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The Hill's Campaign Report: Flynn 'unmasking' enters 2020 debate

The Hill's Campaign Report: Flynn 'unmasking' enters 2020 debate
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Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail. 

LEADING THE DAY: 

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The so-called “unmasking” of Michael Flynn in U.S. intelligence reports between the 2016 election and President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s inauguration in January 2017 has become the latest political volleyball in the 2020 race for the White House.

Richard GrenellRichard GrenellTrump leans into attacks on Biden's family, business dealings Trump expected to bring Hunter Biden's former business partner to debate Tiffany Trump campaigns at Trump Pride event: 'I know what my father believes in' MORE, the acting Director of National Intelligence, sent a list to two Republican senators this week including the names of dozens of U.S. officials who apparently asked to unmask Flynn’s identity in the final weeks and months of the Obama administration. Among those who requested information at the time was former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Brad Pitt narrates Biden ad airing during World Series MORE, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

It’s not uncommon for high-ranking officials to ask for the identities of Americans swept up in U.S foreign surveillance to be revealed, or “unmasked.” But one issue may be that Flynn’s name was leaked to The Washington Post in January 2017. Trump and his allies have argued that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump hits Biden as 'disrespectful' to Obama MORE and officials in his administration sought to damage him politically by revealing Flynn’s name to the press. There is also a quickly escalating debate over whether the criminal case against Flynn for making false statements to the FBI was handled properly. The Justice Department under Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolice accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE moved to drop the case last week, though a federal judge has yet to grant that request.

The debate over Flynn’s unmasking, however, has already entered the dialogue of the 2020 presidential election. Biden has said that he had nothing to do with the decision to prosecute Flynn and has called the renewed focus on the matter a “diversion.”

Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, noted in a statement this week that none of the Obama administration officials named on the list released by Grenell could have known that Flynn was the individual in question when they initially asked for him to be unmasked. 

“These documents have absolutely nothing to do with an FBI investigation and they confirm that all normal procedures were followed – any suggestion otherwise is a flat out lie,” Bates said in a statement. 

But Trump and his allies are already seizing on the matter to raise questions about whether Biden and other Obama administration officials abused their power and broke the law in order to damage the incoming Trump administration politically. Trump himself hit Biden over his claim that he was not involved in Flynn’s prosecution, asking reporters on Wednesday: “how do you know nothing if you’re one of the unmaskers?”

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Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, Trump’s campaign manager, also jumped on the issue on Wednesday, tweeting that Biden’s “limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Flynn just became even more unbelievable.”

“Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax,” he added.

--Max Greenwood


READ MORE: 

Poll: Marshall takes lead over Kobach in Kansas Senate primary, by The Hill's Juliegrace Brufke

GOP Chairman dismisses moving Election Day: 'No justification for changing elections', by The Hill's Justine Coleman

PERSPECTIVES:

David Harsanyi: Cooking up a criminal investigation, the Obama way.

Jeremy Stahl: Not even the people ranting about “Obamagate” know what it is.

FROM THE TRAIL:

It’s been more than a month since Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE (I-Vt.) suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden. But some Democrats are wondering why the progressive standard bearer hasn’t yet shared his vaunted email list with the former vice president, The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley report. Sanders has built an unmatched network of grassroots liberal donors who helped him crush the competition in fundraising during the 2020 primary season. Democratic operatives and strategists said that Sanders’s list could help Biden get up to speed after posting middling fundraising numbers throughout the primary.

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump conservative super PAC run in part by George ConwayGeorge Thomas ConwayRaccoon that 'attacked' news crews on White House lawn sparks viral jokes George and Kellyanne Conway honor Ginsburg Lincoln Project releases new ad blasting Trump as 'a horrible role model' MORE, is launching a campaign to boost Biden among disaffected Republican and independent voters, The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reports.

FROM CONGRESS & THE STATES:

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDozens of legal experts throw weight behind Supreme Court term limit bill Expiring benefits raise economic stakes of stalled stimulus talks Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE (D-Calif.), a former co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, threw his support on Thursday behind Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks MORE (D-Mass.) as Biden’s running mate, The Hill’s Rebecca Klar reports. In a thread on Twitter, Khanna praised the Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate’s work on the House HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, before concluding that “she needs to be on the ticket.”

MONEY WATCH:

Former aides to Sanders changed the name of a recently formed super PAC originally named for the former presidential candidate’s campaign slogan, “A future to believe in,” after Sanders complained about it, Max reports reports. The group will now be called America’s Promise PAC, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week. The name change and Sanders’s frustration with the effort was first reported on Thursday by Vice News’ Cameron Joseph

POLL WATCH:

CNN – NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL

Biden: 51 percent (-2)

Trump: 46 percent (+4)

ECONOMIST/YOUGOV – NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL

Biden: 47 percent (+1)

Trump: 43 percent (+1)

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

(Keep in mind these dates could change because of the outbreak.)

May 19:

Oregon primaries

May 22:

Hawaii Democratic primary

June 2:

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Delaware primaries

District of Columbia primaries

Indiana primaries

Maryland primaries

Montana primaries

New Mexico primaries

Pennsylvania primaries

Rhode Island primaries

South Dakota primaries

June 9:

Georgia primaries

West Virginia primaries

June 23:

Kentucky primaries

July 7:

New Jersey primaries

July 11:

Louisiana

July 14:

Alabama Republican Senate primary runoff

August 11:

Connecticut primary

August 17-20:

Democratic National Convention

August 24-27:

Republican National Convention

One hopeful thing 

Campaigning is taking a backseat in House and Senate races across the country as candidates devote more time to volunteering for coronavirus relief. 

Julia spoke to a number of congressional candidates who have taken up volunteering over the past two months. 

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyDozens of legal experts throw weight behind Supreme Court term limit bill Presidential debate proves the power of the climate movement Democrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death MORE (D-Mass.), who is challenging Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE in the state’s Senate primary, delivered breakfast to patients quarantined at a Quality Inn-turned-coronavirus-treatment-and-recovery facility in Revere, Mass. 

“It’s opportunities like that to just try to get out there and say thank you,” Kennedy told The Hill. 

Meanwhile, in Texas, Pritesh Gandhi, a candidate for the state’s 10th congressional district, is dedicating his time mostly to treating coronavirus patients in his clinic. 

“Now I’m here, full time. I see patients. I’m part of a leadership team in responding to this pandemic, and we are positioning ourselves to continue to care for our community in the weeks and months to come,” Gandhi said. 

And in New York, Chele Farley, who is running for the state’s 18th congressional district, donated 500 masks to members of her community, and is in the process of distributing 10,000 pairs of gloves to nursing homes, hospitals and small businesses. 

She and her campaign worked to obtain the supplies after holding a virtual coronavirus town hall. 

You can read more about the candidates who are giving back to their communities amid the pandemic here.