Biden nominee to be Fed's top banking regulator requested unmasking of Michael Flynn in 2016

Senate Republicans are concerned about Sarah Bloom Raskin's unmasking of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the victim of a federal investigation repudiated by the Justice Department as improperly predicated.

Updated: January 31, 2022 - 10:27pm

President Joe Biden's nominee for vice chair for supervision at the Federal Reserve, Sarah Bloom Raskin, sought the unmasking of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in 2016 in his conversations with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Raskin — the wife of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), one of nine House impeachment managers for former President Donald Trump's second impeachment — was the deputy secretary of the Treasury during the Obama administration when she requested the unmasking of Flynn.

In May 2020, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell declassified the names of those who requested the unmasking of Flynn. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) subsequently released those names.

Other names included then-Vice President Biden, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.

"Unmasking" refers to the authorized disclosure of the veiled identities of U.S. citizens party to or referred to in conversations of foreign nationals monitored by U.S. intelligence. In Flynn's case, a conversation he had with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. was recorded, and after his "unmasking" both his identity and details of the conversation were leaked to the media. 

In October 2020, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) for records of requests to unmask Flynn made by Biden and Raskin, among others. The following month, Judicial Watch filed a similar lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department and the Department of the Treasury.

"This is Vice President Biden using the spying powers of the United States to go after a political opponent," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at the time the names were released. "He's caught red-handed here. Vice President Biden's caught red-handed eavesdropping on a political opponent's phone calls — that to me is alarming."

Under a plea deal with the special counsel in the federal government's Russia collusion probe, Flynn had pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI. After a series of revelations about alleged prosecutorial impropriety in the Flynn investigation, the Justice Department requested dismissal of the case against Trump's first national security advisor. In November 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn, which eventually led to D.C. Circuit Court Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissing the case after an unusual months-long delay following the DOJ request for dismissal.

With Raskin's confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee scheduled for Thursday, a Senate Republican source told Just the News that the nominee's unmasking of  Flynn is a concern of Republican senators.

Republican senators have also expressed concerns over Raskin's comments regarding the fossil fuel industry.

While federal regulators such as the Federal Reserve were not "specifically designed to mitigate the risks of climate-related events," Raskin wrote in September, "each has a mandate broad enough to encompass these risks within the scope of the instruments already given to it by Congress. Accordingly, all US regulators can — and should — be looking at their existing powers and considering how they might be brought to bear on efforts to mitigate climate risk."

Noting that Raskin referred to the traditional energy industry as "a dying industry," ranking member on the Banking Committee Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wrote to Biden last week that she has also "insisted the Federal Reserve should specifically preclude fossil fuel companies from accessing its emergency broad-based lending facilities, which were established to help restore liquidity to businesses and save jobs when credit markets froze during the COVID pandemic."

"Sarah Bloom Raskin has specifically called for the Fed to pressure banks to choke off credit to traditional energy companies and to exclude those employers from any Fed emergency lending facilities," Toomey said in a statement earlier this month.

"I have serious concerns that she would abuse the Fed's narrow statutory mandates on monetary policy and banking supervision to have the central bank actively engaged in capital allocation," he continued. "Such actions not only threaten both the Fed's independence and effectiveness, but would also weaken economic growth."

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) said on Bloomberg TV last week, "I'm very concerned about the rhetoric that I've heard from [Raskin] in terms of contorting financial regulations to achieve certain political goals."

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