Two Senate committees conducting an oversight investigation into the Trump-Russia investigation are expanding their probe and suggested in a letter on Tuesday that surveillance of Trump campaign associates began earlier than the Department of Justice previously admitted.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell requesting additional information regarding the “unmasking” of Americans.
“We write now both to reiterate our request for the declassification of additional information related to the unmasking of Americans around the time of the 2016 election, but also to expand the scope of our request to include information as early as January 2016,” the senators wrote.
According to the senators, they have reason to believe surveillance of the Trump campaign began much earlier than July 2016, the date when the FBI launched its counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign.
“Based on our investigation and recent press reports, we are increasingly concerned that the surveillance of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign began earlier than the opening of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation in late July 2016,” Johnson and Grassley wrote.
The senators explained:
As we explained in our May 12, 2020, letter to you, one of the most significant unanswered questions about what occurred during the 2016 election is how many Americans were “unmasked,” at whose request, and for what purpose.
It has become evident that the FBI, and possibly members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, were focused on U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign in early 2016, if not even earlier. One example is that, in April 2016, FBI headquarters directed its New York Field Office to open a counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page, which on August 10, 2016, became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
Due to the expanding nature of their investigation, the senators requested that Grenell immediately make available all “unmasking” requests made by members of the Obama administration against Trump campaign associates from January 2016 to January 2017.
The FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign, and how involved the Obama administration was in the probe, has received fresh scrutiny in the wake of the DOJ dropping its charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Despite accusations of “Obamagate,” a newly declassified email from Susan Rice, national security adviser for the Obama administration, that was released on Tuesday showed that former President Barack Obama instructed the government to conduct the Trump-Russia investigation “by the book.”