FBI Shared Transcripts of Flynn-Russia Calls Without Masking Flynn’s Name: Report

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No evidence requests from Biden, others to unmask Flynn were politically motivated, U.S. attorney finds

The FBI distributed transcripts of calls between then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States without shielding Flynn’s name, according to a newly published report, which also found no evidence that requests from then-Vice President Joe Biden and other Executive Branch officials to unmask Flynn’s identity were politically motivated.

Flynn and the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, spoke several times after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.  Flynn’s identity was made known, or unmasked, to a number of Obama administration officials, who requested the unmasking prior to Trump being sworn in. Portions of the transcripts were reported by The Washington Post before Trump’s inauguration, citing a “senior U.S. government official.” A later article cited nine current and former officials. All likely violated federal code that prohibits disclosure of classified information.

Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, in May 2020 tasked U.S. Attorney John Bash to review the unmasking requests of Flynn and others, with the Department of Justice indicating the frequency and motivation for the unmasking appeared to be problematic.

Bash’s report was never made public but was published on May 31 by BuzzFeed News after the outlet obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Bash, another Trump appointee, said he examined whether any senior officials had obtained Flynn’s identity in connection with the calls through an unmasking request made ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

“The answer is no. According to the FBI, the Bureau did not disseminate an intelligence report discussing those communications and containing masked USPII for General Flynn before President Trump’s inauguration. For that reason, the public disclosure of the communications could not have resulted from an unmasking request,” Bash wrote. USPII stands for U.S. person identifying information.

“That conclusion is consistent with my review of unmasking records, which did not reveal any unmasking request corresponding to a report discussing those communications,” and was confirmed by other information, Bash added.

But the U.S. attorney, who resigned in October 2020, also said he learned that during the time when Trump was preparing to enter office, the FBI shared transcripts of the Flynn-Kislyak calls “outside of the Bureau without masking General Flynn’s name.”

“Evaluating that dissemination, and determining how the information was provided to the media, is beyond the scope of this review,” Bash said.

By Zachary Stieber

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