WASHINGTON – Key evidence on whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump team may be kept under lock and key for five years, at former President Obama's presidential library.
Perhaps just as surprising, the announcement came from President Trump's own National Security Council, or NSC.
There are still a publicly unknown number of Obama holdovers on the NSC, but there's no word yet on how the decision was made.
The government-watchdog group Judicial Watch announced Monday the NSC had denied its Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for documents related to President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice's alleged unmasking of the "identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team."
In a potentially bombshell development, the NSC said those documents have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library, while pointedly adding, "you should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office."
It's not yet known if that would block congressional investigators, the FBI, or Special Counsel Robert Mueller from obtaining the documents.
Unmasking is the revealing of names within the intelligence community of U.S. citizens gathered in foreign surveillance.
President Trump has accused the Obama administration of spying on him and his associates, partly through the use of unmaskings.
Numerous reports have alleged Rice unmasked the names of Trump associates swept up incidentally by the intelligence community during the Obama administration, and then those names were leaked to the press in a damaging light.
For more than four months now, the president has been virtually pleading for investigators to look into the leaks and unmaskings to find evidence he believes would prove the Obama administration spied on him and his team, and perhaps provide evidence that holdovers from that regime are still working to undermine him.
Some congressional investigators have been trying, but they've hit roadblocks. That is why WND raised the issue with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at Monday's daily press briefing.
"At last word, the FBI and CIA were still not handing over to the House intelligence committee information they had requested on unmaskings and leaks," WND began.
WND then asked, "Does the administration believe there should be a special counsel appointed to look into those issues separately, or do they have faith (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller will look at that fully?"
Spicer replied: "That's a question that is best directed toward the special counsel that exists right now. I don't know if that's the case. I'm not ... I don't have an update on that."
"The president has tweeted his desire to look into that," WND noted.
"I understand that," said Spicer. "I know what the president's goal is. I don't know the status between the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and what information they do or do not have with respect to those agencies."
"They seem to feel they've been stonewalled," WND pressed on.
"Again, I just don't have an update as far as what information they do or don't have," Spicer said. "A lot of that's classified, so I wouldn't be able to share it if I could. But it's obviously something that's ongoing."
Although unable to go into much detail, the telling part of Spicer's answer may have been his comment, "I know what the president's goal is."
It has been a great source of frustration for the president that the media has not invested the same time and energy looking into leaks, unmaskings and political spying as it has on the still-unproven allegation the Trump team colluded with the Russians, for which no evidence has emerged, as even top Democrats have conceded.
Often with noticeable exasperation and a sense of urgency, Trump has tweeted about leaks, unmaskings and political spying 27 times since Feb. 14, not long after taking office.
Those tweets include:
- June 1: The big story is the "unmasking and surveillance" of people that took place during the Obama administration.
- May 16: I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.
- May 4: Susan Rice, the former National Security Advisor to President Obama, is refusing to testify before a Senate Subcommittee next week on allegations of unmasking Trump transition officials. Not good!
- April 2: The real story turns out to be SURVEILLANCE and LEAKING! Find the leakers.
- April 1: When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?
- March 20: The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!
- March 4: Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
- March 2: The real story ... is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total "witch hunt!"
- February 24: The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW
- Feb. 15: The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!
- Feb 15: Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia
- Feb. 14: The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
Trump's repeated insistence that the real story is the political surveillance, unmasking and leaking of damaging information by the Obama administration has not gone unnoticed by investigators on the House Intelligence Committee. They may have hit roadblocks of their own but are pressing on.
As WND reported on May 31, the House Intelligence committee issued seven subpoenas.
Three of them, signed by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., explicitly asked the FBI, CIA and NSA for information on unmasking requests involving three top officials of the Obama administration: former national security adviser Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and, surprisingly, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
Well before that, on March 15, Nunes and ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., sent a letter to the chiefs of the CIA, FBI and NSA, essentially asking for any evidence that the Obama administration requested surveillance information on the Trump and/or Clinton presidential campaigns.
WND has reported that the CIA and FBI have been effectively stonewalling Congress, and that the bureau has provided just a smattering of a response.
The letter asked the spy agencies who the Obama administration was surveilling, who asked for and shared the information on those people, and why.