The drip-drip-drip of newly declassified documents related to the Trump-Russia investigation, together with recent reports that a classified leak against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn might not have come from an unmasking request, leaves little doubt that the Obama administration weaponized federal surveillance laws to target Trump associates and undermine the incoming administration.
The story thus far is complex, but it reveals a disturbing abuse of power by the Obama administration that suggests congressional reform of federal surveillance laws is needed to ensure this never happens again.
The latest declassified document, an email written by former White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice detailing a high-level Oval Office meeting on January 5, 2017, directly implicates then-President Obama and other top officials in the targeting of Flynn, including then-Vice President Joe Biden and fired Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey.
According to Rice’s bizarre email, which she wrote to herself as President Trump was being inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, Comey told Obama and Biden he had “some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak,” and that “the level of communication is unusual.” How did Comey know this? Because the FBI had been spying on Flynn as part of a counterintelligence investigation it launched in August 2016.
Obama Admin Distorted FISA Beyond Recognition
Proponents of FISA likely never imagined that warrants for electronic surveillance or unmasking requests might be used by an outgoing administration to spy on an incoming one, but that appears to be what happened in the Trump-Russia investigation and the targeting of Flynn.
We’ll likely know more soon. Sens. Johnson and Grassley have since expanded their request, calling for the release of records related to the unmasking of Trump campaign affiliates by Obama officials from January 2016 to January 2017. The senators say they’re concerned that surveillance of the Trump campaign began long before the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation, Crossfire Hurricane, which became the basis for the Robert Mueller probe and years of conspiracy theories about Trump colluding with Russia.