Former AG Sessions says leak of Flynn phone call was an 'absolute crime’
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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that the unmasking of Michael Flynn and resultant leak of his identity and information to the media was an “absolute crime” that ought to be “prosecuted vigorously.”
Sessions, who eventually lost favor with President Donald Trump for recusing himself from the ‘Russiagate’ probe that revealed it was a hoax, discussed the revelations regarding Obama-era officials who unmasked Flynn’s identity in foreign intelligence reports during the transitional period in 2016 and 2017.
GOP senators released a declassified list of 39 Obama administration officials on Wednesday who had requested that Flynn be unmasked. They included fired former Vice President Joe
Biden, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, fired FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“It’s one thing to ask for an unmasking. It’s another thing to leak it to the media. That’s an absolute crime and should be prosecuted vigorously,” Sessions — who is running for his old U.S. Senate seat — told Fox News.
Flynn spoke by phone to then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, a call that was intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies because it involved an American citizen speaking to a foreign dignitary. Such dignitaries are monitored every day by the intelligence community, and when they speak to Americans that is of special interest because of the potential for espionage.
But Flynn’s call was typical and even normal under the circumstances. He was slated to become President-elect Trump’s national security adviser, so speaking to a Russian diplomat was neither unusual nor illegal.
That said, the identities of American citizens are only supposed to be ‘unmasked’ on rare occasions, and generally only when they’re suspected of collaborating with a foreign power. Flynn wasn’t, so the unmasking of his identity was highly unusual.
And we know he was unmasked because on Jan. 12, 2017, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius published a story citing a senior U.S. government official who said that Flynn spoke by phone with Kislyak, information the reporter could not have obtained unless it was leaked.
Sessions said that whoever leaked Flynn’s information committed a felony that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
“If that happened, and it looks like it might have, those people need to go to jail. They need to be prosecuted,” said Sessions, who didn’t say if the Justice Department was still investigating Flynn when he was AG.
Sessions recused himself from all Russia investigative matters in March 2017, just a few short months after Trump took office.
Comey has admitted that he leaked a memo allegedly documenting a conversation he had with Trump in the White House in order to trigger a special counsel investigation, which is what happened.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team also investigated Sessions, though ultimately found nothing.
During the interview with Fox News, Session also questioned why Biden would request that Flynn be unmasked.
“So when you have Joe Biden having these intercepts a few days before he left office, he had no basis and need for that from a national security perspective whatsoever,” he said.