May 14, 2020


On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) released a list of Obama administration officials who submitted requests to unmask the identity of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. US Senate

On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted “OBAMAGATE makes Watergate look small time!” and continued tweeting similar thoughts throughout the day. Twitter

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From the Left

The left dismisses Trump’s claims and argues that he is attempting to deflect attention away from his policy failures.

“The unmasking of officials… is a routine part of how administrations handle intelligence-gathering, but some top Republicans charge that the Obama administration abused its powers in this instance and others, though the number of such requests is much higher under the Trump administration than the Obama administration. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee under then-Chairman Devin Nunes of California investigated the matter in 2017 and 2018, though sources from both parties told CNN that they didn't see evidence of anything illegal or unusual by Obama officials…

“Some misconduct related to the Russia investigation has been uncovered, and several former FBI officials have been chided for their handling of certain aspects of the probe. But Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the breadth of the wrongdoing or latched onto unproven accusations that even some members of his own administration have struggled to publicly explain or defend… The President is blending real findings of FBI misconduct with self-serving theories and cherry-picked information to weave together a much deeper and more sinister story.”
Marshall Cohen and Jeremy Herb, CNN

“For Trump, ‘Obamagate’ is a wish-fulfillment fantasy… In real life, Obama appointed a Republican to lead the FBI, who then was pressured by a combination of Republican leaks in his agency and Republicans in Congress to publicly reopen an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton days before the election…

“Obama was also so skittish about sharing intelligence that Russia was working to help elect Trump that he tried to get congressional Republicans onboard before making any public warning to state election officials. When they refused and denounced his intelligence as partisan, Obama meekly held off rather than risk appearing to manipulate intelligence to help his preferred candidate… If Obama is the sort of president who would create a pretext to spy on the opposition party, it’s odd he was so cautious about using those powers when he had ample pretext. For that matter, it’s odd that he never ginned up an investigation of his opponent in 2012, when Obama had even more at stake in the outcome.”
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

“Trump’s vagueness is understandable given that Obamagate is less a scandal than a shapeless collection of insinuations and suspicions focusing on the origins of the Russian election interference controversy… If the goal was to railroad Trump, why in 2016 did the FBI make a big show of investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mails while actively denying that the Trump campaign was being investigated? If there was a conspiracy, it was carried out by bunglers who acted in a manner that seemed calculated to ensure Trump’s victory…

“Nate Silver… was puzzled by Trump’s focusing his ire on a former president. ‘Turning the election into a referendum on Obama vs. Trump would seem to be one of the dumbest possible moves for Trump given Obama’s popularity, which was pretty good when he left office and has improved since,’ Silver contends. From a purely rational point of view, it’s hard to gainsay Silver’s argument. But Trump’s approach to politics has never been rational. Rather, Trump has won the success he’s achieved by tapping into feral emotions that other politicians are too cautious or prissy to exploit…

“The economy is a shambles and his unilateralist foreign policy has yielded no clear achievement. Racism is the only card Trump has left to play. There is every reason to think he’ll try to exploit racism to the limit in order to hold on to power.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

From the Right

The right is troubled by the level of surveillance of Trump’s campaign and argues that the Obama administration abused its powers.

The right is troubled by the level of surveillance of Trump’s campaign and argues that the Obama administration abused its powers.

“By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist… The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’…

“We know the DOJ withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA-warrant applications — almost every one of them, actually — were based on ‘fabricated’ evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.”
David Harsanyi, National Review

“Did Obama break any laws? Maybe not. Was he part of an unconscionable effort to weaponize the police powers of the state against a political enemy? It sure looks that way. How else do you explain that Comey and Obama just casually discussed using the obviously phony pretext of the Logan Act for going after Flynn in the January 5, 2017, meeting while Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general, sat there in amazement that her own supposed underling, Comey, would cook up something so obviously bogus and politically explosive as this case without telling her?”
Kyle Smith, National Review

A stunning 39 separate officials snooped on Mr. Flynn’s conversations with foreign actors… The list includes then White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, then Vice President Joe Biden, and then Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew. Ambassador to the U.N. and Obama confidante Samantha Power made no fewer than seven requests, though she told Congress she had no recollection of unmasking Mr. Flynn. Mr. Flynn was unmasked by at least four U.S. ambassadors, six Treasury officials, and people connected to the Energy and Justice departments and NATO, among others…

“The Flynn unmasking is important because it occurred amid a media frenzy over supposed Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Leaks to the Washington Post about the conversations between the Russian ambassador and both Mr. Flynn and soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions were played up as central to the collusion scandal… The dates of the unmaskings raise further questions. The FBI’s interest in Mr. Flynn was supposedly triggered by conversations starting Dec. 29, 2016. Yet Mr. Flynn was first unmasked a month earlier—shortly after Mr. Trump named him security adviser.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Some argue that “People are making too much of the ‘unmasking’ of General Michael Flynn, which may have been entirely justified – but what was almost certainly illegal was the leak to the Washington Post of the information from those unmasked calls… [It is] inexcusable to harm the national security of this nation by leaking details of a counter-intelligence operation. Whichever of those Obama administration officials committed those leaks, even if the leakers included former vice president Joe Biden or his staff, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

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