questions. "Looking specifically at who was unmasking whom can add a lot to our understanding of motivation," Kupec said.

Current and previous administrations make thousands of unmasking requests every year. The National Security Agency unmasked 9,217 people from September 2015 to August 2016 in response to requests from other agencies. These numbers went up during the Trump administration: 9,529 in 2017; 16,721 in 2018; and 10,012 in 2019.

The appointment of Bash comes a few months after Barr appointed another federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Jensen, to review the criminal case against Flynn. The Justice Department has since sought to drop its prosecution of the former Army general, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communications with a former Russian ambassador after Trump's election.

The Flynn case: Retired judge to examine if Michael Flynn should be held in contempt, challenge DOJ's bid to drop case

Undoing the Mueller probe: Michael Flynn case continues DOJ's dismantling of Robert Mueller's investigation 'brick by brick'

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a third party to challenge the Justice Department's bid to drop the prosecution and to examine whether Flynn committed perjury for claiming he's innocent of a crime he had earlier admitted. Flynn is now asking a federal appeals court to intervene by forcing Sullivan to dismiss the case.

Kupec said on Hannity that the Justice Department has the discretion to drop the case. She said Jensen's review revealed that the prosecution of Flynn should not have continued.

Earlier this year, Barr appointed two federal prosecutors to look into unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing in Ukraine based on information provided by Rudy Giuliani.

Last year, Barr tapped the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to investigate the origins of the Russia probe and the FBI's surveillance activities - while another prosecutor was in the midst of a separate review involving Hillary Clinton.

Trump nominated Bash to the Texas post in 2017. Before that, Bash was an associate White House counsel and spent five years representing the Justice Department before the Supreme Court. He clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when Kavanaugh was a federal appeals court judge.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ: William Barr taps prosecutor to look into Obama era unmasking

COMMENTS

More Related News

Mount Rushmore: Isn
Mount Rushmore: Isn't it time to talk about its Native American history?​​​​​​​

As the U.S. and NFL reckon with their relationship to Native Americans, Mount Rushmore remains almost completely devoid of important history.

Leading Homeland Security Under a President Who Embraces
Leading Homeland Security Under a President Who Embraces 'Hate-Filled' Talk

WASHINGTON -- Elaine C. Duke, then President Donald Trump's acting secretary of homeland security, arrived at the Roosevelt Room, down the hall from the Oval Office, on a steamy August afternoon in 2017 expecting a discussion about Trump's pledge to terminate DACA, the Obama-era protections for young immigrants. Instead, she said, it was "an ambush.""The room was stacked," she recalled. Stephen Miller, the architect of the president's assault on immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other White House officials demanded that she sign a memo ending the program, which they had already concluded was illegal. She did not disagree, but she chafed at being cut out of the real...

Trump wears mask while visiting wounded soldiers, medical workers at Walter Reed hospital
Trump wears mask while visiting wounded soldiers, medical workers at Walter Reed hospital

Trump, who has been criticized for not wearing a mask at public events, donned one while visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed hospital

Trump wears mask in public for first time during pandemic
Trump wears mask in public for first time during pandemic
  • World
  • 2020-07-11 21:43:35Z

President Donald Trump wore a mask during a visit to a military hospital on Saturday, the first time the president has been seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus. Trump flew by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Washington to meet wounded servicemembers and health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients. As he left the White House, he told reporters: "When you're in a hospital, especially ... I think it's a great thing to wear a mask."

Romney, breaking with GOP, criticizes Trump for commuting Roger Stone
Romney, breaking with GOP, criticizes Trump for commuting Roger Stone's prison sentence

The Utah Senator was the first prominent voice in the Republican Party to publicly disavow the president's decision to erase Stone's prison sentence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America