The Big New DC Controversy: 'Unmasking' of Michael Flynn

A big abuse of power or a routine request by government officials?
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2020 12:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – Michael Flynn has been making a lot of headlines lately, and the new ones generally have the word "unmasking" in them. Details on the term and controversy:

  • The start: Back in 2016, officials in the Obama administration received intelligence reports about the surveillance of Russia's ambassador to the US, explains the AP. The reports revealed he had been talking with an American—unnamed in the reports—about how the Kremlin would respond to sanctions imposed by the Obama White House.
  • Unmasking: Several White House officials—including, most notably, VP Joe Biden—requested that the American be identified. It turned out to be Flynn, who was working on the Trump transition to the White House. This type of "unmasking" request is relatively routine: The Wall Street Journal reports it is made thousands of times a year by US officials who are looking for more context to intelligence reports. In fact, such unmasking requests have been used more often by the Trump administration than by the Obama administration.
  • The difference: Unmasking may be routine, but it is has become highly controversial in this case. "Conservatives have long seized on Flynn’s unmasking to imply that he was treated unfairly by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials," per the Washington Post. What's more, President Trump and his allies say it shows that the Russian investigation was politically motivated.

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