Remember back in the Before Times when many people were very concerned about the fact that Russia helped get Donald Trump elected in 2016, and we also found out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped make that happen by covering it up in the summer and fall of 2016, before we all voted? We’re revisiting all that now as Trump and Republican senators try to gin up something called “Obamagate” to try to hurt Joe Biden. What that something is is not entirely clear, but it involves Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, declassifying an Obama-administration document related to the supposed “unmasking” of Michael Flynn, Trump’s convicted former national security adviser. Before we travel too far down this path, also remember this:
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
Now back to Grenell declassifying this document: he did it entirely for the purposes of leaking it and getting the names of the Obama administration officials who were asking about Flynn back in January 2017 into the hands of Republican senators in order to get to Biden.
What they seem to think is that they can gin up some sort of Deep State Obama conspiracy to harm Trump. It’s worth at this point going through the timeline of what was happening in January 2017 in the last days of the Obama administration. It was imposing sanctions on Russia for election interference. To explain those sanctions, it publicly announced that the Russia government had worked to influence the election for Trump—the thing that McConnell had worked to cover up months earlier. But there was something else happening then—the fact that the FBI had reviewed intercepts of communications between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The list Grenell declassified is a list of the Obama administration officials who asked intelligence officials for more information about all this. Because they were still the administration in charge of the country and they needed to know what exactly was going on with Russia and what would need to be done to protect the nation from that potential threat. But now we’ve got all the usual Republican stooges screaming about “unmasking”—Obama people trying to somehow act suspiciously, if not illegally, to find a victim that they can use three years down the line when they know Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president.
Which is bunk, as a Wall Street Journal reporter noted in a tweet: “Unmasking U.S. identities in intel reports is a fairly routine process that occurs thousands of times a year and is requested by senior administration officials to better understand the context of intercepted conversations that are being reviewed.”
So what we have happening right now is Republicans and Trump trying to manipulate a routine U.S. intelligence activity in order to attack a political opponent. Because of course that’s what they’re going to do. Unfortunately, we’ve also got a slathering D.C. traditional media that’s bored with coronavirus and is going to fall for it hook, line, and sinker, as if “but her email” didn’t land us precisely on the precipice of utter disaster because Donald Trump is president.
In large part because Moscow Mitch McConnell covered up Russian interference and kept that information from the voting public. So he could destroy the federal judiciary. Now that’s a story for the 2020 election that deserves some more ink.