The House Intelligence Committee took another step forward in its investigation into the nature of the Trump administration’s Russia ties, issuing its first seven subpoenas in the probe, which include former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen. The subpoenas seek testimony, personal documents, and business records from both Flynn and Cohen. Both of their firms—Flynn Intel Llc and Michael D. Cohen and Associates PC—were also subpoenaed.
Four of the subpoenas are part of the probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and the other three—of the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency—are in relation to the unmasking of individuals on the Trump team by Obama administration officials during the presidential transition. “Those subpoenas seek information on requests made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power for names to be unmasked in classified material,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Republicans have taken up the cause of unmasking of Trump officials as part of its attempt to deflect scrutiny into the Republican president’s murky Russia ties. Unmasking—or disclosing the identity of a U.S. citizen inadvertently caught up in surveillance—is designed to be used in instances where there’s a compelling reason to disclose an American citizen’s identity. Republicans have implied the unmasking of Trump associates could have been politically motivated.
The inclusion of the four unmasking subpoenas appeared to startle Democrats on the intel committee. They were not included in the official announcement by the leaders of the investigation, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. Democratic committee staffers have suggested that the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, issued the subpoenas despite having recused himself from the investigation after skulking around and meeting with White House officials. “Subpoenas related to the ‘unmasking’ issue would have been sent by Chairman Nunes acting separately from the committee’s Russia investigation,” a senior committee aide told Reuters.