The “unmasking” scandal of the previous administration has turned out to be a big nothingburger. The Department of Justice has closed a probe into the numbers and manner in which Obama-era officials requested the identities of “US persons” in NSA surveillance without any charges or even a final report, the Washington Post reported late yesterday. US Attorney John Bash has left the DoJ after closing out the probe after being appointed to conduct it by Attorney General William Barr, and no further action is apparently contemplated.
That leaves Donald Trump and other Republicans who had argued that it rose to the level of corruption with the problem of failed expectations. And it might not be the only federal probe that could end up doing that, either:
The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing, according to people familiar with the matter.
The revelation that U.S. Attorney John Bash, who left the department last week, had concluded his review without criminal charges or any public report will rankle President Trump at a moment when he is particularly upset at the Justice Department. The department has so far declined to release the results of Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names — a common practice in government to help understand classified documents — as a political conspiracy. …
Kerri Kupec, the Justice Department’s top spokeswoman, had first revealed Bash’s review in May, after Republican senators made public a declassified list of U.S. officials, including former vice president Joe Biden, who made requests that would ultimately reveal the name of Trump adviser Michael Flynn in intelligence documents in late 2016 and early 2017.
In an appearance on Fox News that month, Kupec told host Sean Hannity that Barr had tapped Bash, the top federal prosecutor in San Antonio, to review Obama-era officials’ unmasking requests. She said that though the practice “inherently isn’t wrong,” the frequency with which requests were made or the motive for making them could be “problematic.”