(CNSNews.com) - Former Vice President Joe Biden was among the many Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of an American citizen who turned out to be Gen. Michael Flynn, although on Tuesday, Biden dismissed the unraveling Flynn case as a "distraction" from the coronavirus crisis.
Biden told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday he was "aware...that they had asked for an investigation" into Flynn, "but that's all I know about it, and I don't think anything else.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on Wednesday night that even if Biden doesn't remember making the unmasking request, it's "bad news for Joe Biden ahead."
"When we first called this a coup, we were panned by the Democrats, the media, and even some of our fellow Republicans," Gaetz told Fox News's Sean Hannity:
But now we see the extent that the Obama administration went to to tell a side of the story that really was fiction, and more specifically, seeing Joe Biden's personal involvement in the potential setup of Mike Flynn.
So I don't know what's worse for Joe Biden, being implicated in that potential setup, or being so without his faculties that he can't remember the meetings, he can't remember being there, and I think that that also creates sort of a political Chinese finger trap for Biden.
Either he's going to claim he was the super-involved vice president and wants credit for all the things he thinks America loved about the Obama administration, but if he does that, he has to own these scandals, these set ups and this attempt by the Obama administration to undermine our democracy. Bad news for Joe Biden ahead.
As CNSNews.com reported, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Biden on Tuesday morning, "What did you know about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn, and was there anything improper done?"
"I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn, number one," former Vice President Joe Biden responded: "Number two, this is all about diversion. This is a game this guy (President Trump) plays all the time. The country is in crisis. We're in an economic crisis, a health crisis, we're in real trouble. He should stop trying to always divert attention from the real concerns of the American people..."
Stephanopoulos followed up, asking Biden about the Jan. 5, 2017 meeting at the White House, where Biden and President Obama "were briefed on the FBI's plan to question Michael Flynn over those conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak."
Biden, inexplicably, told Stephanopoulos, "I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I'm sorry. I was aware that there was -- that they had asked for an investigation, but that's all I know about it, and I don't think anything else.”
Biden diverted again: "Look, think about this. Can you imagine any other president of the United States focusing on this at the moment when the country is just absolutely concerned about their health, the health of their children, the health of their families, the health of their -- I mean this is -- we have an economic crisis. We have a health crisis. This is all about diverting attention. Focus on what's in front of us. Get us out of this, Mr. President."
Stephanopoulos tried again: "Was the Justice Department right in dropping those charges against Michael Flynn?" he asked Biden.
"Well, based on a couple thousand, I guess I saw a headline, yesterday, I guess -- a couple thousand former -- or was it a couple hundred, I'm not sure -- a whole lot of former Justice Department people said the attorney general should step down. I have been absolutely stunned by the way in which he has not conducted the office properly.
“But, look, I don't know the detail of where we are right now. My point is a simple one. Focus on what's in front of us. You have plenty of time to investigate this issue. I think there's nothing there, there -- but you know it's not a surprise that, in fact, the Justice Department decided anybody who was an ally of the president didn't do anything wrong ever anyway.”
A request to unmask the name of an American citizen mentioned in foreign intelligence reports is not illegal, but leaking the unmasked name to the media -- as happened with Flynn -- is illegal.
We still don't know who leaked Flynn's name to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who published a column on January 12, 2017, reporting that Flynn had spoken by phone with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. several times on Dec. 29 -- the same day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of Russians in retaliation for election hacking.
The chronological list of 16 would-be unmaskers, released Wednesday by Acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, begins with former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers, who made seven unmasking requests, beginning on Nov. 30.
The list ends with then-Vice President Joe Biden, who made an unmasking request on Jan. 12, just eight days before leaving office and the same day that Ignatius published his column.
Grenell said the list includes “recipients who may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity” in response to an unmasking request processed by the National Security Agency between Nov. 8, 2016 and January 31, 2017.
Each of the 16 individuals was an “authorized recipient” of the NSA’s original foreign intelligence report, and the unmasking “was approved through NSA standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.”
A preface to the list notes that only “certain personnel” are authorized to submit unmasking requests into the NSA system, and the NSA says “we cannot confirm” whether the 16 individuals actually “saw the unmasked information."
Grenell released the list to Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who requested the information earlier this month.