Joe Biden admitted Tuesday that he and then-President Barack Obama were told that the FBI was seeking an investigation into Michael Flynn in early 2017 – but claimed Donald Trump focusing on these details of the case now are a ‘diversion’ from coronavirus response failures.
‘I was aware that there was – that they asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it,’ Biden told ABC News’ Good Morning America Tuesday morning.
‘And I don’t think anything else – look, think about this: Can you image any other President of the United States focusing on this at the moment when a country is just absolutely concerned about their health?’
‘This is all about diverting attention,’ he insisted. ‘Focus on what’s in front of us. Get us out of this, Mr. President.’
The answer came after Biden had initially denied to interviewer George Stephanopoulos knowing about Flynn.
‘I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn, number one. Number two, this is all about diversion,’ Biden continued. ‘This is a game this guy plays all the time.’
But Stephanopolous said ‘I want to push you’ to Biden and noted that as vice president he was present at a meeting at which intelligence chiefs discussed Flynn having a call with Russia’s ambassador Sergei Kisylak and informed Barack Obama about it.
That prompted Biden’s admission that he knew about the investigation.
The comments came as Trump entered his third-day of Twitter ranting against Obama, claiming he and his administration are responsible for crimes linked to the Flynn case that he says are more serious than Watergate.
Flynn’s case has been revived after new revelations led to the Justice Department abruptly dropping the charges against the former National Security adviser after he already pleaded guilty under oath.
Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee planning to take on Trump in November, had initially said the president is treating the news cycle as a ‘game’ by dubbing his predecessor’s supposed action as ‘Obamagate.’
Joe Biden said Tuesday morning that he was informed in early January 2017 that the FBI was interesting in investigating incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, but claimed he didn’t know anything about the prosecution
Biden also says Trump focusing on the DOJ dropping Flynn’s case is a ‘diversion’ from what the former vice president claims are Trump’s failures in his federal coronavirus response
Richard Grenell, President Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence, has declassified a list of Obama administration officials alleged to have been involved in the ‘unmasking’ of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
WHO COULD HAVE ‘UNMASKED’ FLYNN?
A series of top Obama officials would have had the authority to ask for the name of the redacted person revealed to have spoken to Sergei Kisylak, who was Mike Flynn
Barack Obama. Presidents have absolute authority to declassify any intelligence for any reason
Intelligence agency heads – who can request unmasking, generally without a specific legal justification. They included:
James Comey, FBI Director
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence
John Brennan, CIA Director
Admiral Mike Rogers, National Security Agency Director
Marine General Vincent Stewart, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Members of the national security council who included:
Joe Biden, Vice President
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Susan Rice, National Security Advisor
Samantha Power, Ambassador to the United Nations
Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary
Ernest Moniz, Energy Secretary
More junior officials:
In testimony to Congress, Samantha Power said that unmasking requests made in her name were not always at her direction
BUT COULD IT HAVE BEEN THE TRUMP TEAM?
Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice’s deputy revealed in a memoir that Flynn’s own transition team disclosed to Obama officials that he had spoken to Kislyak
‘The country is in crisis – we’re in an economic crisis, a health crisis. We’re in real trouble,’ he told ABC News’ George Stephenopoulos Tuesday morning. ‘He should stop trying to always divert attention from the real concerns of the American people.’
‘He hasn’t done his job,’ Biden said. ‘This is all about diverting attention – diverting attention from the horrible way in which he has acted. We don’t have coronavirus because of him, but we have the devastating impact of it because of his lack of a policy – his lack of policy. It’s all about diversion.’
Biden’s comments came as, in his more than 30-tweet tirade Tuesday morning, Trump said: ‘OBAMAGATE makes Watergate look small time!’
In another tweet, Trump lauded ‘Big news!’ in reposting a report by a Fox News contributor that a ‘List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified’ is expected to be made public soon.
Trump’s Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, declassified on Monday a list of former Obama administration officials said to be involved in the ‘unmasking’ of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
He obtained the list after visiting Justice Department headquarters last week.
‘Unmasking’ is the revelation that an American citizen’s name appears in intelligence gathering like eavesdropping or wiretaps that are initially aimed at suspected foreign agents.
Supporters of Trump allege that members of the Obama administration improperly sought to investigate Flynn over contacts he had with the ambassador to Russia.
Trump’s barrage against Obama’s involvement in the case came after audio was revealed Friday where the former president said the ‘rule of law is at risk’ after the Flynn case was dropped.
During the call he also bashed Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as an ‘absolute chaotic disaster.’
It is still unclear what crime Trump is accusing of his predecessor.
The only explanation of his accusations are Trump’s suggestions on Twitter that Obama acted illegally when the Department of Justice began probing incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016.
Despite Trump urging an investigation into Obama, top Republican allies are not on board.
‘I’m not anticipating calling President Obama,’ Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said, according to Politico.
‘I think the president’s got a real good reason to be upset with the Obama people,’ he admitted.
Donald Trump launched an early Tuesday morning attack against Obama, entering day three of his tirade against his predecessor, and claimed that the undefined ‘Obamagate’ is worse than Nixon-era Watergate, which led to Richard Nixon’s impeachment and him resigning from office
He also lauded ‘Big news!’ that a list of Obama officials involved in the Michael Flynn investigation was released and many will be questioned in Congress
Trump’s attacks against Obama came after the former president bashed his successors response to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming it is an ‘absolute chaotic disaster’
Graham’s panel is investigating the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation – and the chairman has vowed to bring in former senior Obama administration officials as witnesses, including former FBI Director James Comey and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Other Republican senators have also avoided taking a side on if the DOJ should investigate former Obama officials.
Despite hesitations, some GOP lawmakers stopped just short of endorsing a probe.
‘Some of the revelations that I read including conversations with Comey and Sally Yates and others are very troubling,’ Texas Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Trump ally and, said new questions raised about the prosecution of Flynn should be put directly to Obama and Biden.
‘Given all we know now about the fake foundation of the inquiry, it’s time we ask: What did Obama and Biden know and when did they know it?’ Grassley said Monday on the Senate floor.
The president’s salvo against Obama followed a stream of more than 120 tweets Sunday, many focusing on him being part of a conspiracy to bring Trump down – and he claimed in one tweet that Obama committed the ‘biggest political crime in American history.’
Several of Trump’s tweets insisted that Obama knew the details of a call between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak in 2016 – an incident that is at the center of what Trump calls the ‘Impeachment Scam.’
The prosecution against Flynn for lying to the FBI about that call was dropped last week, spurring Obama to tell his alums on Friday during a 30-minute web call that the U.S. ‘rule of law’ is at risk.
While Trump wants Obama questioned, top Senate ally, Lindsey Graham (pictured), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: ‘I’m not anticipating calling President Obama’
Trump comments are part of a three-day Twitter tirade against Obama. In response to one tweet claiming that Obama ‘is the first Ex-President to ever speak against his successor,’ Trump wrote: ‘He got caught, OBAMAGATE!’
The president al retweeted this image Sunday night, writing: ‘OBAMAGATE’
During the call with the Obama Alumni Association, the former president blatantly attacked his successor, a break from his previous practice of avoiding direct insults against the president.
In response, Trump retweeted Sunday comments from ally Jim Jordan, who said: ‘Obama’s FBI targeted President Trump and his allies before the 2016 election. Scary!’ Trump added: ‘…And we caught them and their illegal activities!’
Trump followed that on Sunday and Monday morning with a string of tweets and retweets about ‘Obamagate.’
The contours of the ‘Obamagate’ claim are not entirely clear, but appear linked to Trump’s claim that those who prosecuted Flynn are ‘human scum.’
Last week Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department withdrew support for Flynn’s prosecution – and a federal judge will have to decide whether to clear Flynn, who previously pleaded guilty under oath to lying to the FBI.
Trump appears to be suggesting in his tweets that Obama in some way instructed the FBI to conceal its investigation of Flynn from the incoming administration as part of an attempt to have Trump removed from office once he was inaugurated.
In one of his Mother’s Day tweets on Monday, Trump claimed that ‘Obamagate makes Watergate look small time’ and insisted Obama had finally ‘got caught.’
During a Rose Garden press conference Monday, Trump offered no definition of what ‘Obamagate’ is or what crime the former president committed when he was pressed on the matter. ‘You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody,’ he said
During a press conference in the Rose Garden Monday afternoon, Trump offered no definition of what he was actually alleging of Obama.
‘What crime exactly are you accusing President Obama of committing and do you believed the Justice Department should prosecute him?’ a Washington Post reporter asked the president.
Trump responded ‘Obamagate,’ then added: ‘It’s being going on a long time. It’s being going on from before I even got elected and it’s a disgrace that it happened, and if you look at what’s gone on and if you look at now, at all this information that’s been released, and from what I understand that’s only the beginning, terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again.’
‘And you’ll be seeing what going on over the next, over the coming weeks and I wish you’d write honestly about it, but unfortunately you choose not to do so,’ he continued.
When pushed further to define the crime, Trump said: ‘You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.’
‘All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours,’ he said of the Post, which he often denounces as ‘fake news.’
THE MIKE FLYNN SAGA: HOW TRUMP APPOINTEE BECAME INCENDIARY STORY
Mike Pence was a career Army intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was still in uniform as a three-star general when he became Barack Obama’s head of Defense Intelligence in July 2012.
But he fell out badly with the Obama administration, was forced out in July 2014 and moved into private intelligence consulting.
December 10: Flynn is paid to travel to Moscow and sits beside Vladimir Putin at dinner celebrating propaganda outlet RT (right). His consulting business has Russian clients
February: Flynn signs up to provide national security advice to the Trump campaign; in the next few months he is floated as a possible running mate
July20 : Flynn leads ‘lock her up’ chants at the Republican National Convention and claims Obama concealed the actions of Osama bin Laden
July 31: FBI open counter-intelligence investigation Crossfire Hurricane into group of Trump aides, including Flynn, for possible Russian influence. In 2014 an FBI informer had told agents he saw Flynn spending time at a dinner in the UK with a Russian woman with ties to Kremlin intelligence; the information is included in their investigation. Flynn is code-named Crossfire Razor
November 4: Trump wins the election, and meets Obama who advises him not to hire Flynn. Trump ignores the advice and makes him national security adviser designate
Flynn meets Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak (right) at Trump Tower and exchanges calls and messages throughout the month.
December 29: Hours after Obama announces sanctions on Russia for election interference, they speak and Flynn says it will be ‘reviewed’ when Trump takes power. The call is heard by intelligence agents who monitor Kisylak’s calls and details are included in intelligence reports. The next day Putin says Russia won’t retaliate for the sanctions
January 4: FBI drafts report saying there is ‘no derogatory information on RAZOR [Flynn].’ But 20 minutes later FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok tells case agent ‘don’t close RAZOR,’ and ‘7th floor involved’ meaning FBI leadership. He also emails lover Lisa Page, a senior FBI lawyer, about the Logan Act – a never-enforced 1799 law banning private people from interfering in foreign relations. ‘Razor still open,’ he writes and calls news ‘serendipitously good’. ‘Phew, but yeah, that’s amazing that he is still open. Good I guess,’ Page replies. Strzok respond: ‘Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time I’m guessing :)’
January 5: Obama holds Oval Office briefing on Russian election interference with Joe Biden, CIA director John Brennan, FBI director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and deputy attorney general Sally Yates. He asks Comey and Yates to stay behind and says he has ‘learned of the information’ about Flynn’s call to Kislyak. Comey mentions the Logan Act
January 6: Obama’s top intel figures – Brennan, Clapper and Comey – give the Trump team including Trump a briefing on Russia at Trump Tower
January 12: Bombshell Washington Post report reveals Flynn’s call to Kislyak on December 29, ‘according to a senior U.S. government official’ saying: ‘What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?’ It mentions the Logan Act
January 14: Flynn tells Pence he did not discuss sanctions; in coming days Trump officials repeat this on television – including Mike Pence the following day
January 20: Trump is inaugurated; Flynn becomes national security advisor
January 22: The Wall Street Journal reveals Flynn is subject to a counter-intelligence investigation over links to Russia
January 23: Strzok and Andrew McCabe the FBI Deputy director exchange messages planning to interview Flynn
January 24: Two FBI agents – Peter Strzok and one whose name remains secret – go to the White House and interview Flynn in his West Wing office. Their notes say he denies talking about sanctions with Kislyak and said ‘if I did I don’t remember’
January 26 and 27: Yates tells White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn has lied to Mike Pence and other officials, is therefore compromised, could be blackmailed by Russia, and other aspects of his conduct are worrying which she can’t tell McGahn because they are classified
January 28: Flynn sits in the Oval Office to take part in Trump’s first call with Putin
February 9: Washington Post reveals Flynn did discuss sanctions and publishes interview in which he repeats denial ‘categorically.’ After the story is published, he tells the newspaper a different version – that he may have discussed sanctions
February 10 and 11: Trump says he will ‘look into’ Flynn but the aide is at Mar-a-Lago dinner with Shinzo Abe. Pence
February 13: Washington Post reveals that McGahn was warned about Flynn by Yates. Flynn resigns admitting he ‘inadvertently’ misled Pence, prompting Pence to mislead on Face the Nation in January
February 14: Trump meets Comey and says Flynn is ‘a good guy’ and ‘I hope you can see your way to letting this go.’
March 30: Flynn offers to testify to Congress – at the time both House and Senate are Republican-controlled – or the FBI on Trump-Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution; nobody takes up the deal offer
May 9: Trump fires Comey, and on May 17 Robert Mueller is appointed special counsel
May 10: Senate Intel Committee subpoena Flynn for his contacts with Russia; he cites Fifth Amendment; they later subpoena in more detail, and by early June he turns over documents voluntarily
November 5: Mueller’s investigators revealed to be ready to indict Flynn and his son Michael Jr. on multiple charges. They are looking at his foreign lobbying and even whether he plotted to kidnap a Turkish cleric from the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey – but are also wiling to strike a deal to let his son off if he flips
November 16: Mueller team interview Flynn for first time
November 22: Flynn withdraws from ‘joint defense deal’ with Trump, suggesting a deal is in the works
December 1: Flynn signs a plea deal with Mueller; he will plead guilty to lying to the FBI at the White House interview. In exchange his son gets out of charges, and Flynn himself escapes charges of failing to register his lobbying for foreign entities. He appears in court and admits under oath lying to the FBI and affirms that he understands the deal. ‘I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right,’ he says. The White House says: ‘The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year.’
December 2: Trump tweets: ‘I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI’
January: Flynn is repeatedly interviewed as he cooperates with Mueller and sentencing is repeatedly deferred
June 7: Obama deputy national security advisor reveals in book that Obama administration first learned of Flynn’s December 2016 communications with Kislyak from Trump transition team members and not from ‘unmasking’ his name in intelligence reports
December 18: Flynn appears in court for sentencing hearing; Mueller’s recommendation is little or no jail time. But Judge Emmet Sullivan says ‘arguably you sold your country out’ and asks why he was not charged with ‘treason.’ Sentencing is deferred
June 12: Flynn fires Covington & Burling, his white shoe law firm, and hires new lawyer Sidney Powell, who had told him on Fox News to ditch his plea deal
August 30: Flynn files motion accusing prosecutors of conning him into a guilty plea by withholding exculpatory material while other parts of the government trying to ‘smear’ him as a Russian agent
December 16: Judge rejects Flynn’s motion after reviewing Intel Inspector General report into the FBI and DOJ actions before the 2016 election and sets sentencing date for January 28
January 7: Prosecutors say they want up to six months for Flynn; a week later he files to ask to withdraw his guilty plea ‘because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.’ A week later he asks for probation if he can’t get out of his deal. Sentencing is deferred until February 20
Attorney General Bill Barr appoints political appointee Jeffrey Jensen, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to examine Flynn’s prosecution
New notes released by Jensen show Strzok discussing keeping Flynn as a target on January 4 2017. They also show an unnamed FBI official’s notes from around the interview with Flynn on January 24 2017, saying: ‘What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?’ Trump starts a tweet storm which lasts into the next day, saying: ‘What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!’
Department of Justice says it is withdrawing support for prosecuting Flynn saying the interview in the West Wing was ‘untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn’ and that it was ‘conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.’