“The Boss is Aware:” Trump Learned about Mike Flynn’s Conversations with Sergey Kislyak in Real Time

As I noted, John Ratcliffe has released the transcripts of at least some of the Flynn-Kislyak calls (Ric Grenell said that he didn’t have all transcripts, and there are certainly other transcripts, at least setting up the meeting at which Jared Kushner asked for a back channel). As I also noted, from the very beginning, Kislyak set up the calls with Flynn such that Russian and Trump were unified against the Democrats (though the common enemy referenced in the calls was ISIS).

But that’s not the most damning part of the transcripts.

As I have repeatedly noted, the Mueller Report is very coy about whether Mueller obtained evidence that Flynn spoke directly with Trump about his calls with Kislyak, going so far as to withhold details of the timeline of events on December 29 (Mueller cites Flynn’s call records, but we know from the Stone trial that he also got Trump’s call records, at least for the campaign period). According to the narrative Mueller laid out, the first time that Flynn claimed to remember discussing the conversation with Trump was on January 3, 2017.

On January 3, 2017, Flynn saw the President-Elect in person and thought they discussed the Russian reaction to the sanctions, but Flynn did not have a specific recollection of telling the President-Elect about the substance of his calls with Kislyak. 102

Flynn even claimed that he and Trump didn’t speak about the substance of the calls until February 6.

The week of February 6, Flynn had a one-on-one conversation with the President in the Oval Office about the negative media coverage of his contacts with Kislyak. I93 Flynn recalled that the President was upset and asked him for information on the conversations. 194 Flynn listed the specific dates on which he remembered speaking with Kislyak, but the President corrected one of the dates he listed. I95 The President asked Flynn what he and Kislyak discussed and Flynn responded that he might have talked about sanctions.I96

Flynn’s claimed uncertainty about whether he had discussed the sanctions call with Trump was a key part of Mueller’s analysis of whether Trump fired Jim Comey because Flynn had derogatory information on him.

As part of our investigation, we examined whether the President had a personal stake in the outcome of an investigation into Flynn-for example, whether the President was aware of Flynn’s communications with Kislyak close in time to when they occurred, such that the President knew that Flynn had lied to senior White House officials and that those lies had been passed on to the public. Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge. In advance of Flynn’s initial call with Kislyak, the President attended a meeting where the sanctions were discussed and an advisor may have mentioned that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak. Flynn told McFarland about the substance of his calls with Kislyak and said they may have made a difference in Russia’s response, and Flynn recalled talking to Bannon in early January 2017 about how they had successfully “stopped the train on Russia’s response” to the sanctions. It would have been reasonable for Flynn to have wanted the President to know of his communications with Kislyak because Kislyak told Flynn his request had been received at the highest levels in Russia and that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to the request, and the President was pleased by the Russian response, calling it a ” [g]reat move.” And the President never said publicly or internally that Flynn had lied to him about the calls with Kislyak.

But McFarland did not recall providing the President-Elect with Flynn’s read-out of his calls with Kislyak, and Flynn does not have a specific recollection of telling the President-Elect directly about the calls. Bannon also said he did not recall hearing about the calls from Flynn. And in February 2017, the President asked Flynn what was discussed on the calls and whether he had lied to the Vice President, suggesting that he did not already know. Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017.

But the transcript of Flynn’s December 31, 2016 call makes it clear that Mueller had proof that Flynn had talked with Trump about the Kislyak call, because Flynn told Kislyak that the “boss is aware” of the secure video conference that Kislyak wanted to set up immediately after Trump was inaugurated.

FLYNN: and, you know, we are not going to agree on everything, you know that, but, but I think that we have a lot of things in common. A lot. And we have to figure out how, how to achieve those things, you know and, and be smart about it and, uh, uh, keep the temperature down globally, as well as not just, you know, here, here in the United States and also over in, in Russia.

KISLYAK: yeah.

FLYNN: But globally l want to keep the temperature down and we can do this ifwe are smart about it.

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

FLYNN: I haven’t gotten, I haven’t gotten a, uh, confirmation on the, on the, uh, secure VTC yet, but the, but the boss is aware and so please convey that. [my emphasis]

Flynn might claim that he only told Trump about the video conference and not sanctions (which wouldn’t be remotely credible, given that Flynn was the one who raised the sanctions, not Kislyak). He might claim that any conveyance of the details of the call went to Trump second-hand, perhaps through KT McFarland.

But whatever excuse Flynn would offer (remember, he has been asking for these transcripts since August, so it’s unclear how much of their content John Eisenberg, Reince Priebus, and Mike Pence shared with him in real time), his assurances to Kislyak, offered on December 31, that Trump knew of the request Kislyak had made on the December 29 call makes it quite clear that Flynn knew Trump had learned of the substance of the call via some means within 48 hours of that call.

And then told Mueller he had no idea whether he had shared that information.

79 replies
  1. J. H. Frank says:

    I don’t understand who gains from these being released. Is Flynn trying to put Trump on the hook to leverage a pardon?

    • John B. says:

      As you say it doesn’t actually help anyone especially those close to the pResident*, but my interpretation is this is a throw a bunch of stuff at the wall for muddying the waters and clouding the reality of what actually happened, assert a bunch of shit and then let it play out as a he said she said story.

      • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

        ^ This

        The content, meaning, or context doesn’t matter to the frothers. All that matters is it’s their team doing it (the release), and it gives endless letters for them to highlight, point at, and screech about.

        Or they knew it was coming out anyways and are attempting to control the narrative by releasing parts of it first. That’s a pretty common pattern with this admin.

      • bmaz says:

        I still have no idea in the world what makes educated people feel oh so much better talking about the President of the United States as “pResident”, “tRump” or whatever other bullshit people use. What does that garbage accomplish? It is the President, use his name, identify him as such and say what you will. This just makes people here, including you, look silly. Don’t do that.

        • BobCon says:

          “Shrub” worked when the late Molly Ivins did it, but none of us is Molly Ivins, and it’s better if we leave it with her.

        • John B. says:

          Bmaz, I could tell you why I use that phrase but it appears you will not be capable of understanding. You can choose for yourself how silly you want to look and I will choose for myself.

          • bmaz says:

            Well, here is something I hope you are “capable of understanding”.

            “Choose for yourself” by all means. But if you cannot respect even the most minor requests made by those here who provide you with a free platform, and do so for nothing themselves, then is your agenda informed and meaningful discussion, or not?

            • Philip Graham says:

              Congratulations, bmaz, you’ve accomplished dishing out your daily dose of bullyment rather early.
              I’ve visited here, quietly, for the often expert analysis, but will never do so again. I have finally reached my limit for your unnecessarily antagonistic and imperious behavior, as well as the sadly supportive comments of your many enablers. The emotional structure of this comments section reminds me too much of the psychological web spun at the White House.
              Shame on you.

          • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

            He was not duly elected. He was selected by a relic of slavery, the Electoral College. And even that he “won” with the help of Vlad. & Friends, so no he does not EVER get referred to as POTUS. Also, he’s entitled to the exact same level of respect which he gave Barack Obama: none.

  2. BobCon says:

    The bit that jumps out at me is Kislyak saying:

    “I wanted to check whether you have… answer to the idea of our two presidents speaking…. You remember our conversation and we would certainly appreciate any indication as to when it is going to be possible…. I would appreciate your calling back and telling me where we are.”

    Anyone who has ever had a boss knows that tone. The NSA is not an equal to Kislyak in this relationship, that is not a request, and Kislyak is not happy that this has been stalled.

    Chilling stuff.

    • harpie says:

      Yeah. That was on January 19, 2017…the day before the inauguration.
      That reminds me of something…wasn’t there some big fuss early on in the administration when they were creating lots of noise about Trump supposedly NOT having been informed in a timely manner about a call from Putin? That just seemed so strange at the time…but not sure I’m remembering it correctly…and not sure it’s worth spending time on, at this point.

      • BobCon says:

        That sounds familiar, I seem to recall it happening a few months in.

        Other people have commented online about this in general (I think including MW) and I agree — Flynn’s posture here is weirdly subservient. It is not Kissinger to South Vietnam in early 1969 or Cyrus Vance to Egypt in early 1977.

      • harpie says:

        So, I looked into that a little more. This story was first reported when Comey’s memos to file were provided to Congress by DOJ:

        Comey memo showed Trump wanted faster response to Putin call
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/comey-memo-showed-trump-wanted-faster-response-to-putin-call/2018/04/20/9210e2c8-44a6-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html April 20, 2018

        Mystery world leader Trump failed to call for six days revealed to be … Putin
        In Comey’s memos, Trump said Flynn’s failure to inform him of a call – confirmed to be Putin by the AP – meant he had ‘judgment issues’
        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/20/trump-putin-comey-memos-flynn-call-delay-anger Fri 20 Apr 2018

        It was the same 1/28/17 memo to file in which Comey recounts his “loyalty” oath request dinner with Trump.

        • harpie says:

          From Comey’s 1/28/17 memo to file:

          […] [Trump] then asked who I thought I should “deal with” and suggested Reince Priebus. I explained that in the prior administration my WH contacts were with the COS, or the people in Mike Flynn’s job and Tom Bossert’s job. He said “Reince doesn’t know we are having dinner,” but he will tell him and that I should deal with Reince. He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgement and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [PUTIN] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [PUTIN] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [PUTIN] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [redacted] of a country like [redacted]. (“This isn’t [redacted] we’re talking about.”). He said that if he called [PUTIN] and didn’t get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his finger to his head and said, “the guy has serious judgment issues.” I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn. […]

          As we stepped from the Green Room, he said “Reince knows we’re having dinner” (the opposite of what he said earlier) “deal with him; I will tell him.” […]

          • harpie says:

            This is quite a convenient story Trump [and only Trump] is inserting into the record at this particular time.

            • BobCon says:

              This all ringing a bell now.

              And of course, Trump wasn’t wrong that Flynn was in over his head, but you’re right that it’s weird Trump was saying this to Comey. As if he knew Flynn may have to go and wanted to establish a more neutral cover story.

    • Rugger9 says:

      If DJT falls then Flynn will likely go to jail and for a while. This is not to target the WH, even if it is really not clear who did benefit from this release and why AG Barr let this out when he’s stonewalled everything else important for as long as he could. It’s clear the WH wanted this out, but why release something that leads to so many more inconvenient questions to probe?

      IIRC, Judge Jackson has some potential transcript material to review, Judge Walton definitely does, and Judge Sullivan has some requested as well, but these transcripts were not part of any of those reviews.

  3. The Old Redneck says:

    It’s all to establish that Flynn is a hero and that the call was, in Bill Barr’s word, salutary. That stuff about Trump knowing will get lost in the shuffle.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If that’s their belief, they are sadly mistaken. But, yes, the frothy right will reject the argument because the text doesn’t use the exact words, “Flynn told Trump.”

    • Tom says:

      Flynn is a hero all right, a Hero of the Soviet Union if there still was such a thing, and Putin certainly wishes there was. I grew up during the Cold War and am old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s kind of sickening to read these transcripts and see Flynn in such a supplicant position with Kislyak after the Russians did their best to sabotage the 2016 election. There’s no sense of Flynn having America’s national interests in mind or the broader interests of the other Western democracies; it’s all about Trump and what’s good for “the boss”. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the President describes these transcripts as evidence of “perfect calls”.

      • MattyG says:

        Supplicant? DT and Putin worked together to get him elected. These transcripts are the soft wink wink diplomaticese in the opening serenades of “..now we have favors to ask of you…hem er um… as has been discussed.. er hum…secure closed video conference we set up…hu er hum…”

    • Sorry I cant remember says:

      DJT campaign DYING to send Flynn out on the campaign trail to revive his “LOCK HER UP” chants and let him play the martyred hero of MAGA Nation

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. This is your third username; you last used “Clever Name Evades Me” as a username. Please pick a name and find a way to stick with it or risk being blacklisted for sockpuppeting. /~Rayne]

  4. viget says:

    Also I am sure the frothy right will make note of the fact that Flynn never used the word “sanctions” when talking about a response. But Kisylak did….

    I’m guessing that’s going to be Flynn’s new defense, I was so worried about ISIS and coordinating our fight against terror, that I really wanted to focus on making sure the Russians didn’t do something stupid and mess up our cooperation before it even started.

    Not that I think it’s a reasonable defense at all. Also, it’s pretty clear we are missing several other Flynn-Kisylak convos that were intercepted, I’m thinking there’s more damning stuff there.

  5. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Flynn : Kislyak :: Eli Lake : Flynn

    I too wonder about the cui bono in releasing this now. Is it to bury it? Is it because “lol nothing matters” given that Billy Barr has turned the DOJ into a private enforcement operation and Neomi Rao will spew out some pretzel logic to disempower Judge Sullivan?

    It solidifies the idea that Flynn’s lies were, like Manafort’s, an attempt to put a firewall in place. The Russia outreach was need-to-know only during the transition, and Pence, McGahn, Priebus and Spicer weren’t considered need-to-know.

    Jason Leopold just got a McGahn transcript where he believed that Flynn had lied his way out of his job, but also said to the president that Flynn’s interview produced “no clear 1001 violation.” There’s a lot redacted about his conversations with Sally Yates, but I’m sure EW will get to that in time. So many documents.

    We already know the extent to which KT McFarland had to walk back her initial responses. I hope Leopold’s FOIA efforts eventually produce an interview transcript with Michael fuckin’ Ledeen.

    • SaltinWound says:

      I don’t have any reason to think Flynn lied to the Russians but I don’t know that he’s a truth teller either. For Flynn saying Trump was aware to be treated as a fact, is the assumption that anything Flynn said to the Russians was true? Or is there a reason to think that particular statement must be true if Flynn said it?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Flynn would not know when or how often Trump spoke to Putin or other Russians, or on what unsecure lines. So, Flynn lying to Kislyak ever, let alone this early in the game, would have been suicidal. Even had Trump been in on the game, he’s too unrestrained a blabber mouth to pull it off.

      With regard to Kislyak and Putin, neither Trump nor Flynn has the demeanor of an in-control player. Their common demeanor is that of a desperate supplicant.

      • SaltinWound says:

        Flynn did have suicidal conversations that were overheard, including this one. He’s engaged in self destructive behavior throughout the legal process. I guess you could argue he couldn’t have been suicidal in that particular way? In terms of probability it might be true that a compulsive self destructive liar would be less likely to I lie about Trump being aware, but I can’t quite treat the statement as fact.

  6. N.E. Brigand says:

    Ms. Wheeler has suggested once or twice in other columns that the existence (but not the content) of Michael Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak might have been leaked to David Ignatius by someone authorized to do so, maybe as a way of trying to shake loose other conspirators, if any. In light of that possibility, I’m struck by this tweet today from Matthew Zeitlin, regarding Flynn and Kislyak framing U.S.-Russian cooperation in terms of a mutual opposition to Islamic terrorism:

    “This has always been the dog that didn’t bark, clearly there were people in trump’s orbit who wanted to do some grand bargain with Russia on Syria and maybe Ukraine and it just…didn’t go anywhere.”

    source: https://twitter.com/MattZeitlin/status/1266524634893225984

    Zeitlin doesn’t address the question of whether Trump himself was in on the “grand bargain,” and one needn’t believe in anything so vast or organized as, say, the “Red Sea conspiracy” that Seth Abramson has postulated (even if he’s right, we probably won’t know it for decades), but the most basic arrangement seems to fit the known facts well enough: Russia helps Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Trump lifts U.S. sanctions if he wins, and they clothe the deal in the garb of a public agreement that brings peace (or “peace”) to Ukraine and/or the Middle East. As a bonus, Trump maybe gets his Moscow hotel–which, as Ms. Wheeler has observed, requires those sanctions to be lifted. And the “people in Trump’s orbit” grift their own side deals for a piece of the action (somehow nuclear power for Saudi Arabia seems to be wrapped up in all this).

    But the Obama administration, having determined that Russia interfered in our election, mucks things up by announcing that fact publicly and taking retaliatory steps against Russia in December 2016.

    And as Jonathan Chait observes in reply to Zeitlin, one reason the dog didn’t bark is that Congress muzzled it by eventually making it impossible for Trump to remove Russian sanctions. But why did Congress do that?

    Suppose you’re the Obama administration, and with just three weeks remaining before Trump’s inauguration, you learn that the incoming national security adviser has been working to undermine U.S. actions against Russia, and you know that he’s communicated with the president-elect about his calls with the Russian ambassador but not to what degree “the boss” is directing this undermining. As Ms. Wheeler has noted, it may be that Flynn has gone rogue. Or in the worst case scenario, it may be that Russia has successfully installed their man as the next U.S. president. It may take years to prove or disprove this via a criminal investigation — if there’s even a clear crime to be investigated. (That’s a point of contention, as we know from Trump’s impeachment trial, where it emerged that some voices on the conservative side believe that the president has the constitutional authority even to hand over whole U.S. states to Russia if he so chooses.) What’s your counterintelligence response, knowing that in just a few weeks or months the new U.S. president may announce, for reasons that he does not have to explain, but which may be part of a corrupt bargain, that the U.S. and Russia are negotiating a new world order?

    Well, maybe you do what you can, if possible without breaking any laws yourself, to raise the interest of one of the other and supposedly equal branches of our government, which becomes alarmed by growing evidence of Trump’s ties to Russia, like these calls in which Trump’s incoming national security adviser is negotiating foreign policy, and perhaps also the (problematic but not entirely off-base) Steele dossier–and presumably other early flags that others will remember–and has the power, if they choose, to prevent Trump from rewarding Russia. Which they do.

    It’s an imperfect solution, but as far as it goes, it mostly works for more than three years now (“mostly” because of the apparent shenanigans surrounding Oleg Deripaska, Rusal, and Kentucky and because the Treasury Dept. generally seemed to slow walk the sanctions). One risk, particularly before January 2019 when Democrats took control of one house, was that if Congress feels they were used, they might change their minds and let Trump do as he pleases. So serious efforts were made to obfuscate these measures, perhaps at the cost of a more aggressive criminal investigation or of the public getting clear answers about just what happened.

    Or am I speculating too far?

    • Rugger9 says:

      No, I don’t think speculation is out of line here until we get more facts (and transcripts) in. Just remember DNI Ratcliffe released these instead of more stonewalling, presumably with the permission of AG Barr who is otherwise smart enough to create an atmosphere of non-compliance with any sort of oversight by people he doesn’t like. Yet, here we are with some pretty nasty things in the record we know.

      The whole adventure with getting Flynn out of hack (to use an old Navy term) appears to be designed to not have DJT’s direct involvement for the deed. Given who else he has pardoned and why, combined with the total lack of shame in doing what he feels like doing, as well as the recent gambit of how swell Flynn is, why would there be a need to have some separation between DJT and Flynn here? Everyone was crystal clear that DJT wanted Flynn out of trouble and possibly back into the WH in some role, so why would this legal footsie be needed to do what DJT wanted?

      The idea that Flynn would sing once the 5th Amendment protection was lifted seems doubtful to me since he wasn’t all that useful for Mueller when the book could be thrown at him and he won’t be any more cooperative if there is no stick with the carrot.

      All of this tells me there is something else that Flynn and the Russians share (or maybe the Turks) that absolutely must be kept hidden at all costs, and it probably involves money knowing of whom we speak. Or, maybe it hits Ivanka (Jared might be the power behind DJT, but I think only Ivanka would be protected to this intensity).

      My 2 cents of speculation, since this WH does nothing without some purpose to it, no matter how ridiculous.

      • viget says:

        Pretty sure you’re all on the right track. It’s not just Russia, btw, as Marcy has alluded to.

        It’s a transnational organized criminal conspiracy, and Flynn was likely one of the lynchpins. Jared and Trump were the marks.

        Flynn’s not going to talk anyway. I’m sure he gave Mueller some breadcrumbs, but when it came to Turkey, he kept his mouth shut.

        The big question we should all ask is how did Flynn get compromised? How did any of them? And how long has this game been going on?

        BTW, it’s not just Abramson with the Red Sea conspiracy. Go read Eric Garland’s TL or Zev Shalev or Lincoln’s Bible. It’s some down right scary stuff.

        • Philip S. Webster says:

          “FLynn was the lynchpin..” Don’t think so: look how easily he got rolled by that Rolling Stone reporter with his then Boss who was trying to be rock star.

          Homey doan tink so.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your speculation ignores Trump’s defining characteristic: It’s always about him. Russian or ME strategies might have been on someone’s mind, but Trump would have obsessed about winning – rather, about not losing. The flip side of that would have been to keep hushed up the dirt the Russians would have collected on Trump over three decades.

  7. Allen says:

    My biggest questions about the secret Trump transition meetings with the Russians have as much to do with the Middle East as with Russia – specifically, Israel. And I’m particularly interested in both Jared Kushner and Mike Pence, especially because they were in charge of the transition and the importance of Israel to both of them.
    Kushner, obviously, is the architect of the “Deal of the Century” that is a gift to the Israeli Right under Trump-Kushner family friend and de facto Republican Party politician Benjamin Netanyahu – and consequently, a giant middle finger to the Palestinians.

    Pence, for his part, is a fanatically pro-Israel, fundamentalist far-right Christian and the embodiment of the Religious Right – and first-in-line to the US Presidency.

    Jared and Ivanka were reportedly key in persuading Trump to pick Pence as his running mate, in part because Trump was also considering Chris Christie – the man who put Jared’s father behind bars. Nevertheless, Christie was put in charge of the transition team – but after Trump was President-elect, Christie was fired. Who replaced him? Kushner and Pence. Go figure.

    We know that Flynn’s conversations with the Russians involved not just not sanctions relief for Russia and for Russia to not respond to Obama’s retaliatory measures for Russian interference in the election, but also for Russia to help sabotage the UN Security Council measure condemning Israeli settlements – which the outgoing Obama administration ended up abstaining from (as expected), in a break from US policy of always vetoing it.

    We also know that during the campaign, the transition, and afterward the Saudis and Emiratis had been joining the Israelis and the Trump people in pushing for a “Grand Bargain” with Russia that involved better relations with Russia in exchange for less Russian support for Iran.

    The Middle East is important in all of this, and both Kushner and Pence have had central roles, though I think Pence’s role is underappreciated.

    • viget says:

      Bingo. Not sure about Pence’s role (tend to think he was the Mercers’ insurance policy in case Trump “forgot” about them) but the ME and Netenyahu role writ large should be the next domino to fall….

  8. Mitch Neher says:

    Ms. Wheeler wrote, “. . . Mueller had proof that Flynn had talked with Trump about the Kislyak call, because Flynn told Kislyak that the “boss is aware” of the secure video conference that Kislyak wanted to set up immediately after Trump was inaugurated.”

    Ms. Wheeler also wrote “. . . that Trump knew of the request Kislyak had made on the December 29 call makes it quite clear that Flynn knew Trump had learned of the substance of the call via some means within 48 hours of that call.”

    Hyper-technically speaking . . . the people at the National Security Agency who intercepted Kislyak’s calls with Flynn knew that ‘the boss’ to whom Flynn referred [“?”] had learned of Kislyak’s proposal for a secure video conference between Trump and Putin just as soon as Trump was inaugurated.

    I freely admit that it would be extremely counter-intuitive if ‘the boss’ to whom Flynn referred in his conversation with Kislyak should someday turn out to have been anyone other than Trump.

    Also, I have no idea whether or not someone from the US IC would have briefed [or leaked to] the President-Elect [or to his senior adviser to be] classified information about signal intercepts of the Russian Ambassador conversing with that President-Elect’s designated National Security Adviser to be about setting up a secure video conference between Trump and Putin just so soon as “The Boss [“?”]” had been sworn in.

    All I know anymore is that the FBI had at least one more damned good reason to investigate Flynn; namely, Flynn’s failure to reject out of hand the Russian Ambassador’s proposal for a secret video conference between Trump and Putin.

    And I also suspect that Flynn may have had a duty to report Kislyak’s secure-video-conference proposition to someone in the US IC other than “the boss to whom Flynn referred?”

  9. Eureka says:

    Sounds like Flynn’s lobbying Kislyak for Turkey to me!

    Anyway, I’d like to highlight another of Mueller’s errors from text you quoted above:

    […] And in February 2017, the President asked Flynn what was discussed on the calls and whether he had lied to the Vice President, suggesting that he did not already know. […]

    Here, it seems the Mueller shop has not taken into account the perseverative, repetitive nature of an (allegedly) ADD-addled and otherwise behaviorally burdened man, and has instead assumed some default Rationality. That despite plenty of other MR content as to Trump’s anger and other peccadilloes driving the train.

    That’s kind of like substituting da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man for Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian devil.

    And there are lots of reasons why people ask questions that have nothing to do with not knowing or perhaps having heard the answer beforehand.

    • Eureka says:

      As to MR authorship, I should append the standard disclaimers as to possible ‘suggestions’ and ‘editing assistance’ as the plane was being landed.

  10. Desider says:

    IANAL nor IC, so remain confused why with FBI/DoJ knowing what Flynn & Trump were doing that early, and having real-time call intercepts, why these investigations went so slow. 3 1/2 years for what McCabe and Yates et al saw back then to come out? Whatever happened to Rudy’s FBI leaks? What was Comey’s role/approach aside from memorializing Trump encounters? It feels like the IC/FBI tying 1 hand behind their backs, but I’m probably missing something in terms of legal/logistic difficulty (and obviously more complex after Jan 20). Why’d Mueller let Barr paint him a liar?

  11. Slacker George says:

    For the Mueller investigation to state this as fact, who was used as witness to this event, because it sounds either true or coordinated lies: “And in February 2017, the President asked Flynn what was discussed on the calls and whether he had lied to the Vice President, suggesting that he did not already know.”

  12. VinnieGambone says:


    Thank you for using the words “the Russians did their best to sabotage the 2016 election. ” Sabotage is exactly what is was. It wasn’t fucking meddling. It was and is an attempt to destroy us, to defeat us, to weaken us. And for all we know it went totally unanswered. The Russian slang word for an American now is pussy.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, Vinnie, meddling is what neighbourhood gossips do. What the Russians did and are now doing is sabotage, subversion, and attempting to deprive the American people of the right to choose their own President. The idea of Flynn thinking he could somehow play footsies and do business with the Russians at the expense of the Obama administration–the President of his own country!–is ludicrous and infuriating. If Kislyak had invited Flynn to stop by for a cup of tea sometime, I wonder if he would have known enough to decline.

  13. Ruthie says:

    Am I missing something? The cover letter accompanying the release references a reqest from the Senate, but the WH hasn’t exactly been shy about stomping on norms up to now. Congress may have made it impossible for the Trump administration to get rid of the sanctions, but that was very early in the Trump presidency. At the time, a not insignificant number of Republicans had yet to fully get on board the Trump train. Now, Senate Republicans are largely in lockstep with the President. So why did the WH need to comply? I can’t imagine they released the transcripts thinking they were ok.

    If there are more transcripts, it begs the question why these specific ones and not others were released. Does that mean the remaining transcripts contain even more damning information? The intention, if they must release something, would have been to mislead the public as to just how damning the calls were – similar to Barr’s mischaracterization of the Mueller Report.

    As to why now, during a pandemic on a Friday night which saw multiple US cities engulfed by protests and riots seems an especially good time for a news dump. In fact, I read the news this morning on TPM. The WP front page has nary a mention, unless it’s buried so far down I missed it – it’s all George Floyd and coronavirus.

    On a related note, I listened to podcasts with Preet Bharara and Ken White, both of whom think it would be wrong, and bad precedent, for Sullivan to ignore the government’s request to abandon the Flynn case. I’d love to hear any of the lawyers weigh in.

    • Tom says:

      I’ve been wondering, too, whether the plan is to release these transcripts now, absorb the flak and wait for any outrage to subside in the maelstrom of other events around the country, and then release the remaining transcripts later in hopes that they’ll be viewed as just more of the same and not worthy of the same degree of scrutiny.

      • vvv says:

        “wait for any outrage to subside in the maelstrom of other events around the country” – to me, that means not, “allowing a good crisis [more than one, of course] to go to waste”.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Judge Sullivan is not “ignoring” the request, he actually scheduled a hearing (IIRC the 16th of June) with help from Judge Gleeson on amicus filings and arguments. So, it seems you are “ignoring” the fact that Flynn pleaded guilty and then re-allocuted it twice in front of Judge Sullivan, which is a perfectly good reason to ask why the Government switched sides using arguments that are flimsy at best. It seems that the only way Judge Sullivan could avoid being accused of “ignoring” Shea’s motion in your book is to approve it, no questions asked. That’s not justice.

      However, guilt and materiality had already been proven. Perhaps you can explain why Bharara and White think Judge Sullivan is “ignoring” the Shea motion, with links please.

      • Ruthie says:

        Poor word choice on my part, apparently. IANAL, and I’m generally in favor of Sullivan asserting himself here. I certainly have no problem with Flynn facing a prison sentence for his crimes. I was just surprised to hear 2 prominent lawyers arguing that Sullivan should allow the government to withdraw the charges. Ken White is someone I only know of vaguely, but I’ve seen Preet many times on CNN – he’s not a conservative.

  14. IValueMyPrivacy says:

    -The transcript records that Flynn said Trump was aware of substance of call
    -This is evidence but not proof that Trump was aware
    -Flynn is a known liar
    -Flynn could have lied to Kisylak

    None of this evidence that Mueller didn’t have.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, hi there. You claim to “Value Your Privacy” and, yet, flit about here in this forum dishonestly. Are you “Juniper-Jones” or are you “IValueMyPrivacy”? You do not get to disingenuously sock puppet this forum. I also see your bogus supposed email ID on your most recent of multiple personas. That is not going to work here.

      Trying to police this kind of unmitigated horse manure right now is really hard. Frankly, it is tiring. So, if you, and any others, want to keep up with this too cute by a half garbage in these times, you will be fast gone. Everybody values their privacy, sock puppeteer. We value informed comment.

  15. Voxxy says:

    Quick question, maybe I just got lost in the repetitiveness of the released documents, but did it seem like the retracted names, comments etc were somewhat pointless. I feel a few times, they block a name of someone involved but further along they drop in a name yet unmentioned and that it sometimes seems to fit in flow, character space and even in the underlying events that were going on as the previous retracted name . Possibly just me filling in blanks but curious if I’m just that tired or if anyone thought something similar too?

  16. soothsayer says:

    Hi all, hope you all are well today. Interested in finally being able to search on who bought properties in Trump Vancouver?

    Well, I did not know where here on the blog to share this, but as I think many of you may be interested in this information, I wanted to share the link search function of the British Columbia Land Owner Transparency Registry (LOTR), which is part of the Province of BC’s comprehensive plan to end hidden ownership of real estate in B.C.

    The search function is now up, on their Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) website, seeing they have a basic version myLTSA Explorer, but it would seem the myLTSA Enterprise is better since it allows to search by name and also historical records. Here is the link to it:


    Comparison between Explorer and Enterprise: https://ltsa.ca/sites/default/files/myLTSA_Services.pdf

    But the Enterprise requires a fee, so I can’t sign up and hope maybe one of you will be interested. Anyways, hope this is a good piece of news for today. If you sign up let us know if you find anything intriguing, and enjoy!

  17. Rugger9 says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why Flynn (really, AG Barr) is playing these legal games instead of going the pardon route. What message is AG Barr trying to send here by doing this deed in this way through the DCC? Given how we have already seen how Barr has successfully ground other investigations to a halt using stonewalling and misrepresentations, why go through this particular and highly unusual (says bmaz and the other lawyers) process with no guarantee of success for Flynn?

    Is it about showing everyone who’s boss and there will be no hope for justice (in which case why would it have to be Flynn’s case as the one to be handled this way)?

    • Re entry says:

      Is it not about discrediting the ‘deep state’?
      If they spin hard and implicate the investigators, will it not convince fox viewers and voting moderates that trump was right; there is a swamp if you dig deep enough?

      Flynn’s exoneration by Barr would be a lock for some.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        People who would be convinced of that already are. Trump personifies the Beltway swamp he rages against, a misdirection that perfectly matches his personality. That he does so his followers disbelieve or disregard. As authoritarian followers, they expect their leader to have “faults.” It makes them “human,” or nearly so, in Trump’s case. But they would follow him to Georgetown and beyond.

    • harpie says:

      One more thing from BARR, yesterday:

      4:26 PM · May 30, 2020

      JUST IN: FBI’s top lawyer, Dana Boente, has been asked to resign, and 2 sources familiar with the decision to dismiss him say it came from high levels of the Justice Dept. rather than directly from FBI Director Wray. [link]

      Boente is the guy who took over after SALLY YATES was fired…allegedly for the refusing to support TravelBan 1.0 [which he then supported]…on the Monday in January 2017 after the Friday when she WARNED McGahn about FLYNN.

      If I recall correctly, that TravelBan 1.0 was judged NOT yet quite ready for prime time…the question I have is WHY it HAD to be pushed out just then.

  18. GKJames says:

    Assume Flynn hadn’t lied: Yes, I spoke to Kislyak about (i) the prospect of improved relations with the new Administration; (ii) Moscow’s not overreacting to the current Administration’s sanctions. Would Holder, let alone Sessions, have initiated a Logan Act prosecution? Unlikely. Assume further that the president-elect had stated openly, Flynn talked to Kislyak at my instruction, what would have been the consequences — legal and/or political — for him? Probably none. Yet Flynn (and McFarland) lied. And their boss, after he’d failed to get McFarland to paper up an alibi, dodged Mueller with the standard “I don’t recall”. Why? Could the explanation be as banal as an obsessive concern with “negative media coverage”?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nice observations. On your last question, I think not. If these had been normal transition discussions, Trump would not have needed communications channels opaque (he hoped) to the American government. The topics would have been routine. No one would have needed to lie about their content or timing.

      It is normal, for example, for a new administration from a different party to change its predecessor’s policies. Regarding sanctions, the change would have happened in a few weeks. Russia would have anticipated that and moderated its response without being asked. And yet, for Trump and Flynn, abjectly attending to Russian concerns was their first priority. It’s impossible to convey how extraordinary that is for an incoming Republican president.

      Something else is Kislyak lauding Flynn, telling him Russia is holding its response because of his direct personal efforts. That looks like routine agent handling (witting or not) as much as it does schmoozing with America’s new chief intel guy.

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        Let’s not forget that immediately upon taking office Trump tried to remove the 2016 sanctions on Russia over Crimea, thwarted at last by warnings to Congress from various individuals in the State Department.

        Is sanction relief the key that unlocks a cascade of interlocking schemes?

      • GKJames says:

        What if we shifted perspective a few degrees: Motivating two impulse-driven individuals wasn’t Russia, but their respective obsessions with Obama. For the president-elect, hyper-allergic to questions about his legitimacy, the Kenyan in the White House was undercutting his great win. For Flynn there was the resentment at Obama’s having approved his firing. And while the incoming president may well have been clueless about what was proper and what wasn’t, the transcript shows Flynn, aware as he was of US surveillance and, likely, the Logan Act, hedging his language, albeit poorly. If Flynn and his boss had simply been disciplined enough to wait until the inauguration, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But they couldn’t help themselves, not because they had to deliver to Putin the return on his investment, but because they couldn’t let Obama spoil things.
        As for Putin, he got all he needed on election night: his country’s foremost geopolitical adversary — with a bit of help from his minions — had chosen as its leader someone both incompetent and compromised, with chaos guaranteed at home and abroad, and American effectiveness negated. He had no motive to jeopardize that. And while sanctions may be annoying, they’re petty cash in the grander scheme, which is to have a guy in the White House whom you’ve been paying for years to launder money and to keep tabs on Russian emigres in the US.

    • The Old Redneck says:

      You have to remember too that a lot of people, including some Republicans, still considered Russia the enemy back then. Trump was denying Kremlin ties, basically saying he had nothing to do with Russia. They probably realized it would be a bad look if Flynn was working to undermine the Obama administration’s sanctions before Trump even took office.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A “bad look” and against the law. From a governance perspective, the law breaking was needless, given how short a time it was before Trump was to take office. Something else drove it, because Trump was desperate to please Putin. Perhaps he knew what Vlad does to those who don’t pay the vig on time.

  19. bacchys says:

    One of the abiding mysteries of all this is why the Mueller team went so easy on Flynn. They continued to do so even as it became apparent he wasn’t living up to his end of the plea deal and wasn’t wholly forthcoming.

    The Ratcliffe releases show the evidence that Flynn lied- that he intentionally told the interviewers things he knew to be untrue- was indisputable by any reasonable person. That won’t keep Trump and his fan base from pretending otherwise. Flynn contacted the Transition Team before contacting Kislyak, Flynn brought up sanctions and the Russian response, and he conveyed his intentions to the Transition Team. The transcripts show the conversations weren’t the “routine” introductory conversations Barr and others have attempted to claim they were. It wasn’t just one conversation, either.

    Sullivan was troubled by the evidence in the Flynn case- including evidence showing crimes for which Flynn wasn’t pleading guilty as part of the agreement, and by the government’s recommended sentence. He continued sentencing in Dec. of 2018 because he didn’t think Flynn had done enough to justify the no prison time recommendation by the government (Mueller’s prosecutors). I’d love to hear the rationale from Mueller and his people as to why they thought Flynn shouldn’t go to prison.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nicely put. If I remember correctly, Flynn agreed to the delay in his sentencing – on the advice of Covington – because of the risk that Sullivan would have sentenced him to real prison time, for the reasons you suggest.

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