Long before there was any public reason to accuse candidate Donald Trump of colluding with Russia, Obama officials may have been systematically spying on his campaign, according to two top GOP senators.
In a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Tuesday, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa requested that he declassify more documents related to the government’s surveillance operation during 2016 Trump’s presidential campaign.
The senators asked Grenell to provide information on spying that could have occurred as early as January 2016, according to a press release.
“Based on our investigation and recent press reports, we are increasingly concerned that the surveillance of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign began earlier than the opening of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation in late July 2016,” the senators wrote.
“One example is that, in April 2016, FBI headquarters directed its New York Field Office to open a counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page, which on August 10, 2016, became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” they wrote.
This letter expands on their May 12 request for documents that will show “how many Americans were ‘unmasked,’ at whose request, and for what purpose” during the 2016 election.
“We firmly believe that the best way to resolve these issues is to determine the truth, and to make clear to the American people what did and did not occur,” they wrote.
Grenell declassified information a week ago regarding several top Obama officials’ requests to unmask Michael Flynn from the time of Trump’s election victory in November 2016 through his January 2017 inauguration.
The list showed that 39 Obama administration officials, including former Vice President Joe Biden, had sought to reveal Flynn’s identity and access classified intelligence about his private conversations without detailing a national security threat, as the law mandates.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, also sent a letter addressed to Grenell and Attorney General William Barr to expand the investigation.
He called on Grenell to provide the names of Obama administration officials who made requests to unmask anyone associated with Trump’s election campaign or transition team, according to a press release.
“Given the extensive number of requests for the unmasking of General Flynn’s name during this short time period, it raises the question of whether these or other officials sought the unmasking of the identities of other individuals associated with the Trump campaign or transition team,” Graham wrote.
His inquiry is limited to unmasking requests made between Nov. 8, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017.
Graham said on Monday that he would consider holding a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee to issue subpoenas to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
Grenell declassified more documents about the Obama administration’s involvement in spying on and unmasking Flynn. Johnson made the documents public on Tuesday.
Among them was the full version of a partially redacted “CYA” memo that out-going national security adviser Susan Rice sent herself on her final day in the White House.
It raised further questions about the degree to which then-FBI Director James Comey had informed members of the Obama administration about his investigation of Flynn.
Rice previously told the members of a congressional inquiry in 2018 that she was unaware of Comey’s investigation until he, himself, publicly testified.
However, it was under the Rice’s authority that other top officials would have been approved to access the intelligence reports of Flynn’s intercepted phone calls.