President Trump smeared Joe Biden as a “big unmasker” on Wednesday over revelations that he learned of Michael Flynn’s shady Russia ties earlier than previously known, making political hay out of information that didn’t strike former intelligence officials as particularly surprising.
The disclosure about Biden was made by acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell under highly unusual circumstances, but Trump insisted it was evidence of an Obama administration plot to take down his presidency.
“He said he knew nothing about anything, nothing at all,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “And then it gets released today: He was a big unmasker. How do you know nothing if you are the unmaskers? It is one of the very big stories.”
Earlier Wednesday, Grenell declassified a secret document revealing that a handful of Obama administration officials and several undercover intelligence officers filed requests with the National Security Agency during the 2016 presidential transition to learn the identity of a U.S. individual mentioned in intelligence reports about Russia.
That individual was Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, who had come up in the intel reports because he had been in contact with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions policy on the Kremlin.
Among the government officials who asked the NSA for Flynn’s identity were Biden, former FBI Director James Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan, according to the declassified list.
Biden, the list showed, filed his Flynn request on Jan. 12, 2017, eight days before leaving the White House.
Ned Price, a former CIA officer and member of President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said there wasn’t anything unusual about Biden and other top-ranking officials asking for Flynn’s unmasking.
Rather, Price suggested it underscored how widespread the concern was about Flynn’s activities.
“The upshot is that Americans now know the identities of the public servants whose alarm at Flynn’s actions compelled them to request his identity, a practice that’s available to intel and policymakers for good reason,” Price tweeted.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates agreed and slammed Trump’s finger-pointing as a “dishonest” attempt to “distract from his response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years.”
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