From before Day One Mike Flynn Made It Russia and Trump Versus Democrats

John Ratcliffe has released the transcripts of Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak. They’re utterly damning. I’m sure I’ll be writing about them for some time, but this is the key bit. Flynn raised sanctions himself — even interrupted Kislyak to do so.

And he pitched sanctions against the Russians not just for tampering in our election, but also for abusing our diplomats in Russia, as an attack on Trump.

KISL YAK: Is by security video. Secure video line.

FLYNN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I understand. Okay, um, okay. Listen, uh, a couple of things. Number one, what I would ask you guys to do – and make sure you, make sure that you convey this, okay? – do not, do not uh, allow this administration to box us in, right now, okay? Um –

KISLYAK: We have conveyed it. And –

FLYNN: Yeah.

KISL YAK: It’s, uh, ifs uh, very very specifically and transparently, openly.

FLYNN: So, you know, depending on, depending on what uh, actions they take over this current issue of the cyber stuff, you know, where they’re looking like they’re gonna, they’re gonna dismiss some number of Russians out of the country, I understand all that and I understand that~that, you know, the information that they have and all that, but what I would ask Russia to do is to not – is – is – if anything – because I know you have to have some sort of action – to, to only make it reciprocal. Make it reciprocal. Don’t – don’t make it- don’t go any further than you have to. Because I don’t want us to get into something that has to escalate, on a, you know, on a tit for tat. You follow me, Ambassador?

KISLYAK: I understand what you’re saying~ but you know, you might appreciate the sentiments that are raging now in Moscow.

Then, when Kislyak calls back to tell Flynn that they didn’t respond because of his ask, Kislyak emphasizes that, asserting that the sanctions were targeted at Trump as well as Russia (note, it’s possible Russia intercepted the calls between Trump Transition officials where they said just this, because they weren’t using secure lines precisely to avoid detection by the US government).

KIS LY AK: And I just wanted to tel I you that we found that these actions have targeted not only against Russia, but also against the president elect.

FLYNN: yeah, yeah

KISL YAK: and and with all our rights to responds we have decided not to act now because, its because people are dissatisfied with the lost of elections and, and its very deplorable. So, so I just wanted to let you know that our conversation was taken with weight. And also …

Thus, from the very start of this Administration, Flynn willingly set up the relationship with Russia such that Russia and Trump’s Administration were allied against Democrats — and anyone else who believed it was wrong for Russia to tamper in our election.

47 replies
  1. Desider says:

    It certainly seems damning enough, but will it be enough to stand up to Circuit Court review if they’re determined to cut Sullivan (and every other judge) down a peg?
    Once upon a time, a president who did this shit would suffer for it. Talk about Teflon.

  2. Wajim says:

    Curious, at this early stage of the release, if the term SK uses (“Deplorable”) is merely an arbitrary translation artifact or a specific choice. Anyone?

      • FL Resister says:

        Please correct me if I’m wrong but every time this administration gives us a peek at heretofore redacted information or of what’s in their vaults, it’s damning for the Trumpski administration.

        • Salt of the Earth says:

          When the transcripts of Congressional testimony were released earlier this month, it showed that Shaun Henry from CrowdStrike stated that he had evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC server but could not say whether or not the data was exfiltrated. He also said he was not told the FBI requested to examine the server. That is released information that does not damn the Trump administration. As a matter of fact, it sounds like everyone made assumptions about Russia’s interference in the election without clear and concrete evidence. (I am not talking about what they typically do – I am talking about the DNC emails.)
          I am reading as an informed citizen, not an attorney. I just don’t see why it is so bad for the incoming NSA to ask Russia not to escalate. In today’s world, we have transitions. The Obama administration was trying to ascertain why Russia did not escalate, as if they wanted this to escalate for some unarticulated reason. I did not see where Flynn mentioned sanctions. He talked about expulsion of diplomats and asked Russia to temper any retaliation of tit-for-tat expulsions. If commenters on this website think that is treason, you have a pretty broad definition.

          [FYI, the space for URL after Name and Email address is intended for your own personal website, not for promoting other sites. The link you shared has been removed. You’ve been asked before not add other links in URL space. /~Rayne]

          • Malaclypse says:

            I’ll reply only to your second paragraph…
            It is bad for the incoming NSA to ask any country to set their policy precisely because they are “incoming”. They do not have the authority of the gov’t to do so. He is not even officially the NSA yet, only a candidate. That could change at any moment (and did). Not saying there shouldn’t be some transition activities put into place, like setting up future meetings and such, but know your role and responsibilities and realize that the current administration sets policy until the next president is sworn in.
            And regarding your final line about the readers and treason, I can’t speak for everyone. But, I can’t recall any comment here saying that Flynn committed “treason”. Lying to the FBI, yeah, that’s everywhere on this site. But not treason.

          • P J Evans says:

            The “incoming administration” has no legal power before being sworn in. They’re still private citizens, as they are again after leaving office.

          • Rayne says:

            “I just don’t see why it is so bad for the incoming NSA to ask Russia not to escalate.”

            This is thoughtless. You can do better.

            This country has one president at a time. Only one person has been authorized by voters in this democracy to execute the laws of this land from their inauguration to the inauguration of the next president. The transition period between two presidents is for the next president to learn everything they need to know about the executive office and to prepare to bring in new members of the administration to do their jobs after inauguration.

            People should be asking why the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was so incredibly inept, bordering on stupid, that he couldn’t figure out how to communicate his perspectives so that the Russians would pick them up without actually being perceived as undermining the still-extant Obama administration.

            You have also clearly not seen commenters here spanked for using the word treason incorrectly and inappropriately. I’ll start by thanking you not to bring it up again unless it pertains to conduct of traditional, conventional warfare. The commenter who used the word in this thread was referring to remarks Judge Sullivan made about the nature of Flynn’s perfidy, not actual treason as defined by 18 USC 2381.

          • Tom says:

            Look at the situation from the Russians’ point of view. They know there is only one President and one administration at a time. They would have understood that Flynn’s overtures to Kislyak were a manifestation of his ignorance and incompetence regarding how these transitions from administration to another should be handled, that Flynn was just a rube.

            Kislyak & Co. would also have realized that Flynn’s willingness to undermine the Obama policy on sanctions against Russia for their sabotage of the 2016 election meant that he–and by implication the incoming Trump administration–were signalling their weakness on foreign policy re: Russia, their willingness to appease, compromise, and be corrupted at the expense of America’s best interests as well as those of U.S. allies. The message Flynn was sending to Kislyak was, “Please, sir, Mr. Ambassador, sir, we sure appreciate your help in getting our guy elected, so let me kiss your big, fat, country-wide Russian ass.”

            • madwand says:

              Yeah, and why would Putin want a secure video, day 1. He wants to be sure his “man” will tow the line. He gets to look him in the face and evaluate him just as a KGB trained agent would do. Is this guy going to comply, will he follow my agenda. Maybe remind him of sins past just to keep him on the straight and narrow. Flynn glosses over it initially but it is obviously important as we read to SK.

    • emptywheel says:

      I was wondering that myself. I also wonder whether he plays at being uncomfortable in English, even though he’s perfectly fluent.

      • Wajim says:

        Wheels, I can’t tell you how many times that shtick worked for me over the previous forty years. Cops, border guards, spelling bees, couple dudes in Nicaragua once. SK is as far from not fluent in English as I am from going to the excellent Mexican joint just down the street from me these days.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I’ve been in situations where the other side, in a foreign language, quoted back to our team its own words from private discussions, 24 hours after we said them. With a little snark thrown in. When I pointed out that might mean our security had a few holes in it and we should change it, my team thought i was being paranoid.

      Never underestimate the power of an ego to corrupt reality. SK reads like he never lets that happen. In fact, he sounds like an experienced agent handler, who was having no trouble at all reading and playing the great Mike Flynn. He would have had less trouble doing the same to his boss.

  3. John says:

    Interesting point on intercepted communications. If they had those calls, what else did they intercept and how did they leverage that knowledge against Trump & Flynn?

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, you know, the same way any national security expert in their right mind would handle it when people are blatantly undermining the current official administration.

      But, hey “John” thanks for blowing through here with complete bullshit. If you ever deign to come back, do NOT deign to do so with the designator of “John” which is so common as to be stupid. Identify yourself better and more individually or never come back.

      • Wajim says:

        Man, you lawyers. Apparently, you learned to read well in school. Wish I would have known about you in the old days.

      • Xboxershorts says:

        I want to look at John;s question from a different direction…

        Based upon this observation from Marcy:
        (note, it’s possible Russia intercepted the calls between Trump Transition officials where they said just this, because they weren’t using secure lines precisely to avoid detection by the US government).

        If Russia had those calls, what else did they intercept and how did they leverage that knowledge against Trump & Flynn?

        As noted earlier, Kislyak certainly seemed to have training and experience in handling a mark and the Helsinki experience we all saw, it scares the living shit out of me to think that the Trump administration is completely compromised.

        It certainly seems to me that everything Trump has done on the international stage has made America weaker, more vulnerable and less influential and we may never claw back the influence we once had. Nature abhors a vacuum and that rule applies doubly so when it comes to human nature…

        • madwand says:

          Yessir, and Putin has that same training and one can argue even greater experience. As far as making America weaker, that would be the whole point of the exercise. Back in the early 90’s after the Soviets imploded, many US and foreign multinationals sent teams to explore emerging investment opportunities in the “new” Russian Federation. Flight crews could tell stories about Russian restaurants where there was one entry, chicken, and it wasn’t really a chicken more like an emaciated cornish hen. At any rate over time these business interests even if they got a foothold were forced out by elements of the Russian mob and the rise of the oligarchs. It was in a real sense to make Russia, Russia and not to be controlled by foreign interests. Today that translates into Putin wanting Russia to assume what he considers Russia’s rightful place in the world and getting even with the US. It is certainly not hard to imagine for instance some agents provocateurs in these latest protests.

          For the moment Russian territorial ambitions are limited to the ongoing stalemate in the Donbass, but they could be more ambitious in the future, to include the Stans and the small Baltic states. The Russians are also very advanced, as we have found out, and excel in cyber warfare, attacking our elections, using social media, hacking emails, and it will happen again.

          By getting out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the TPP, weakening NATO, Trump only makes Russian strategies easier. No one really has talked about it here and a little off topic and lost in the news, but Pompeo has basically ceded Hong Kong back to the Chinese and Taiwan must be concerned. Moreover, it certainly appears the US is ceding leadership to the rising Chinese economic state.

          To sum up a bit, the US is destabilized internally, our institutions weakened, career bureaucrats marginalized and eliminated, our health care system under stress, our country divided politically our economic system under severe stress, unemployment etc. If we were looking at the same things say in Venezuela most of us would think that country is in chaos. Many of us would think it was a CIA plot.

    • Flerzo says:

      When you write “they” here, you are talking about the Russians, correct? Wondering if bzmaz’ troll radar is off on this, or if he has other reasons.

      • bmaz says:

        I do not know either you or “John”, and I do not have any “other reasons”, nor do I have any clue what you are inferring or why you and “John” are suddenly here.

        • Flerzo says:

          Long time reader, first time commenter. Just saying that I understood his “they” as the Russians, which is very different from what you understood.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The plain answer is: they didn’t, because they weren’t a fucking mob organization.

      They specifically bailed out Pence, McGahn, Priebus and Spicer as soon as it seemed like Flynn had not been honest with them and was a blackmail risk.

      I mean, maybe during December they asked themselves whether Flynn was acting as the president-elect’s personal emissary to Russia and keeping his actions hidden from the rest of the transition. (Or at least, everyone but a select few.) But they upheld the fundamental rule that there is one government at a time, when the incoming administration acted like it was fully in charge from the day after the election and anything the Obama administration did in December was illegitimate.

      But hey, you didn’t show up to hear that.

  4. Peterr says:

    but what I would ask Russia to do is to not – is – is – if anything – because I know you have to have some sort of action – to, to only make it reciprocal. Make it reciprocal. Don’t – don’t make it- don’t go any further than you have to. Because I don’t want us to get into something that has to escalate, on a, you know, on a tit for tat. You follow me, Ambassador?

    Shorter Flynn: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

    • ducktree says:

      Друг друга … “together” (droog drooga; droog meaning “friend”), like the hooligans in A Clockwork Orange. A fitting choice of colors after all!

      • FL Resister says:

        ‘Let’s keep it cool; you follow me Comrade?’
        Good grief. No wonder Judge Sullivan suggested that the disgraced General Flynn was lucky not to be charged with treason.
        And no wonder he’s pissed off with Bill Barr’s Justice Department abandonment of the case.
        Hell to pay.

      • Anne says:

        Друг друга literally means “friend of a friend.” In Italian, in the plural, “amici degli amici” = mafiosi.

  5. Peterr says:

    Thus, from the very start of this Administration, Flynn willingly set up the relationship with Russia such that Russia and Trump’s Administration were allied against Democrats

    I think you’ve got it backwards, Marcy.

    It looks to me as if Kislyak is the one setting it up as Russia & Trump v the Dems, and Flynn jumps to take the bait.

  6. gulageten says:

    I like the reference to “you know, the information that they have and all that” while admitting that it warranted a response

  7. Marinela Selseth says:

    John Ratcliffe has released the transcripts of Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

    What triggered this release? Is this a result of democrats in Congress requesting it, or part of the Courts system saga?
    Sorry is this was covered already in previous posts.

    Without knowing what / who caused it, timing of it is interesting,

    • civil says:

      If you click on the link to the transcripts, the cover page to Senate committee chairs says “In response to bipartisan requests regarding the LTG Michael Flynn (Retired) transcripts, please find the enclosed declassified documents.”

  8. Marinela Selseth says:

    Until now I could not understand why Flynn was directed to tell SK that the incoming administration wants a measured Russian response, not to escalate.

    Partially the answer now seems to be that Trump was convinced he could not deliver the “pro” after his inauguration if Russians were to retaliate.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    I too find it interesting that Ratcliffe released this to the House committee and now, knowing that it would be in play almost immediately. Equally puzzling is why Ratcliffe (who we know would be marching to DJT’s and AG Barr’s orders on this topic) thought this wouldn’t be a problem. Even allowing for a Friday news dump release, there is no question really bad stuff is here and that the WH (then incoming) was selling out America.

    Speculating here, I think this will definitely put the nail into the coffin of a 2-1 DCC decision because materiality is confirmed as to why Flynn was being prosecuted, even if Rao twists logic into a pretzel to write a dissent that will become required law school material in how not to write an opinion.

    When Faux News starts to report on this (some will, but not all) it will be interesting to compare them, Newsmax and OANN against MSNBC, CNN, et al. to see what does get discussed. Bonus points to see how GG, Cillizza, Taibbi, McArdle, and Susan Collins will tut-tut and be concerned (maybe) about this. Or, perhaps Trey and Lindsey will have some thoughts (stop laughing, everyone).

    OT, I see that there are reports that the first COVID-19 infection has been detected from a Lake of the Ozarks partygoer. They could be in for a rough time, take pity on them.

    • pablo says:

      I fear that this will sink into the primordial sludge because our country is burning. Good timing.

      • Hika says:

        Yep. Who wants to read details of something from years ago when there are cars burning in the streets? There’s your timing trigger. This stuff had to come out sometime. When are the fewest number of people going to take any notice? Those who will take notice are the sort of people who will not be surprised by what is in Flynn’s chats with Kislyak.

    • Flerzo says:

      I am expecting the same as before. Scream really loudly that the documents prove the opposite of what they say, over and over. Then trust that the media will bothside it, giving at least equal air time to the made up story. Fox News viewers will be convinced of the witch hunt narrative, and the unpolitical majority in the country will just see the partisan fights and assume that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

      The tactic is: by releasing them, they “prove” that they are good for them, because otherwise they would not have released them. Circular logic, but possibly successful with people who pay only partial interest. No matter how damning they actually are.

    • bothandneither says:

      Its because ratcliffe (and the other minions) are programmed to believe that everything they hear/read backs up what trump asserts or shows him in only a positive light.

      This sounds crazy, but its the only reason I could come up with because it absolutely makes no sense and they have retained and hidden so many documents from congress and the public that no one would have done anything if the request was totally ignored.

  10. N.E. Brigand says:

    How does the Dept. of Justice respond if Judge Sullivan asks them what changed that made it OK to release these transcripts now but not before?

    • Eureka says:

      Also, they are all such amateurish hacks. But I didn’t learn that today.

      Still, it’s shocking that this man ever made it to the doorsteps of DIA.

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        Even more shocking is that serial con artist Donald Trump and his minions stole the 2016 election and got away with it.

  11. Pragmatic Progressive says:

    December 31, 2016
    “Flynn: Believe me, I always, I always like a free lunch.”

    Well, United States Army Lieutenant General Flynn (Ret.) is apparently honest sometimes.

  12. vvv says:

    Reading the transcripts really sets the tone, as it were. I was struck by the realization that besides Russia and Turkey, there may be other countries where Flynn was doing similar …

    12-23-16 p.4
    “Flynn: Yeah, there … there, l can tell you that there’s, uh, you know, a litany of countries that
    are … that we’re talking … I’m .. Pm talking directly to. And … and that. .. “

  13. x174 says:

    mt–looking forward to more of your analysis on the transcripts. i’m curious to see how the release of this clearly non-exculpatory evidence will influence how Judge Sullivan maneuvers legally in this extraordinary case.

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