Sen. Grassley drills in on Flynn leak from secret Pentagon office

by WorldTribune Staff, June 23, 2020

Sen. Chuck Grassley is demanding to know if the director of the Pentagon’s secretive Office of Net Assessment (ONA) was the source who leaked a classified Michael Flynn call with Russia’s ambassador to the media.

In May, Judicial Watch released emails and other documents showing that ONA Director James Baker had multiple contacts with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who was first to report on Jan. 12, 2017 the contents of a classified phone intercept between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

James H. Baker, left, and David Ignatius

Baker noted in one email that he had a “long history” of talking with Ignatius, who writes a twice-weekly column on foreign affairs.

Related: In regular communications with key Pentagon official, WaPo columnist was ‘sir’, May 4, 2020

The illegal leak eventually cost Flynn his job as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser.

Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, alleged in a court filing that it was Baker who told Ignatius about phone calls between her client and Kislyak during the presidential transition. The subsequent Ignatius column proved crucial to igniting the Trump-Russia hoax.

The column said Flynn and Kislyak spoke about economic sanctions. Trump aides denied it. That provided a reason for then-FBI Agent Peter Strzok to interview Flynn.

Baker is an Obama administration holdover who was appointed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in May 2015.

Baker took over as ONA director for Andrew Marshall, who was referred to by some as “Yoda”. Marshall retired in 2017 at age 93 after heading up the ONA since 1973. Marshall was a legend in the eyes of his admirers who ranged from pro-U.S. hawks to military academics in the People’s Republic of China.

Related: Inspector general probes retaliation at secret Pentagon think tank, once run by ‘Yoda’, December 1, 2017

Grassley said he has been demanding the documents for months but has not received them from Baker. Grassley gave Baker a July 2 deadline to produce the documents.

“Despite these repeated requests, ONA has continually failed to furnish all requested records” Grassley wrote.

Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also demanded that Baker produce documents about one of ONA’s academics, Stefan Halper, who was used by the FBI as an informant to spy on Trump campaign associates Carter Page and George Papadopoulos during the Russia investigation.

“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,” Grassley said.

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 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?”

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