U.S. Attorney John Bash of Texas, who was tasked by Attorney General Bill Barr with looking into the repeated unmaskings of associates of Donald Trump, resigned his office and left the Justice Department last week, without even issuing a report.
So far, the Department has declined to release any of Bash’s work.
News media are reacting as one might imagine, affirming that unmasking the names of American citizens caught up in surveillance of foreign targets was “a common and appropriate” practice exploited by conservatives to create a political conspiracy. (In reality, it used to be relatively uncommon.) According to the predictably predictable WASHINGTON POST, “Legal analysts feared that Bash’s review was yet another attempt by Trump’s Justice Department to target political opponents of the President. Even if it ultimately produced no results of consequence, legal analysts said, it allowed President Trump and other conservatives to say Obama-era officials were under scrutiny, as long as the case stayed active.” Here’s their take in full, if you really want to subject yourself.
Bash and his team were looking not only at the unmasking but also at the leaking of information to reporters, which we know was done. But the AG’s office chose not to release any findings publicly. According to WAPO, “the WASHINGTON POST was unable to review the full results of what Bash found.”
According to the WAPO story, Bash accepted a job offer in the private sector and told Barr of this about a month ago. He surprised many at the DOJ when he announced his departure last week, making no reference to the unmasking investigation he’d been working on.
The U.S. attorney replacing him in the San Antonio office will be Gregg Sofer, and it’s hard to tell if any leftovers from the investigation will be transferred to him, or if it will just be closed.
Bash had no comment. A spokesman for the DOJ’s San Antonio office had no comment. So far, Barr has had no comment. It’s not clear why the Department is holding back Bash’s findings --- even WAPO acknowledged that.
But Bash’s probe is just one part of this look into unmasking. Reportedly, U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation includes unmasking as well, and it’s hard to know how the two investigations overlapped. Barr has said that no report of Durham’s findings will be released before the election. But he’s also said he wouldn’t delay Durham’s findings over concerns about the election being so close. Well, that’s confusing; I guess he’s saying he won’t delay the findings but knows they won't be ready, anyway. So the question is, why the heck won't they?
We know, thanks to the efforts of then-acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, that unmasking requests skyrocketed under Obama, with more than three dozen former Obama administration officials on the list of those who made those requests. These include presidential candidate and then-Vice President Joe Biden, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
But Bash will be providing details on none of this. As Trump said of a similar review conducted by U.S. Attorney John Huber in Utah, “He was a garbage disposal for important documents & then tap, tap, tap, just drag it along and run out of time.”
Since there's no report, it’s not known if Bash collected evidence that supported the allegations of Michael Flynn's attorney Sidney Powell, but on Monday, Powell appeared on FOX Business News with Maria Bartiromo to allege that the Obama administration participated in the smear campaign against her client.
Democrats are braying that, absent the indictments (well, there's been one), all of this is a big “nothingburger.” But we already know enough about it to say they're as wrong about this as they are about most things, which is saying a lot.
One thing noted by THE CONSERVATIVE TREEHOUSE last June is extremely pertinent to this perplexing new development: that Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador Kislyak was NOT obtained by unmasking his name. Flynn himself had already been put under surveillance. The targeting of Flynn is something Durham should definitely be looking at. For when you have time, this detailed piece explains it all.
We know this is true from the Mueller report, which says that before Flynn’s phone call with Kislyak, “the FBI had opened an investigation OF FLYNN [emphasis mine] based on his relationship with the Russia government.” This is why there’s no paper trail of an unmasking request on this phone call with Michael Flynn. No unmasking necessary! They were getting that information anyway.
One piece of evidence that finally did come out on Tuesday was the FBI’s Steele dossier “spread sheet,” showing what was included vs. what was actually verified. Virtually nothing was verified. Finally declassified, this 94-page document supports –- one might say “verifies” –- just about everything we already knew about the phony Trump/dossier. It was a big pile of nothing. The “verification” was hearsay and circular reporting.
CONSERVATIVE TREEHOUSE also has an excellent, very detailed report for when you have time, including a link to a pdf of the spreadsheet.
Finally, Drew Holden at THE FEDERALIST said it well: “In hindsight, the allegations range from overeager to merely comical. But it’s important to remember that they have had a real, lasting impact on American politics, and that those chiefly responsible have yet to be held accountable.”
We're long past time to see accountability. It's now or never.