Attorney General William P. Barr revealed Tuesday that he’s appointed another U.S. attorney to investigate requests by top Obama officials to “unmask” President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr. Barr said he’s asked John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, to look into the unmasking requests. He said that review will be independent of Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia-collusion investigation.
“I’ve asked another U.S. attorney to look into the issue of unmasking because of the high number of unmaskings and some that do not readily appear in the line of normal business,” Mr. Barr said in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Then-acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell in May declassified a list of top Obama administration officials who requested Mr. Flynn’s identity during the transition period.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, former FBI Director James B. Comey, former CIA Director John O. Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper were among the officials identified in the list.
But other names on the list raised some questions, including former Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and seven employees at the Department of Treasury.
The officials who may have received Mr. Flynn’s identity made the requests to the NSA between Nov. 8, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017.
However, Mr. Grenell could not confirm if all the officials listed saw Mr. Flynn’s identity.
U.S. law requires identifying information of U.S. citizens picked up during surveillance of foreign officials to be hidden, or “masked.” Only high-ranking intelligence officials such as Mr. Grenell can request the names of those people.
Mr. Flynn was captured on a call with the former Russian ambassador discussing lifting sanctions imposed on the country by the Obama administration. He later pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about his conversations with the ambassador.
The Justice Department earlier this year dropped the charges against Mr. Flynn. A federal appellate court sided with the department, ruling the judge overseeing the criminal case did not have the authority to dismiss the charges.