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James Clapper’s convoluted interview on Flynn unmasking raises more questions than answers

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Questioned Thursday morning by a Democrat-friendly CNN “reporter” about the three unmasking requests he made in late 2016 and early 2017, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper essentially pleaded the fifth by claiming someone else had made the requests on his “behalf” and alleging that he doesn’t even remember why.

His answers were difficult to believe.

Listen (disable your adblocker if the video doesn’t appear):

 

“Generally speaking, how many unmasking requests did you make, say, in a given week?” CNN’s John Brennan asked.

“Well, great question, and it varied, and I don’t recall the exact number,” Clapper replied. “But over the six-plus, six and a half, almost seven years I served as DNI, I would say perhaps once a week — once or twice a week, perhaps? But it would vary. Not every day but fairly frequently. It’s a routine thing, it’s appropriate and legitimate.”

“When you have a valid foreign intelligence target engaging with a U.S. person — is it, for example, an insider? Someone in the government engaging with that foreign adversary? So it’s important from the standpoint of potential jeopardy to the national security that you know — you understand what’s going on.”

Unless, of course, that U.S. person is a Democrat, it would appear. Moreover, the person who Clapped requested to unmask, then-incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, had already been cleared of Russian collusion, meaning neither Clapper nor any other Obama administration official had any real reason to target him.

Yet he and others seemed almost desperate to unmask Flynn as the individual who spoke privately with then-then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late 2016.

“So you would make those requests once or twice a week, and to be clear, the number of unmasking requests actually went up in the years of the Trump administration from the Obama administration,” Brennan then said in defense of Clapper.

Except the number of unmasking requests made by an administration is irrelevant. What’s pertinent is who the requests targeted — in Flynn’s case, it was a member of a political enemy’s incoming administration — and when the requests were made.

“Do you remember why you made these specific — and there were three, December 2nd, December 28th, January 7th — these requests to unmask the name of an individual?” Brennan then asked.

No I don’t, I don’t recall what prompted a request on my — that was made on my behalf for unmasking,” Clapper claimed. “I don’t remember the specifics or what it was that was in the SIGINT report that was suggestive enough that I was concerned and felt that I should know who was actually involved.

Notice how he claimed someone else issued the unmasking requests on his “behalf.” And notice also how he denied being aware of any “specifics,” despite the importance of the requests. His answers were fishy, to say the least.

Conservative commentator Ed Morrisey notes that “even if Clapper somehow couldn’t figure out that the US person discussing sanctions policy with Kislyak was Flynn, he should have dropped it once Flynn was unmasked, and all other unmasking requests should have been denied.”

Some of those other requests can be seen below:

Why should these requests have been denied? Because, one, Flynn had already been cleared of Russian collusion, and two, it has always been standard-fare for incoming NSAs to speak with foreign diplomats during presidential transitions.

“Foreign governments are always interested in feeling out the incoming administration and it’s certainly not uncommon for representatives of the president-elect to have discussions with representatives of foreign powers just as an informational exercise to allow each side to get to know each other,” David Clinton, the chair of the political science department at Baylor University, said to Slate back in 2017. “Such exchanges are part of modern day transitions.”

Morrisey suspects the hash of unmasking requests were allowed to go through so as to increase the likelihood that information would find its way to the FBI.

“It seems likely that the multiple unmasking requests were a mechanism to allow the FBI to get Flynn’s identity so that they could set him up for a perjury trap for purely political purposes,” he wrote.

“The political nature of these requests pertaining to Flynn becomes obvious from their initiation almost immediately after the election and the officials who have no role in such matters who requested them — Power, Ambassador John Phillips, chief of staff Denis McDonough, and Biden too.”

And none of Clapper’s answers Thursday dispelled this theory, including his admission of never uncovering any evidence of Russian collusion:

And not to mention his total non-answer to being asked about the leak of Flynn’s information to the media that occurred only days after his unmasking.

Watch:

To be fair, Clapper eventually answered the question after his camera was fixed.

Watch:

So perhaps he really didn’t leak the information to the media. That still leaves 1,000 other questions that remain unanswered.

Vivek Saxena

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