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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff refused to comment on the accuracy of a report about the government surveillance of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, but nevertheless cited it to criticize acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
The California Democrat referred to the Washington Post, citing former U.S. officials, reporting last week that the FBI, not the National Security Agency, wiretapped Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak's calls with Trump's then-incoming national security adviser on Dec. 29, 2016, and made a summary and transcript.
He stressed to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that the report presents inconvenient "facts" for Grenell, exposing him as a hyperpartisan who is "selectively" declassifying unmasking material to damage President Trump's political opponents - the heart of what Trump and his allies have dubbed the "Obamagate" scandal.
"There's a published report, and I can't comment on whether it's accurate or not, that Flynn's name may never have been masked to begin with," Schiff told Maddow on Friday. "That really blows a big hole in what Grenell has been trying to do, which is establish some theory that they [the Obama administration] were trying to unmask Flynn so that they could, I don't know, persecute Flynn and now there are public reports that he wasn't masked to begin with in that call with the Russians."
"This is the problem when I think you're trying to weave an alternate history, and that is: the facts keep getting in the way," he added.
What Schiff did not get into was the question of whether the FBI was the only agency to listen into these calls and whether the bureau made a record of every one they wiretapped.
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, who was a lead GOP investigator for the intelligence panel, told Fox News that he recalled the FBI telling Congress "there were multiple calls, and some of the transcripts didn't come through." Gowdy also recently named news outlets and reporters he believes accepted leaks from Schiff for stories to "perpetrate this fraud" about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI investigators about his conversations with Kislyak regarding a United Nations resolution on Israel and sanctions. But Flynn now claims he was set up by the FBI, and the Justice Department is seeking to drop the case.
FBI Director Christopher Wray ordered an internal review of the Flynn case on Friday.
With growing calls, including from Schiff and Flynn's defense team, for the release of the transcripts of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak, Grenell, said that same day the nation's top spy office is working to declassify those conversations, but only those that are in ODNI's possession.
Schiff isn't convinced, saying the relevant transcript "might come out," adding "if they feel compelled to do so."
He also said Grenell, who will soon be replaced by Rep. John Ratcliffe after he was confirmed by the Senate on a party-line vote, has taken up the "Steve Bannon model," which is "flooding the zone with excrement" to hide the truth.
All this comes after Grenell forced Schiff's hand to release dozens of witness interview transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation. The transcripts showed several top intelligence, law enforcement, and national security officials from the Obama administration saying they had not seen evidence of collusion even as the California Democrat insisted in public that such evidence did exist.