Over the last two years, we’ve all seen the reports of the unprecedented unmasking of U.S. citizens by senior Obama official, Ambassador Samantha Power, in the final days of the Administration – to the tune of more than one a day. Now, through our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, we have unearthed evidence of significant political bias during the same time period she was unmasking Americans.
The media has reported that among other Obama Administration officials, former Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made numerous requests seeking the “unmasking” (or unredacted identification) of names and other information about members of the Trump campaign team whose communications had been incidentally caught up in intelligence surveillance efforts. Power’s requests, reported to number in the hundreds, occurred mostly in the final days of the Obama Administration, that is between the election of President Trump in November 2016 and his inauguration in January 2017.
What the media has not reported, but the ACLJ has since discovered through one of our FOIA lawsuits, is that the clear political—and personal—bias of Power against the incoming President and the conservative agenda led her to undertake efforts aimed at undercutting support for the new Administration.
Let that sink in: the same top-level Obama Administration official reported to have made some 260 unmasking requests seeking surveillance information about the incoming President and his campaign team was simultaneously engaged in communications in which she consoled others over the election results, blatantly insulted the President-elect, colluded with the mainstream media, and actively sought out ways to undermine the new Administration before it had even begun.
This information is revealed in documents we received as a result of our lawsuit against the State Department and the NSA concerning the unmasking attempts of Power and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. While the agencies have heavily resisted producing responsive documents, the limited documents produced by the State Department thus far paint a grim picture of the attitude and actions of Obama-era officials in the final days of that Administration.
The evidence we obtained shows email chains to and between Power and her Counselor, Nikolaus Steinberg, just three days after the election in which Power actively discusses an “idea to seek maximum amplif[ication]” of her politically biased messaging. Steinberg first raised the idea of “a useful (and somewhat cathartic) vessel to Channel some post-Trump messages about who we are.” Minutes later Power responds, “Need to move out on 60 mins idea to seek maximum amplif. [sic] I can write Charlie or bill Owens if he’s still there.”
After a brief discussion ensued over who would reach out, later that evening, Steinberg sent Power a “Draft pitch email” for her to send to 60 Minutes, yet that draft is completely redacted. Subsequently, he suggested doing the pitch to 60 Minutes or CBS Sunday Morning on the issue of refugees, stating, “with the hook being the foreshadowing that Trump and company may try to undo all of this.” Minutes later, Power sent an email to Bill Owens, the Executive Editor of 60 Minutes: “We’re still reeling here, as you might imagine. My mission to the UN is a cabinet agency under President Obama, but will be demoted to something very different in January. Notwithstanding this, Tuesday’s results have given us an even greater sense of urgency to get our work done in our last few months. 70 good long days left!”
We warned you about the 73 Days of Danger – the final days of the Obama Administration, and this new evidence confirmed what we said all along. The Administration was fully engaged in attempts to do whatever they could to undermine the conservative agenda and the will of the American voters. But it was far worse than we thought.
Further in the same email to the Executive Editor of CBS’s 60 Minutes, she again references the special status she had under President Obama as a cabinet level position, one we now know came with vast unmasking authority. She stated, “I was also being informed that the job of US Ambassador to the UN will be downgraded by the Trump Administration to non-Cabinet level (typical of Republican administrations, but we have never had so many of our core interests embedded here).” We’re learning just how embedded the Deep State’s interests really were.
Power goes on in this November 11th email to pitch a 60 Minutes episode to help lay a public foundation to undermine the incoming Administration. She wrote:
I am not sure exactly what I am pitching, but it seems there could be something interesting to show through USUN about this waning multilateral moment for the US, how we use these last two months, what we are trying to defend, how we are consoling other countries, etc. I wondered if there could be something in this that would hit home for viewers, even or perhaps especially those who support Trump. Let me know if you would like to brainstorm.
The conversation continues four days later with Owens acknowledging and agreeing to help pitch the piece. He further stated, “I can only imagine the conversations you are having with some of our allies now and I would love a chance to brainstorm.”
On November 14th, Power received an email that was sent to the USUN Breakingnews listserve containing a Reuters article entitled, “Trump looking at fast ways to quit global climate deal: source.” Power then forwards this article to Jonathan Finer (Director of Policy Planning, DOS) with the message, “Lord help us all. How are you holding up?” Finer responds, “And the below [referring to the article] is just one of many grim things we have to look forward to.” Power then responds to Finer, but this reply has been completely redacted.
We have encountered the State Department bureaucracy’s superfluous redactions before and will be challenging this redaction in court to ascertain what was said.
In one of the more disturbing emails, on December 14th, Steinberg replies to an email Power sent under the subject line “tom friedman today – see last para quote by larry diamond” (this email appears from the production to contain no other information). However, Steinberg’s reply to Power contains a December 9th article from The Atlantic by Larry Diamond entitled, “Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy,” which furthers a narrative questioning the legitimacy of the election.
His commentary with the article simply states, “Indeed. Saw it and read Diamond’s piece Monday when doing some research. It’s a solid piece. Pasted it below and will have it added to your book.” This occurred during the height of Power’s “unmasking” and calls into question what “research” and “book” he was putting together for her.
Four days later, on December 18th, Power replied to an interview request from Univision reporter Jorge Ramos – who had been repeatedly and publicly critical of the incoming President – with an underhanded snub: “If we do something, we will make it good. Ptsd in retreat – Trump has vanquished it. Let’s see!”
On December 22, 2016, in an email to Ben Rhodes (Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications) who was also implicated in the unmasking requests, Power forwards an article entitled, “Applied pressure: Donald Trump isn’t even president yet and he’s already making waves at the U.N.”
The article discusses President-Elect Trump’s diplomatic efforts to kill the U.N. draft resolution calling for Israel to return to pre-1967 borders. Power’s words to Rhodes: “This reflects the lack of understanding of history.”
Later that night, Steinberg adds Power to an email chain sharing a similar Reuters article about President Trump’s expression of support for Israel to the President of Egypt, and snarkily quips, “So much for one President at a time.”
This further confirms what we told you at the time, that the Obama Administration was intentionally attempting to undermine the State of Israel through a cowardly act at the U.N. Now we know, they were at the same time displaying their utter disdain for the incoming President.
Then, just three days before the inauguration, Power delivered her final remarks as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., addressing “Russia: The Threat, the International Order, and the Way Forward.” The day before her speech, Steinberg, counselor to the ambassador, wrote in an email to Power, stating, “Trump’s interviews over the weekend with the foreign press questioning R sanctions and value of NATO will be very helpful for relevance of speech.”
Finally, and maybe most significantly, the day she delivered that speech – again just three days before the inauguration – an email chain under the subject line, “Russia speech 1am version,” between Power, Rice, Rhodes, and others is almost completely redacted. The flurry of email activity occurs between 1:25 a.m. and 1:45 a.m., and demonstrates that the three key players in the unprecedented “unmasking” were literally working around the clock in the final days of the Obama Administration.
Then, just hours later, after the speech, in an email chain under the subject line, “Russia,” between Halie Soifer (Power’s Policy Advisor), Steinberg, and Power sent her “as delivered” remarks to two USUN listserves. However, each of the subsequent replies, including two from Power herself, are completely redacted.
Further, and of critical importance, is that nothing in the unredacted portion of either email chain that day is responsive to our FOIA request. That means, that something in those redacted email chains – sent just three days before the presidential inauguration – is responsive to our FOIA request.
What is the Deep State hiding?
We will be challenging these redactions. The American people deserve to know the truth.
Power’s political bias was palpable and calls into severe question any suggestion that Power’s unprecedented unmasking requests against U.S. citizens were done with anything other than political animus. If this production is what the Deep State was willing to turn over to us, we can only imagine what remains to be turned over, litigated over, and be unredacted.
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