Why Are NINE Sources Coming Forward Now on Flynn’s Conversations with Russia?

WaPo had a huge scoop last night. Contrary to the Administration’s public claims, National Security Advisor Mike Flynn did discuss US sanctions on Russia when he spoke with Russia’s Ambassador to the US on December 29.

Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”

On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

[snip]

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said in an interview with CBS News last month, noting that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence also made a more sweeping assertion, saying there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said, “is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The most interesting detail in the story is that Sergei Kislyak refused to say how long he had been in contact with Flynn.

The ambassador would not discuss the origin of his relationship with Flynn.

The article describes Flynn claiming he first worked with Kislyak in conjunction with a trip to Russia he made in 2013 while in charge of DIA. But Kislyak’s silence raises questions for me about that. (Note, the Russian press was reporting even before this story that Kislyak would be replaced by Anatoly Antonov.)

But the bigger question for me is why WaPo’s astounding nine sources for this story, described as people who were in senior positions in what must be, at a minimum, FBI and CIA, are coming forward now? As WaPo notes, someone told David Ignatius (who is not bylined on yesterday’s story) about the call by January 12, but at that point didn’t share the damning contents of it. It also describes that Obama officials pulled the intercepts of Kislyak to attempt to explain why Putin didn’t respond more aggressively to the sanctions imposed on December 28. So presumably top people knew that Flynn had discussed the new sanctions within days after the conversation.

And yet we’re only hearing about it — and we are hearing about it — from a veritable flood of anonymous sources.

Perhaps the sources have decided that Flynn can’t be charged under the Logan Act (as the article notes, that’s never been done before, and doing so would criminalize conversations that are fairly normal), so now want to apply political pressure to get rid of him. Perhaps, too, the spooks have decided that Flynn’s recent actions — including an attempt to gin up war with Iran based off false claims that it launched a missile this week and struck a Saudi ship off Yemen — have become too dangerous and he must be targeted. Perhaps, even, this is retaliation for stuff related to the failed raid in Yemen.

Whatever it is, it is remarkable to see so many knives come out for Flynn in one story.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

22 replies
  1. Donald Bacon says:

    The US relationship with Russia currently is a huge issue. The US military losses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have highlighted the incapacity of “the world’s finest military” (and most expensive by far) in nation-building, which results in a pining for the good old Cold War days, when US Army could plan do its thing with tanks and self-propelled howitzers on the plains of Europe. (Also the pivot to Asia-Pacific shut out the army.) In fact army units are busy right now in several places adjacent to the Russian border, doing their “exercise” thing i.e. provoking Russia. One could make the argument (and I do) that the US doesn’t even need a standing army if Russia were to become a US ally. (The three major US allies in Europe each have a GDP larger than Russia.)

    So the establishment is vehemently anti-Russia right now, and the Washington Post suffers not for any lack of fodder from the Washington establishment, “sources coming forward,” who are also foes of Trump. There’s a lot of money involved, for one thing, and a Pentagon budget to be expanded even further.

  2. Peterr says:

    Given Flynn’s history at DIA and his less-than-happy retirement, I’m kind of surprised it took this long.

    It’s kind of like Flynn entered the WH like Nuke Laloosh took the mound and with everything on the line in the 9th inning, he waved off the pitch called by his wiser and cooler-headed catcher — and the catcher proceeded to leak to the batter that a curveball was coming. “When you speak of me, speak well.” And the pitch ends up in the bleachers.

    • Anon says:

      No.  The pitch hit the bull meaning that the guy actually gets a free steak.  Then the catcher comes up, Nuke says “I don’t get it he teed off on it like he knew it was coming.”  “He did.  I told him.  Don’t ever waive me off.”

      This is one way to send a message although whether Trump and co will see this as a warning or just an excuse for more lunacy is never clear.  What looks like a warning to some is validation to others.

  3. Cheryl Rofer says:

    That is one of the questions I asked this morning too. The New York Times also rushed out a story after the Post story appeared. They don’t give a number for the sources. If the sources are going to both, that’s significant. If the sources for the two are different, there are more than nine sources. And they’re not just clerks handling paper.

    • Shane Chicago says:

      Cheryl:  The NY Times article doesn’t seem to include any original reporting about the conversations or provide new info from the source(s) of this info.  The Times attribution of the information they published seems to be this line from the Times article: “Mr. Flynn could not immediately be reached for comment about the conversations, details of which were first reported by The Washington Post. ”

       

       

  4. Bob In Portland says:

    Let’s give this an historical perspective: 1968, 1980. In those cases the Republican Party negotiated foreign policy before they were elected, in order to influence the election.

    • Anon says:

      Yep.  Funny how people talk about how “noone has ever been prosecuted for this.” But never mention those during the interview.  Even on a `Liberal’ channel like NPR.

  5. greengiant says:

    CIA just denied Flynn’s aide’s security clearance,  even though he had been military intelligence with at least Top Secret.

  6. lefty665 says:

    And CIA gave the Saudi Crown Prince an award for his counter terrorism work while out of the other side of their mouth saying a Marine with TS clearance is unqualified for a TS-SCI clearance.  Guess that’s a message that CIA intends to keep supporting the Saudis and al-Qaeda in Syria. It will be interesting to see how DoD reacts. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Don’t suppose it could also be a continuation of the Brennan assault on Trump do you?  The IC housecleaning may need to go a little deeper, and Pompeo needs to get up to speed.

     

  7. GKJames says:

    The standard Washington knife-fight, then. Two nuggets of pure gold in the merde take the form of the usual laughable Washington-speak mendacity: First, Flynn’s lack of “recollection of discussing sanctions” followed by the qualifier that “he couldn’t be certain [though] that the topic never came up”. Second, Pence’s disclaimer of “anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia” (my emphasis), as if not using the word “sanctions” will make it all better. The swamp remains filled to the brim, it seems.

  8. martin says:

    800lb gorrilla:  Why in the world, would someone that knows the entire capability of the IC having been in charge of DIA, knowingly discuss an issue that at the least might get him fired, over communications that the other end is probably one of the most important surveillance target on the list…a Russian ambassador’s phone line.  Something isn’t right about this.  I mean, Flynn isn’t stupid. And he knows.  So WTF????? I’ve only got $20 to bet, but something on the scale of the Orville damn  is about to break….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmLOaFkL1rc

    Sanctiongate in 5.. 4.. 3.. 2..

    Speaking of infrastructure collapse… 200k people threatened because ..no money to fix…. but.. but.. WALL!!!  WALL!!  MOOSELAMB TERROR!!!

    sheezusfuckingHchrist.  btw,… so far.. regarding dam threat…  @realDonaldTrump   **crickets** but…but.. GOLF!! #Wunnerfultime in #LaLaLand with Jap equiv. At least he let Melania out of the tower for a few days.  Insert 2 rolling eye smiley here.

  9. lefty665 says:

    Don’t expect Flynn was out there on a frolic of his own. He was being a good soldier delivering a message for his boss. And besides, in a few weeks they were going to take office. They may have figured no problem in letting the Ruskies know better days were coming. What could be wrong with batting around a few policy ideas among friends?

    It will be interesting to figure out if Pence’s umbrage is real because Trump kept him in the dark, or if now that it’s blown up he’s just trying to keep from getting any on him. It’s also nice to see Christie weighing in to be helpful. Just what they need. I predict Flynn will be a good soldier to the end and fall on his sword. The USS Trump shakedown cruise is not going particularly smoothly. Break out the popcorn, it’s starting to get interesting. Now if the Dems could only buy a clue, but they’re showing no more signs of being ready for prime time than the Repubs.

    A decade ago the Sierra Club, Friends of the river and another group predicted exactly what has happened with the Oroville dam emergency spillway. They tried to get California and FEMA to pour concrete to keep the emergency spillway slope from eroding out from under it if it was ever used. Southern Cal didn’t want to pay their share of the cost and FEMA wrote a “That’ll never happen, no need to spend a lot of money” letter to get them off the hook.  It’s all out there, the finger pointing has commenced. Curiously, the Cal water resources guy in charge at the time couldn’t remember anything. He had a “I had people to do that sort of thing” response when asked. The folks who had complained have very clear memories, and the signed correspondence to back them up.

    Prediction: Gov Moonbeam is going to have to be a lot nicer to Trump if he wants Federal assistance in the foreseeable future. We will know that he’s seen the light if he suddenly “discovers” that California actually does have a problem with illegal voters.

  10. Mary Margaret McCurnin says:

    Gawd, I hope you aren’t right. The last thing this state needs is for Trumpkin to be in charge of it. Plus, doesn’t the Army Corp of Engineers build most of the dams? And doesn’t the Army Corp of Engineers fuck up a lot? Just ask the levees in New Orleans. FEMA doesn’t make those decisions. FEMA is all about the aftermath.

  11. greengiant says:

    Well it is a post mortem now. Flynn is gone. Trump does not do the math or have empathy. Trump’s people either don’t do the math or are trying to **** over the ones on the staff who can’t do the math. Is this the first US white house whose business operating model is a cult? Is that what the definition of a dictatorship is? Alleged that Miller has found 6000 voters in NH that used out of state ID, 3000 from Mass out of. 743,117 voters. Is that reasonable? Are we talking college students? When will Miller go over the cliff?

  12. lefty665 says:

    We haven’t heard from Mr. Tweetie Bird hisself. That increases the likelihood that Flynn was faithfully doing his bosses’ bidding. As little use as I had for Flynn he was at least part of Trump’s revolt against the new McCarthyism that has us on the road to war with Russia. Pence is a full on crusader. As much fun as schadenfreude is it may be shortsighted in this case.

  13. klynn says:

    Comey’s role in this whole story stands out a bit to me in terms of his response to Yate’s about discussing the issue with the WH.

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