- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2020

President Trump said that President Obama “probably” directed U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on him toward the tail end of Mr. Obama’s administration.

“Yes, he probably directed them,” Mr. Trump said in an interview that aired Thursday on Fox Business Network.

“They’re all bad … but here’s the thing: It was impossible for it to happen without the man that sits right in that chair in the Oval Office — he knew everything,” he said. “The president knew everything — President Obama and Vice President Biden — they knew everything.”

Several Republican senators on Wednesday released the names of top Obama administration officials who had put in “unmasking” requests and might have gotten the identity of Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser who was captured on tape talking to Russia’s former ambassador before Mr. Trump was sworn in.

The list of officials provided by Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell included Mr. Biden, former FBI Director James B. Comey, and ex-intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper.

Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations, though the Justice Department recently moved to have his case thrown out.

A federal judge has not yet granted that request, and suggested on Wednesday he might pursue contempt or perjury charges against Flynn.

In an appearance on CNN, Mr. Clapper on Thursday characterized unmasking requests as fairly routine and said the requester wouldn’t have known Flynn’s identity ahead of time.

“What you’re trying to determine — does this pose a threat to national security?” he said.

Mr. Clapper denied leaking news of a December 2016 phone call to a Washington Post columnist.

His feed had briefly cut out after he was asked about the idea of leaking classified information.

Mr. Brennan tweeted Thursday that the president’s “propaganda & disinformation machine, which operates according to a despot’s playbook, is the most aggressive & odious in history.”

“It far surpasses even Russia’s ability to trample the truth, harm U.S. security, & undermine America’s reputation worldwide,” he said.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, tweeted in response, “I concur.”

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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