U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-04) asked Attorney General William Barr about “unmaskings” in a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.
The committee grilled Barr on a number of other topics as well, including police reform.
Unmasking, according to a story by CBS News, means this:
U.S. intelligence agencies routinely conceal the identities of U.S. persons whose identities are included in intercepted communications of foreign officials, and senior government officials can request those identities be revealed, or “unmasked,” to provide a better understanding of the intelligence. Unmasking requests are common and not a crime, but publicly disclosing the person’s identity or spreading it for political purposes can be unlawful.
Video of the grilling is available in this C-SPAN video here. Jordan’s questions about unmasking begin around the 2:03:30hr mark.
Here is a transcript of Jordan’s and Barr’s remarks on unmaskings:
Jordan: Thirty-eight people unmasked Michael Flynn’s name 49 times in a two-month timeframe. Seven people at the Treasury Department unmasked Michael Flynn’s name. Is this is an issue Mr. Durham is looking into?
Barr: I’ve asked another U.S. attorney to look into the issue of unmasking because of the high number of unmaskings and some that do not readily appear to have been in the line of normal business.
Jordan: Wait a minute. So, I want to be clear. So, there is another investigation on that issue specifically going on at the Justice Department right now? Can you give us that U.S. attorney’s name, or is that something you’re comfortable doing?
Barr: John Bash of Texas.
Jordan: John Bash of Texas is looking specifically at the fact—
Barr: At unmasking.
Jordan: Thirty-eight people 49 times unmasked Michael Flynn’s name, and probably other unmaskings that took place in the final days of the Obama-Biden administration. Is that accurate?
Barr: Actually, a much longer period of time.
Jordan: Even before then?
Jordan: Thank you. I appreciate that. That’s information that the committee did not know.
Barr in May appointed John Bash, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, to review unmasking requests that Obama administration officials submitted against Trump associates. He is working with U.S. attorneys John Durham and Jeff Jensen, who are looking into aspects of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Republican senators in May released a list of 39 Obama officials who asked for intelligence reports during the presidential transition period that identified Flynn, who was to serve as national security adviser. Those who asked for reports included Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey and CIA Director John Brennan.
The DOJ moved to drop the Flynn case after internal memos were released raising questions about the investigation that led to Flynn’s 2017 guilty plea for lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts, Fox News reported.
Bash was confirmed by the Senate to his post as U.S. attorney on Nov. 9, 2017, his biography says. Before that, he served as a Special Assistant to the President and as an Associate White House Counsel.
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