The Trump Administration Disproves the Trump Administration’s Claims that Mike Flynn’s Communications with Sergey Kislyak Were Routine

In this post, I showed how former National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s memorialization of a conversation about Mike Flynn’s calls to Sergey Kislyak with President Obama and others on January 5, 2017 made it clear that Obama wanted nothing to do with any investigation into Flynn. I noted there was one redacted passage that seemed, “consistent with Obama adopting some caution, but deferring any more drastic measures unless, ‘anything changes in the next few weeks.'”

In a never-ending bid to distract from Trump’s disastrous performance on COVID, the Trump Administration has now released the full letter, which reads this way:

On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Corney and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.

President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book”. The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.

From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.

Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding “by the book” as it relates to law enforcement. From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied, “potentially.” He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that “the level of communication is unusual.”

The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.

The italicized passage is new. It reveals that Flynn was speaking to Kislyak “frequently,” a comment which is consistent with Sally Yates’ concern about the “back and forth” between Kislyak in which Flynn was making “specific asks.” Some of those specific asks Yates described in her Mueller interview remain redacted (as are the transcripts of Flynn’s calls with Kislyak themselves).

In DOJ’s motion to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution, they argue that Flynn’s calls were routine calls made to “build relationships.”

Such calls are not uncommon when incumbent public officials preparing for their oncoming duties seek to begin and build relationships with soon-to-be counterparts.

But the motion addresses only a subset of calls, not (for example) the face-to-face meeting with Kislyak on December 1, or calls Flynn made during the election (his 302 mentions one he made in January 2016, at a time he claimed not to be working with Trump, but there are reports there were more).

Most importantly, the filing doesn’t address a key reason why the FBI had reason to investigate Mike Flynn: the frequency of his calls to Kislyak were “unusual.”

In an effort to gaslight Trump supporters, then, the Trump Administration just showed that DOJ’s motion to dismiss falsely treated as normal communications that were not.

Which, given that the Trump Administration just produced evidence that proves DOJ’s motion to dismiss made a false claim, provides Sullivan all the more reason to demand all the transcripts between Flynn and Kislyak.

28 replies
  1. Boy C says:

    So they managed to blow up their own conspiracy and Flynn’s motion to dismiss all in one move. Well played!

  2. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy. Yes, release all transcripts of Flynn-Kyslyak. Might just clear things up.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    Powell’s writ of mandamus filing with the DC Circuit is intended most likely to prevent Judge Sullivan from getting the transcripts he had already asked for, since if it is successful it would become a moot point since Flynn would be cut free from his entanglement.

    When will we find out who got assigned from the DC Circuit and how will Judge Sullivan get his side in given that Barr’s DO”J” won’t stand up for the rule of law?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Legal latin is always good for muddying the water. The pleading means Powell is “doing something.” Here, she’s trying to keep Trump’s fleeting attention focused on Flynn, in the event that Barr’s machinations do not settle the matter before November, which is looking unlikely.

      I imagine she’s hoping she can appeal a denial of her petition by the DCC directly to the Supremes. I know Roberts’ majority wants to help out in the worst way, but I don’t think the chief justice would care to walk down Powell’s path into that murky wood.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m virtually certain there are more than the known calls. So USG was doing Flynn a favor by hiding just how much time he spent on the phone in the transition and during the campaign with Kislyak.

      • subtropolis says:

        Agreed. They were sitting on other communications for some reason, and wanted to keep that low key, as Flynn was ostensibly cooperating.

        If this does, somehow, stretch out beyond January, I reckon that Flynn is going to be right fucked. Unless Dumbass does pardon him on the way out. But, i remain somewhat hopeful that the mercurial moron, for whatever reason, chooses to leave him hanging.

        • John McManus says:

          If Trump loses in November, he will be looking for somebody to hurt. Match your ass Mike.

    • Tarkeel says:

      My best guess is that there were communications using channels that were not obviously tapped, and they are trying to hide ways and means.

  4. harpie says:

    Amb. Rice responds:
    6:42 PM · May 19, 2020

    Ambassador Rice again calls upon the DNI to release the unredacted transcripts of all Kislyak-Flynn calls.” [added: “The American people deserve the full transcripts so they can judge for themselves Michael Flynn’s conduct.”][link]

    …links to:
    6:40 PM · May 19, 2020

    Statement from Rice spokesperson Erin Pelton on the declassified Susan Rice email:
    “Ambassador Rice briefed Michael Flynn for over 12 hours, on four separate occasions and led the National Security Council in preparing and delivering to him over 100 separate briefing memos.” [screenshots]

    • ernesto1581 says:

      “Ambassador Rice again calls upon the DNI to release the unredacted transcripts…”

      I’m sure Grenell will get right on that.

  5. Zinsky says:

    Once again, great explanatory narrative and background by Marcy. The revealed paragraph demonstrates what a giant Nothingburger the GOP is trying to sell the American people.

    In the alternate universe that the modern conservative lives in, however, this paragraph is indicative of the most heinous, nefarious scandalous treachery in the history of humankind. Please try not to upchuck when professional moron Senator Ron Johnson tries to whip this into a frothy scandal:

  6. klynn says:

    I think Dan Rather is a fan and follows you. His News and Guts agrees with you on this!

    Thank you for all you do. I sure hope Sullivan reads here too!

  7. klynn says:

    Saw this last night. Somewhat OT but related:
    “A group of 15 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief Monday supporting the Justice Department’s motion to drop its case against former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn.“

    Led by none other than Ohio’s AG Yost.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The GOP is playing a numbers game, matching brief for brief (rather like a Duluth Trading Co., commercial), keeping its eyes on the November prize.

      It is hard to see what legitimate state interest would justify even one state AG spending taxpayer time in defense of a lone GOP operative who has twice admitted his crimes and is about to be sentenced for them. Needless to say, this is about fealty to el Presidente, not the crimes of Michael Flynn.

  8. GKJames says:

    Remarkable about Rice’s memo — including, in particular, the previously unredacted part — is its portrait of thoughtful, reasonable people at work on matters of serious governance. Their measured approach to the facts before them provides assurance that adults are in charge. It’s not a little disconcerting, then, to see how easy it has been for nearly half the country to conjure a narrative unhinged from that reality.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    About that nine feet of water inundating Midland, MI. Dow Chemical is headquartered and once had major factories there. It has made highly toxic chemicals for over a hundred years, seventy-five of them before the EPA came into existence. Its products included napalm and Agent Orange.

    Proper disposal of waste and unused inventory was once voluntary. The water and muck inundating Midland is likely to be exceptionally toxic and cause a nightmare of harm for generations.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Dow admitted to some “commingling” already. Just like the coal ash ponds in NC, etc. the last couple of times hurricanes came through.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not to mention the hundreds of weakly constructed concentrated manure pits for NC’s mega-pig industry.

        I see that Dow still has at least one large plant in Midland, on the river and now under water. Merrily down the stream and all that. The PR guy who came up with “commingling” – an attribute common in malpractice claims and financial crimes – as a descriptor for toxic pollution must be in line for a bonus.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Catastrophic flooding triggered by dam failures in Michigan could potentially release toxic pollution from a site contaminated by the industrial giant Dow Chemical.

      Dow’s facility in Midland, Michigan…manufactured chlorine-based products beginning in the early 1900s. The company discharged dioxins, chemical compounds which can cause reproductive harm and cancer, into the river.

      The pollution built up in sediment in and along the river and in its floodplains, extending 50 miles downstream through the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay [and on into the lower Great Lakes].

      The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) superfund program has been overseeing Dow’s cleanup of the site since 2012, and the last portion of the project was expected to be completed in 2021.

      They will now have to reassess the problem and the completion date. I’m pretty sure dioxins were only some of the contaminants Dow released from an old plant. It must be hoping it has to deal with Trump’s EPA and not Joe Biden’s.

      • Rayne says:

        I wish more people understood the entire situation and not these narrow little slices shown by the media. Dow executives and managers live in Midland; some probably had their houses flooded. The downtown they use for daily living including their farmers’ market, their library, other small businesses were flooded. This isn’t something being treated lightly as a business inconvenience because it’s literally in their homes and in the homes of family and friends.

        Yeah, dioxins are there along with furans. Anybody who used bleach and other chlorinated products like plastics in the last +100 years likely contributed to it by purchasing these products. How convenient that consumers are never expected to address the externalized risks of their purchases.

        I’m going to end up writing something about this because the rather insipid chatter about the damned dams and subsequent flooding is annoyingly simplistic and irritating as fuck.

  10. Mitch Neher says:

    Is it already known whether or not any of the intercepted calls between Flynn and Kislyak had taken place through “a backchannel”?

    [I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking with that question.]

    Maybe something like this: Are backchannel communications “routine calls made to ‘build relationships'”?

    • vvv says:

      FWIW, the common use of the phrase” back channel” in the context of this admin as it was incoming had to do with the attempt by Jared, et al., to set-up a physical communications channel through the Russian embassy.

      That’s a little different I think than the perhaps more typical way how you seem to be using it to describe “unofficial” communications.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Thanks. I thought that the term back channel referred to ways of getting around NSA signal interception of foreign diplomats such as Kislyak.

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