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Trump’s ‘Obamagate’ conspiracy just got blown to pieces

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  • President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have in recent weeks latched onto a vague conspiracy theory, dubbed “Obamagate,” that revolves around former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
  • It accuses Obama administration officials of improperly “unmasking” Flynn’s name in intelligence reports monitoring former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s communications.
  • But a Washington Post report on Wednesday blew up that allegation when it revealed that Flynn’s name was never “masked” in the first place.
  • The “Obamagate” conspiracy also accuses Obama and Biden of having advance knowledge of the FBI’s plans to interview Flynn about his communications with Kislyak during the 2017 presidential transition period.
  • But a newly declassified email appears to debunk that claim as well.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers, and right-wing media personalities have in recent weeks latched onto a vague conspiracy theory accusing former President Barack Obama and his administration of masterminding the Russia investigation and engineering a “deep state” campaign to undermine Trump’s presidency before it even began.

The conspiracy, dubbed “Obamagate,” revolves around former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI as part of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Primarily, it accuses former Vice President Joe Biden and other Obama administration officials of improperly requesting that Flynn’s name be “unmasked” in intelligence reports monitoring former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s communications.

But a Washington Post report on Wednesday blew up that allegation when it revealed that Flynn’s name was never “masked” in the first place.

“When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because it was essential to understanding its significance, a former senior US official told The Post. “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.”

The US intelligence community surveils hundreds of thousands of foreign targets per year, and “unmasking” is a routine tool officials use to make more sense of the communications they’re monitoring. The intelligence community gets thousands of unmasking requests a year.

The “Obamagate” conspiracy also accuses Obama and Biden of having advance knowledge of the FBI’s plans to interview Flynn about his communications with Kislyak during the 2017 presidential transition period.

That allegation centers on an Oval Office meeting that took place on January 5, 2017 and included Obama, Biden, then national security adviser Susan Rice, then FBI director James Comey, and then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Rice sent herself an email documenting the meeting after it occurred — known as a contemporaneous memo — and Trump and his Republican allies have seized on the email as evidence that Obama ordered the FBI to “spy” on the Trump campaign.

But the email, which was declassified in full this week, appears to show the opposite.

During the meeting, according to Rice’s email, Obama emphasized “his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.'”

“The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective,” the email said. “He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

Obama said, however, that from “a national security perspective,” the outgoing administration should be “mindful” when sharing information about Russia with the incoming Trump administration, according to Rice’s memo.

Comey then affirmed that he was proceeding “by the book” but said he was concerned about Flynn’s frequent conversations with Kislyak, and that the communications “could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.”

Obama asked Comey if he was saying the National Security Council should not share sensitive intelligence about Russia with Flynn, to which Comey replied: “Potentially.”

He added, however, that he had no information indicating that Flynn had passed any classified information to Kislyak, though their “level of communication” was “unusual,” the memo said.

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