Did obscure Pentagon office leak the secret Flynn call? Grassley wants to know

Senate Finance chairman sets July 2 as deadline for answers about informer Halper, contacts with reporter Ignatius.

Published: June 20, 2020 9:15pm

Updated: June 21, 2020 7:35am

The powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is increasing pressure on an obscure Pentagon office, demanding to know whether its leader was the source of a leaked transcript of a classified Michael Flynn call in the Russia investigation.

In a letter, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also demanded that the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment and its director produce documents about one of its academics, Stefan Halper, who was used by the FBI as an informant to spy on Trump campaign figures during the Russia probe.

Grassley said he has been demanding the documents for months but has not received them from ONA Director James Baker.

“Despite these repeated requests, ONA has continually failed to furnish all requested records” Grassley wrote. "It appears that either ONA has refused to comply with my requests, or that ONA simply does not maintain full records of Halper’s work."

You can read the letter here:

ONA normally avoids the limelight as an academic think tank dedicated to identifying emerging threats in the world for its Pentagon bosses.

But the revelation that Halper, one of its researchers, worked as an informant for the FBI to spy on Trump campaign figures Carter Page and George Papadopoulos thrust the office into controversy.

More recently, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch released emails and other documents showing that Baker, the ONA director, had multiple contacts with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who was first to report Jan. 12, 2017 the contents of a classified phone intercept between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

The illegal leak eventually cost Flynn his job. The former Trump National Security Adviser is now trying to get his conviction reversed for lying to the FBI about the call. The Justice Department supports his request to drop the charge.

The timing of the contacts between Ignatius and Baker led Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell to ask recently in a court filing whether Baker could have been the source of the leaked call. You can read that court motion here:

A Defense Department official has since stated Baker maintains he is not the source of the leak.

“ONA interactions with media are conducted in accordance with DOD policy and ATSD/PA procedures. The documents referenced were released according to FOIA requirements and illustrate regular interactions between department officials and members of press,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland told the Washington Examiner.

But Grassley wants Baker to answer directly whether he provided any help to the Ignatius column, saying he was concerned by the “overlap in time between the majority of the emails and the leak of the call, your apparent close relationship with Mr. Ignatius, and your communications with” other Pentagon officials about the journalist.

Grassley demands answers from Baker to the following three questions about Ignatius:

  • “Did you provide any information relating to any Flynn-Kislyak call to the media? If so, what information?
  • “Did you provide any information relating to any Flynn-Kislyak call to an individual with the knowledge that it would be shared by that individual to the media? If so, what information?
  • “In your communications with Mr. Ignatius, did you ever provide Mr. Ignatius any information related to Lt. Gen. Flynn? If so, what information?”

The chairman gave Baker until July 2 to comply with the document request.

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