by Chuck Ross
The Justice Department has closed its investigation into whether Obama administration officials improperly unmasked the identities of Trump associates mentioned in intelligence reports, according to a report.
According to The Washington Post, the investigation was recently closed and is unlikely to lead to criminal charges. A report of the investigation will also not be released, according to the newspaper, which cited government sources familiar with the matter.
Attorney General William Barr earlier this year tapped John Bash, the outgoing U.S. attorney in San Antonio, to investigate whether Obama administration officials abused the process for requesting intelligence reports on Trump associates.
The inquiry began following the release of a document that showed that 39 officials in the Obama White House and other federal agencies requested intelligence reports that had information about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The document showed that then-Vice President Joe Biden made a request for an intelligence report that identified Flynn on Jan. 12, 2017.
Then-CIA Director John Brennan and then-FBI Director James Comey also requested intelligence reports regarding Flynn in December 2016.
U.S. officials routinely submit so-called unmasking requests in order to better understand intelligence reports. But Republicans have suggested that the Obama officials intentionally made requests for reports that mentioned Trump associates. The Republican theory was that government officials may have leaked negative information about Flynn and other Trump associates to the media.
It is unclear if Bash investigated the Obama officials’ rationale for requesting intelligence reports that mentioned Flynn and other Trump associates. Biden has been asked about his unmasking request during one interview and denied any wrongdoing.
Several Republicans senators have requested documents of unmasking requests that Obama-era officials submitted from January 2016 until Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
The Bash inquiry appears less successful at uncovering wrongdoing as two other investigations launched by Barr.
John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, is conducting a sprawling investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, as well as into U.S. agencies’ intelligence-gathering activities related to the Trump campaign.
That investigation has led to charges against a former FBI attorney who worked on the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
Barr also tapped Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for Missouri, to review the Justice Department’s investigation of Flynn. The retired general pleaded guilty during the special counsel’s probe to lying to the FBI about his conversation in December 2016 with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak. Flynn filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea on Jan. 29.
Jensen has released a trove of previously undisclosed FBI documents related to the investigation. The documents show that the FBI was poised to close a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn in early January 2017, but kept the probe open after obtaining intercepts of Flynn’s calls with Kislyak.
Flynn’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence.
The Justice Department filed a motion to drop charges against Flynn on May 7, but the judge handling the case has appealed the decision.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Background Photo “Department of Justice Building” by Another Believer. CC BY-SA 3.0.