From way, way back in the Trump-Russia timeline, one of the biggest charges from Republicans has been about the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn. This idea, that someone in the Obama White House used their authority to uncover the real name behind an anonymous “SUBJECT 1” in some discrete intelligence report has been a key Republican charge since that time Devin Nunes leaped from an Uber to go scurrying through the White House shrubbery. And just last week, lapdog Lindsey Graham announced that he wanted to know just who was behind the dastardly unmasking of Flynn as a lead off to his big new investigation of Russia investigation.
Yeah … about that. As it turns out, there’s a problem with Graham demanding that the FBI tell him who in the Obama administration ordered the unmasking of Flynn. The problem is that Graham got an answer. And the answer is: no one. That’s because it never happened. And that’s because Flynn’s name was never masked in the first place. But there is something about Flynn that was covered up, and the facts behind that seem like a real scandal.
As The Washington Post reports, Graham made a big announcement on Tuesday that he was sending a letter to the brand-new extra-Trumpy Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell demanding to know why documents had not been produced to explain who unmasked Flynn’s name in connection with his multiple calls to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Meanwhile, Nunes was back on Fox News to accuse the Obama administration of “unmasking anyone and everyone so that they could leak information to a press.”
These are the calls that Flynn first denied, then lied about not just to the FBI, but supposedly to Mike Pence. They were at the core of both Flynn’s resignation and the charges he is still facing in court, no matter what William Barr and Donald Trump might wish.
The reply that Graham got doesn’t exactly give more power to his bid to get in on this “Obamagate” thing. Because what Grenell sent back was the news that the FBI never masked Flynn’s name. It was always on the report, because understanding who was talking to Kislyak “was essential to understanding its significance.” There was no unmasking request, because there was no mask.
But don’t worry. Graham is given a chance to provide a detailed written response. Between them they’ll surely find a way to blame someone for unveiling what was never veiled. Maybe Nunes can sneak back into the White House basement and get a hot tip from Flynn’s former protege—who is exactly who handed him the claims about unmasking in the first place.
Still, it’s not as if there isn’t some new secret to be uncovered about Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador. As Marcy Wheeler reported over at emptywheel:
Flynn wasn’t lying to hide what he said to Kislyak.
He was lying to hide that he had coordinated with people at Mar-a-Lago before speaking with Kislyak.
Records of Flynn’s interviews with the FBI show that he repeatedly lied, not about the contents of the call, but about his own coordination with Trump before and after that call. Not only did Flynn lie directly to the FBI at least three times about his knowledge of sanctions, he followed the call by requesting a written note directly intended to mask the importance of the conversation.
The problem for Graham, Nunes, and others trying to find evidence that Obama did something wrong in regards to Flynn, is that Flynn is a crook, who didn’t just lie to the FBI, but covered up his coordination with the Trump transition team. That’s in addition to numerous violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and planning for the kidnapping of a U.S. resident.
If people keep asking for evidence related to Flynn, they’ll likely find some. They just won’t like it.