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House Subpoenas Flynn, Cohen and Unmasking Requests by Obama Trio

by Alex Moe and Kasie Hunt /  / Updated 
Image: Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington on May 16, 2017.Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

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The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas Wednesday as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, four of them related to the Russia probe — and three about any "unmasking" of Trump associates by Obama officials.

According to a congressional source, the three subpoenas related to unmasking were seeking information on any unmasking requests by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.

Democrats on the committee say they were not consulted on the unmasking subpoenas. "If the reports are accurate," said a senior aide to a committee Democrat, "subpoenas related to the 'unmasking' issue would have been sent by Chairman Nunes acting separately from the Committee's Russia investigation. This action would have been taken without the Minority's agreement. Any prior requests for information would have been undertaken without the Minority's knowledge."

A Republican committee source, however, told NBC News that Democrats were "informed and consulted about [the subpoenas] beforehand in accordance with committee rules."

When intelligence agencies are surveilling the electronic communications of foreign individuals and come across a U.S. citizen, either as a name mentioned during a monitored conversation or as a participant in the conversation, the identities of the U.S. citizens are protected. Their names are normally redacted in intelligence reports.

Related: What Is Unmasking, And Did Susan Rice Do Anything Wrong?

The identities can be "unmasked," or revealed, however, to a small group of government officials with the proper clearance if they request unmasking.

Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R.-Calif., recused himself from the Russia probe after it was revealed that he had a secret meeting at the White House with an official who provided him with information about unmasking. He is still signing the committes's subpoenas, however.

The other four subpoenas issued by the House Intel Committee Wednesday were for former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and his company, Flynn Intel Group LLC, and for President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates.

Related: What Does It Mean That Trump May Have Been Incidentally Surveilled?

Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R.-Calif., has recused himself from the Russia probe, but is still signing the subpoenas.

"As part of our ongoing investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 campaign, today we approved subpoenas for several individuals for testimony, personal documents and business records," said committee member Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D.-Calif. "We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation. We will continue to pursue this investigation wherever the facts may lead."

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