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It’s Not the Four Year Old Counterintelligence Investigation intro Trump We Need to Be Most Worried About — It’s the Ones Bill Barr May Have Killed

The other day, Mike Schmidt advertised a book by claiming that FBI never did any kind of counterintelligence investigation of Trump in parallel with the Mueller investigation. On Twitter, Andrew Weissmann debunked a key part (though not all) of that claim.

The aftermath has led to ongoing debates about what really happened. My guess is that Schmidt’s sources did not have visibility on the full scope of the Mueller investigation, and he didn’t read the Mueller Report, which would have helped him realize that. And while credible reports say Mueller didn’t investigate Trump’s historical financial ties to Russia (while I’ve read neither book yet, the excerpts of Jeff Toobin’s book adhere more closely to the public record than Schmidt’s), the public record also suggests Mueller obtained Trump-related records that most people don’t realize he obtained.

I reiterate that it is far more troubling that a co-equal branch of government — the one with impeachment power — chose not to pursue the same questions about Trump’s financial vulnerabilities to Russia. If you want to express outrage that no one has investigated whether Trump is beholden to Russia, focus some of it on Richard Burr, who suggested Trump’s financial vulnerability to Russia was irrelevant to a report specifically focused on counterintelligence threats.

Still, there’s something still more urgent, one that is getting lost in the debate about what happened three or four years ago.

There were, as of at least April, at least one and probably several investigations implicating counterintelligence tied to Trump, through his top associates. But they tie to the same cases that Billy Barr has undermined in systematic and unprecedented fashion in recent months. It is a far more pressing question whether Barr has undermined counterintelligence investigations implicating Trump’s ties to Russia by ensuring those who lied to protect him during the Mueller investigation face no consequences than what Rod Rosenstein did forty months ago.

Consider Mike Flynn. The most newsworthy thing Robert Mueller said — under oath — over the course of two congressional hearings is that “many elements of the FBI” were looking into the counterintelligence risks created by Mike Flynn’s lies about his communications with Russia.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

As part of Mueller’s analysis about whether Trump fired Jim Comey to stop the investigation into Flynn, he weighed whether the Flynn investigation implicated Trump personally. But he found — largely because Flynn and KT McFarland, after first telling similar lies to investigators, later professed no memory that Trump was in the loop regarding Flynn’s efforts to undercut sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, and Steve Bannon repeated a White House script saying he wasn’t — that the evidence was inconclusive.

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.

[snip]

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.

We’ve since seen transcripts that show Mike Flynn telling Sergey Kislyak in real time that Trump was aware of the communications between the two (and John Ratcliffe is withholding at least one transcript of a call between the men).

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]

Certainly, Russia would have reason to believe that Flynn’s efforts to undermine sanctions were directed by Trump.

In January, a sentencing memo that was delayed so it could be approved by the entire chain of command at DOJ, explained why all this was significant.

Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

[snip]

It was material to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to know the full extent of the defendant’s communications with the Russian Ambassador, and why he lied to the FBI about those communications.

Flynn’s forgetfulness about whether Trump ordered him to undermine sanctions went to the core question of whether Trump worked with Russia in their efforts to throw him the election.

And that sentencing memo was the moment when Billy Barr threw two different lawyers — one a lifetime associate of his — into the project of creating a false excuse to undermine the prosecution of Flynn. More recently, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the DC Circuit that Barr had secret reasons for overturning the prosecution.

The Attorney General of course sees this in a context of non-public information from other investigations.

[snip]

I just want to make clear that it may be possible that the Attorney General had before him information that he was not able to share with the court and so what we put in front of the court were the reasons that we could, but it may not be the whole picture available to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

It’s just we gave three reasons; one of them was that the interests of justice were not longer served, in the Attorney General’s judgment, by the prosecution. The Attorney General made that decision, or that judgment, on the basis of lots of information, some of it is public and fleshed out in the motion, some of it is not.

This secret reason is why, Wall suggested, it would cause irreparable harm for DOJ to have to show up before Judge Emmet Sullivan and explain why DOJ blew up the prosecution.

Then there’s Roger Stone. Stone very loudly claimed (improbably) that he could have avoided prison had he not lied to protect Donald Trump. And Trump rewarded him for it, commuting his sentence to ensure he didn’t spend a day in prison.

But at least as of April, an investigation into whether Stone was part of a conspiracy with Russia and/or was a Russian agent — implicating 18 USC 951, not just FARA — was ongoing. Among the things Stone was involved in that Trump refused to answer Mueller questions about was a pardon for Julian Assange, one Stone started pursuing at least as early as November 15. While no sentencing memo has explained this (as it did with Mike Flynn), whether Trump and Stone used promises of a pardon to get Assange to optimize the WikiLeaks releases goes to the core question of whether there was a quid pro quo as part of 2016.

Finally, there’s Paul Manafort, whose close associates, the SSCI Report makes clear, were part of GRU and appear to have had a role in the hack-and-leak. After securing a cooperation deal, Manafort changed his story, and then shared details of what Mueller’s team knew with the President.

Yet, even with Manafort’s ties to the effort to steal our election, the Attorney General used COVID relief to ensure that Manafort would escape prison.

While it’s not clear whether John Ratcliffe, Barr, or the IC made the decision, the redaction process of the SSCI report denied voters the ability to know how closely tied Trump’s campaign manager is with the people who helped steal the election. What we do know is the effort Manafort started continues in Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine and spew Russian disinformation.

For all three of the Trump associates where we know Barr intervened (there’s good reason to suspect he intervened in an Erik Prince prosecution, too), those people implicate Trump directly in counterintelligence investigations that were, fairly recently, ongoing.

Whether or not there was a counterintelligence investigation implicating Trump on May 20, 2017, after Rod Rosenstein scoped the Mueller investigation, we know counterintelligence investigations have implicated him since. What we don’t know is whether, in an effort to help Trump get reelected, his fixer Billy Barr squelched those, too.

Update: In an appearance for his book, Schmidt said he considered writing it (in 2020) about just the first 26 days of his presidency. It’s a telling comment given that his description of what happened with counterintelligence doesn’t accord with what the Mueller Report itself said happened around 500 days into Trump’s presidency.

Jeff Wall: It Would Cause Attorney General Barr Irreparable Harm If He Had to Reveal His Secret Reason He Moved to Dismiss Flynn’s Prosecution

Before I explain the most important takeaway from the Mike Flynn hearing, let me note two points.

First, the Department of Justice is quite clear that none of the materials turned over recently to Mike Flynn were Brady material showing exculpatory evidence. DOJ has disclaimed any prosecutorial misconduct in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom. Bill Barr even said as much, under oath, before the House Judiciary Committee. DOJ has falsely claimed they were “new,” but some of the actual details weren’t even new to Flynn, much less new to DOJ, even if some of the documents were. That’s important because a number of the judges today seem to believe that DOJ wants to dismiss this case because they believe there was misconduct.

Nope.

The government disclosed approximately 25 pages of documents in April and May 2020 as the result of an independent review of this case by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. While those documents, along with other recently available information, see, e.g., Doc. 198-6, are relevant to the government’s discretionary decision to dismiss this case, the government’s motion is not based on defendant Flynn’s broad allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn’s allegations are unfounded and provide no basis for impugning the prosecutors from the D.C. United States Attorney’s Office.

They want to dismiss the case because they don’t believe calling up the country that just attacked us and secretly undermining the punishment on them, then lying about it, is any big thing.

Second, in the second-to-last release to Flynn of materials that aren’t new but that Billy Barr used to invent a reason to dismiss the prosecution, DOJ either betrayed breathtaking ignorance of the investigation into Flynn, or they lied. In turning over notes from Peter Strzok that clearly memorialize a January 5, 2017 meeting that has been the subject of public disclosure going back years (well before Flynn reallocuted his plea deal), DOJ claimed not to know their date.

The enclosed document was obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO during the course of its review. This page of notes was taken by former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. While the page itself is undated; we believe that the notes were taken in early January 2017, possibly between January 3 and January 5.

That professed uncertainty led the frothy right to claim that Joe Biden suggested Flynn be prosecuted for the Logan Act, which led to FBI reopening the investigation, which led to his prosecution. It was obvious the notes were from January 5, and I’ve since confirmed that. That DOJ claimed not to know the date of these notes is either evidence that they’re using this process to invent campaign dirt, or evidence that all the people reviewing this material have no grasp on the facts.

Which is to say, the judges have the very mistaken impression that DOJ withheld material they should have turned over, and that DOJ itself has suggested (in the less damning reading of their actions) to have no grasp of basic facts about the investigation into Flynn or even basic physics about time. No. Both claims are, at best, reason to further scrutinize this case.

Even ignoring the fact that DOJ has presented two different explanations for why they want to dismiss a case that they, months earlier, argued merited prison time, taking just the original motion to dismiss on its face value (ignoring the obvious lies in it), three months later, no one understands why DOJ moved to dismiss the case.

That’s important, because Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall claims it would cause irreparable harm to the Executive Branch if DOJ had to answer any questions about why they dismissed the case.

That matters for two reasons. First, as the attorney representing Judge Emmet Sullivan, Beth Wilkinson, pointed out, what distinguishes this case from a Dick Cheney case that SCOTUS has said threatened the prerogatives of the Executive branch, DOJ has already proven willing to offer up reasons for their motion to dismiss, even if they are, partly, transparently false. DOJ is not claiming that they can’t respond to these questions, they’re offering up explanations unasked, and then objecting aggressively when asked question about those claims.

Indeed, Wall offered up a crazy new detail in this hearing: He implied that, in addition to believing that material lies are not the same for Flynn as other people and that secretly calling up the country that just attacked us to say, “no big deal,” is not alarming, there is also non-public information from other investigations that led Billy Barr to tank the Flynn prosecution.

The Attorney General sees this in a context of non-public information from other investigations.

[snip]

I just want to make clear that it may be possible that the Attorney General had before him that he was not able to share with the court and so what we put in front of the court were the reasons that we could, but it may not be the whole picture available to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

It’s just we gave three reasons; one of them was that the interests of justice were not longer served, in the Attorney General’s judgment, by the prosecution. The Attorney General made that decision, or that judgment, on the basis of lots of information, some of it is public and fleshed out in the motion, some of it is not.

[snip]

If all we had to do was show up and stand on our motion, no, we’ve already said that to the District Court.

Billy Barr has a secret. And that, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall suggested, is why a mere hearing on this motion to dismiss would irreparably harm DOJ (even while Wall alluded to the information without being asked).

Wow.

The revised explanation why DOJ can’t prosecute Flynn that Flynn prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine has offered (one in which the Solicitor General’s Office has also participated) is that DOJ can’t “prosecute” Mike Flynn because DOJ has collected so much impeaching evidence against those who investigated Flynn that they can’t prove the case he has twice pled guilty to even though witnesses like KT McFarland and Mike Pence support their case.

Furthermore, since the time of the plea, extensive impeaching materials had emerged about key witnesses the government would need to prove its case. Strzok was fired from the FBI, in part because his text messages with Page revealed political bias against the current administration and “implie[d] a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election xii (December 2018). The second interviewing agent has been accused of acting improperly in connection with the broader investigation. McCabe, who authorized Flynn’s interview without notifying either the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel, was fired for conduct that included lying to the FBI and lying under oath. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Report of Investigation of Certain Allegations Relating to Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe 2 (February 2018). In addition, significant witnesses have pending investigations or lawsuits against the Department of Justice, which could create further questions about their testimony at trial. See Strzok v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2367 (D.D.C. Aug. 6, 2019); McCabe v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2399 (D.D.C. Aug. 8, 2019); Page v. Dep’t of Justice, Civ. No. 19-3675 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2019). Those developments further support the government’s assessment about the difficulty it would have in proving its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is, Ballantine says DOJ can’t sentence Flynn for his admitted crimes because they’ve also laid out how DOJ has trumped up investigations against all the people who investigated Flynn, and at least three of those people have credible legal claims against DOJ for those trumped up investigations.

That suggests one of several things.

It’s possible the secret Billy Barr doesn’t want to reveal deals with how 30-year intelligence veteran Mike Flynn sold his services to the government of Turkey while working for Trump, while trying to hide that fact, all without knowing why that’d be a problem. DOJ has not yet backed off the facts Flynn gave the grand jury (another basis for perjury charges against him, in addition to his plea allocutions, which the Circuit judges appeared to miss), and indeed has doubled down on the Bijan Kian investigation. So maybe DOJ is claiming that poor Mike Flynn was compromised by his non-professional partner out of naiveté?

Another possibility is that there are other secret investigations ongoing, whereby poor 30-year defense intelligence veteran General Flynn was targeted by Russian intelligence but was helpless to rebuff their entreaties and so must be forgiven for lying about all that.

A third possibility is that DOJ has been ordered by the President to make sure none of the people who protected him do prison time. Secret reason. Can’t be shared with judges. Checks out!

The most likely secret information Billy Barr is hiding — particularly given Wall’s reference to other investigations — is the Durham investigation, the possibility that John Durham will find something in his investigation into  Trump’s people where DOJ IG found nothing. That means either that Billy Barr took actions in May that John Durham has not charged in the interim three months. Or, that Billy Barr is trying to pre-empt Flynn’s prosecution believing — or expecting — that an investigation that has not yet completed will end up in criminal charges.

If that’s what’s happening, it would suggest that Barr has already decided what the outcome of the Durham investigation will be, prejudging its outcome and effectively neutering Durham, making his prosecutorial decision an afterthought.

Which is why I focused on DOJ’s false claim — possibly attributed to Jeffrey Jensen, the US Attorney Billy Barr directed to find reasons to blow up the Flynn prosecution while Durham continued to work — that Joe Biden raised the Logan Act before the FBI (and ODNI) raised it themselves. In that case, at least, Barr’s selected flunkies have proven themselves to either be willing to misrepresent evidence or to be painfully stupid about it. In that case, a US Attorney deputized into Billy Barr’s projects has admitted to either knowing fuckall or inventing facts for political purpose. That, by itself, raises questions about the presumption of regularity that Barr might otherwise be afforded.

DOJ claims they’ve given abundant reason why they wanted to dismiss the prosecution against Flynn, even though their reasons conflict with all precedent and the record that Bill Barr’s DOJ has established in this case.

But today we learned there’s another, secret, reason why Billy Barr wanted to dismiss the case against Flynn. Even while DOJ has made it clear they are either misrepresenting the record or unfamiliar with it.

Which is all the more reason why Judge Sullivan should have a hearing, and which likely explains why DOJ has claimed, multiple times now, that that would do irreparable harm to DOJ.

HJC Should Ask Bill Barr Why It Would Do Irreparable Harm if He Had to Explain His Actions in the Flynn Case

Unless he comes up with some new excuse, tomorrow Billy Barr will finally show up for an oversight hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

There are a number of sets of questions that commentators have suggested for the hearing (a strategic set of four topics that will show how Barr is hurting the US, an updated set from JustSecurity, some questions about Geoffrey Berman’s firing).

I could come up with similar lists. They’d be long and — by the time anyone executed them competently on the Democratic side — the big media outlets would have already filed their story on the hearing.

One thing that should be included, however, is the letter that Sidney Powell sent Barr and Jeffrey Rosen in June 2019 and Bill Barr’s actions to deliver on her demands in the subsequent year, actions that DOJ itself admits would do irreparable harm if DOJ had to explain.

The letter was effectively a road map of demands, many of them based off hoaxes, almost all of them unrelated to Flynn’s prosecution or false. It later became the Brady demand that Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected in a meticulous opinion last December. In it, Powell demanded that DOJ conduct a review of the prosecution and then dismiss the prosecution.

At the end of this internal review, we believe there will be ample justification for the Department to follow the precedent of the Ted Stevens case and move to dismiss the prosecution in the interest of justice — whether it be we ink a simple joint motion or sua sponte by the Department.

NYT wrote about this letter in June, calling it “little noticed” but predictably not crediting me, who did noticed it and wrote about it repeatedly.

HJC should raise this letter with Billy Barr for several reasons. First, little in the letter turned out to be true. Indeed, DOJ has asserted in court filings that even where documents Powell asked for existed, none of it was Brady material (and in fact, in spite of Timothy Shea’s claim that these materials were new, that was false, meaning DOJ has no justification for flip-flopping on its call for prison time for Flynn from earlier this year). Powell should have gotten none of it, and yet Barr invented an unprecedented process to give it to her and then use it to self-sabotage the case.

More importantly, the way in which Barr has rolled out the release of these documents has served, in part, to hide the shoddiness of Timothy Shea’s motion to dismiss. Based off a misrepresentation of Bill Priestap’s notes, Shea pretended that the interview with Flynn focused exclusively on the Logan Act. That wasn’t even an accurate reading of Priestap’s own notes. Since then, DOJ has released several more documents that make it clear FBI’s focus was on whether Flynn was a foreign agent (and also provide more evidence that the Flynn 302s track the Agents’ description of the interview), documents that undermine their own motion to dismiss. They’ve either withheld a Bill Priestap 302 explaining what happened or Powell has decided it doesn’t help her. And there are more records that they are sitting on that undermine the claims in their motion to dismiss.

Importantly, while DOJ was making claims that Flynn’s lies were not material, John Ratcliffe was releasing documents that explained why they were.  Of particular note, on February 14, 2017 — weeks after all the meetings DOJ has been focused on, Peter Strzok, in an annotation that made it clear he did not have it in for Trump or his flunkies, also made it clear that FBI didn’t have any phone records yet.

We have very few call logs. NSLs have been issued for Manafort, Page, and Flynn, many of which have not yet been returned.

On February 25, notes from Tashina Gauhar make clear, Strzok and Joe Pientka believed Flynn didn’t believe he had been lying. They also judged — not having phone records or much else yet — that they did not think he was an agent, but they needed to verify that.

That got translated into a later draft summary into a conclusion that Flynn wasn’t a foreign agent.

But as FBI would get first call logs (which would reveal Flynn had also lied about being in contact with Mar-a-Lag0) and then his texts (which would make it clear Flynn knew well about the sanctions Obama had imposed), that would dramatically change the import of his lies. By the time he started cooperating, Flynn made it clear that he and KT McFarland had immediately set about trying to cover up the response Sergey Kislyak gave to Flynn’s request.

After the briefing, Flynn and McFarland spoke over the phone. 1258 Flynn reported on the substance of his call with Kislyak, including their discussion of the sanctions. 1259 According to McFarland, Flynn mentioned that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration.1260 McFarland also gave Flynn a summary of her recent briefing with President-Elect Trump. 1261

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. 1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. 1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” 1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267 [my emphasis]

KT McFarland’s 302s would show she told the same untruths that Flynn had told, even after he got fired for telling them. More recently, it became clear that the White House scripted Bannon to deny discussing sanctions as well.

Meanwhile, the government is still withholding the first (known) post-election transcript between Flynn and Kislyak, where he first started this game of deal-making with the country that just attacked us.

All these details may not amount to Flynn acting as an Agent of Russia.

Rather, they amount to a concerted cover-up of the White House role in this sanction discussion. That’s a topic that a sentencing memorandum approved by top people in Bill Barr’s DOJ argued was significant and material, because a concerted effort to undermine sanctions on Russia, “could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.”

The defendant’s false statements to the FBI were significant. When it interviewed the defendant, the FBI did not know the totality of what had occurred between the defendant and the Russians. Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.

The concerted effort to hide the extensive coordination on sanctions — involving at least Flynn, McFarland, and Bannon — was designed hide whether the Trump response to Obama’s sanctions amounted to the kind of quid pro quo Mueller was appointed to investigate. A question on sanctions relief is the single one that Trump totally blew off in his responses to Mueller.

DOJ wants to claim that Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak were totally normal. But not only are they still hiding at least one of them, but they were utterly material to the Mueller investigation.

But then there’s the final reason why HJC should question Barr about the letter from Sidney Powell that he apparently delivered on a year after she demanded: DOJ itself admitted that explaining DOJ’s actions here would do irreparable harm.

The more interesting argument came from Wall. He argued, repeatedly, that DOJ will be irreparably harmed if Sullivan is permitted to hold a hearing on DOJ’s motion to dismiss. In particular, he seemed horrified that Sullivan might require sworn declarations of affidavits.

As Beth Wilkinson, arguing for Sullivan, mentioned, neither Sullivan nor Amicus John Gleeson has called for such a thing. Both are simply moving towards a hearing scheduled for July 16. Wilkinson also noted that District courts hold such hearings all the time. (And they predictably will have to in another case where DOJ has moved to end a prosecution recently, in which — unlike this case — there appears to have been prosecutorial misconduct, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, which I’ll return to).

Wall is literally arguing that DOJ will be permanently damaged if it has to show up and answer for its actions in this case (in particular, to explain why the prosecutors in this case didn’t sign the motion to dismiss).

That Wall argued so forcibly as to the injury that DOJ would suffer if it had to show up and defend its motion to dismiss is all the crazier given that they didn’t file the petition. The only harm that matters here procedurally is any harm to Flynn, not DOJ, and Powell really made no such case.

Indeed, that’s the reason why the DC Circuit granted mandamus in the Flynn case — not because of any injury that Flynn might face from having Sullivan scrutinize the case, but because having to answer for what Barr did here would — simply having to show up to the kind of hearing that DOJ shows up to every day and answer questions under oath — would do grave damage to DOJ.

HJC should take DOJ at its word. DOJ has confessed their actions can’t withstand the least amount of scrutiny. HJC should demand to know why.

Judge Reggie Walton Has Questions about the Non-Stone Redactions in the Mueller Report

Judge Reggie Walton appears to have questions about the non-Roger Stone redactions in the Mueller Report — but we won’t learn what they are for another six weeks or more.

I say that because of two orders he has recently issued in the BuzzFeed/EPIC FOIA lawsuit to liberate the document. Back in May, the plaintiffs pointed to a number of developments in the Roger Stone case, arguing that DOJ can no longer rely on any of the FOIA exemptions previously used to hide such information.

First, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) may no longer assert that it is prohibited by Judge Jackson’s order from disclosing additional material from the Mueller Report pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), as that order has now been lifted. 11.

Second, because the DOJ has disclosed extensive new material concerning its investigation of Mr. Stone—in addition to the new material already disclosed by the DOJ during Mr. Stone’s trial—the DOJ may no longer withhold that same information contained in the Mueller Report. See Mobley v. CIA, 806 F.3d 568, 583 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Fitzgibbon v. CIA, 911 F.2d 755, 765 (D.C. Cir. 1990)) (“[W]hen information has been ‘officially acknowledged,’ its disclosure may be compelled even over an agency’s otherwise valid exemption claim.”). Plaintiffs are thus entitled to any such material under the FOIA.

Third, the DOJ’s Exemption 7(A) claims predicated on the Stone trial are moot. Exemption 7(A) applies only to records compiled for law enforcement purposes, the disclosure of which “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings,” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7). “[A] law enforcement agency invoking the exception [must] show that the material withheld ‘relates to a concrete prospective law enforcement proceeding.’” Juarez v. DOJ, 518 F.3d 54, 58 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Bevis v. Dep’t of State, 801 F.2d 1386, 1389 (D.C. Cir. 1986)) (emphasis added). Notably, disclosure “cannot interfere with parts of the enforcement proceeding already concluded.” CREW v. DOJ, 746 F.3d 1082, 1097 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting North v. Walsh, 881 F.2d 1088, 1100 (D.C. Cir. 1989)).

In response, last week, Walton ordered DOJ to file a response by this Friday.

Upon consideration of the plaintiffs’ 119 Notice of Factual Developments Relevant to Pending Motions, it is hereby ORDERED that, on or before June 12, 2020, the United States Department of Justice shall file its response to the plaintiffs’ notice.

DOJ’s response will be interesting, given that, in May, DOJ withheld information from Stone’s warrants partly for privacy reasons (protecting Ted Malloch’s privacy, among others), and partly because of pending investigations. The latter material actually appears to pertain to things that don’t appear in the Mueller Report, however, so any 7A exemptions that DOJ invokes will be of some interest.

But, particularly given the fact that DOJ has not yet responded to that order yet, it suggests that an order Walton issued yesterday, delaying the public hearing on the lawsuit and instead scheduling an ex parte hearing with the government on July 20 — possibly extending to July 21 and 22 (!!!) — pertains to other matters.

Having reviewed the unredacted version of the Mueller Report, the Court cannot assess the merits of certain redactions without further representations from the Department. However, because the Court must discuss the substance of the redactions with the Department, and because such a discussion cannot occur remotely due to the lack of a secure connection between the Court and the Department necessary to avoid disclosure of the redacted information, and in light of Chief Judge Howell’s May 26, 2020 Order, In re: Further Extension of Postponed Court Proceedings in Standing Order 20-9 and Limiting Court Operations in Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Standing Order No. 20-29 (BAH), it is hereby

ORDERED that the status conference currently scheduled for June 18, 2020, is VACATED.

It is further ORDERED that, on July 20, 2020, at 9:30 a.m.,1 the Department shall appear before the Court for an ex parte hearing to address the Court’s questions regarding certain redactions of the Mueller Report.2

1 The Department shall be prepared to appear before the Court for a continuation of the July 20, 2020 ex parte hearing on July 21, 2020, and July 22, 2020, if necessary.

2 The Court will advise the Department as to the topics that the Department should be prepared to discuss at the July 20, 2020 ex parte hearing at a later date.

Curiously, Walton isn’t even asking the government to brief these redactions; he’s asking for someone to come into his courtroom and discuss it, possibly for an extended discussion.

The least interesting topic in question might pertain to the significant redactions of the Internet Research Agency materials, which were redacted in significant part for national security reasons rather than to protect the integrity of an upcoming trial, as they were for Stone. I doubt Walton will have much interest in unsealing that stuff anyway, because he is generally quite sober about protecting national security information.

But there are other things of interest that Walton would want to preserve secrecy on until he tests DOJ’s claims about them. The most obvious are the two discussions apiece about how Trump père and fils avoided testifying; those discussions are currently hidden under a grand jury redaction, one that is arguably inconsistent with other discussions of grand jury actions (including, most recently, a bunch of 302s describing the FBI serving witnesses with subpoenas). We, as voters, should know the details of how Trump dodged a Mueller interview before November 3, and these redactions have always been one of the obviously abusive redactions.

Similarly, DOJ redacted at least two names from the Report’s description of an October 20 scope memo (which the frothy right has gotten disinterested in obtaining), one of which is Don Jr.

DOJ has claimed these privacy redactions are of tertiary third parties, which — given that the second redaction is almost certainly the failson — is clearly false in this instance.

Similarly, given KT McFarland’s public claims that she was caught in a perjury trap, any passage that explains why she wasn’t charged with false statements (which might be the redaction on page 194 of the first part of the report) might be justifiably released.

But there are two redactions that — given recent events — are far more interesting.

There’s a sentence describing Mueller’s decision not to charge Carter Page as an agent of Russia. While, in Page’s case, I might otherwise support leaving this redacted, DOJ has declassified far more sensitive information than what must appear here in response to GOP demands.

The redacted sentence likely summarizes what the fully declassified FISA applications reveal: which is that there was a great deal of evidence that Page was willing to work with known Russian intelligence officers, including sharing non-public information on US businesses, as well as evidence he either lied or had gotten so unbalanced by 2017 that he didn’t tell the truth about those contacts as they they continued to be investigated. Because the FISA application was a case of selective declassification, this passage might be justifiably unsealed to prevent that kind of selective release.

Finally, in the that same section of the report discussing why Mueller didn’t charge people with violations of FARA or 18 USC 951, there’s a footnote about an ongoing investigation that must pertain to Mike Flynn.

My guess is this pertains to a counterintelligence investigation into the ways Russia was cultivating Flynn, something the transcripts of his calls with Sergey Kislyak make clear was happening (which is to say, it doesn’t necessarily say Flynn was at risk of prosecution but that FBI had a duty to investigate). Mueller said FBI was still investigating counterintelligence issues pertaining to Flynn during his July 2019 congressional testimony, which would be consistent with the b7A redaction here.

In any case, given DOJ’s decision to flip-flop on Flynn’s prosecution, any indication there was an ongoing investigation pertaining to Flynn 15 months after he pled guilty for lying would sharply undercut DOJ efforts to exonerate Flynn. And given DOJ’s declassification of so much else pertaining to Flynn — up to and including some, but not all, of the FISA intercepts collecting his calls with Russia — it would be hard for them to argue that this passage could not be declassified.

Unless, of course, the investigation remains ongoing.

Which makes Walton’s apparent delay regarding what topics he expects DOJ to cover next month rather interesting. By July 20, when this ex parte hearing will take place, the DC Circuit may well have decided the Mandamus petition targeting Judge Emmet Sullivan (though, particularly given Noel Francisco’s inclusion on DOJ’s brief on the topic, I expect it to be appealed no matter the decision). And even though he has read the entire report, Walton’s order deferred instructing DOJ about what they would have to discuss until “a later date,” meaning it’s unlikely he issued a sealed order doing so yesterday. At the very least, Walton may delay until he gets DOJ’s response on the Stone materials on Friday.

If there really is an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, I would expect (and always have expected) Walton to leave this redaction untouched. But if Billy Barr’s DOJ squelched that investigation, too, I imagine Walton would make the footnote and any discussions about it public.

Once upon a time, DOJ might have gotten by with just the Stone redactions and the abusive redactions protecting Trump and his son. But in recent months, DOJ has done plenty to justify more broadly releasing some of this information.

Sadly, that won’t happen for over a month yet.

“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.

Stealing Elections: The Underlying Assumption behind Billy Barr’s Flip-Flop on the Materiality of Flynn’s Lies

Marty Lederman has a very long piece assessing DOJ’s motion to dismiss the Mike Flynn case, one that pulls together a lot of the public record (including details, like about DOJ’s January 24, 2017 sentencing memorandum, that haven’t gotten attention other than at this site). As a very sober assessment that criticizes the FBI but lays out the national security implications, it’s well worth reading.

Even after he wades through all those details, though, Lederman argues that the important takeaway isn’t whether Flynn will do prison time or not (he notes, as I have, that Flynn will be pardoned in any case), but instead what this incident says about Bill Barr.

Unfortunately, just as with the public’s anticipation of and reaction to the Mueller investigation, the inordinate focus on whether a particular individual committed one or another offense under the U.S. criminal code is diverting attention from where it ought to be, on much more significant matters of constitutional governance.

Most importantly, as I’ll explain, what’s most alarming and troubling about the DOJ brief itself is not that it asks the court for leave to dismiss the charge against Flynn, but that it depends upon the rather shocking view of the Attorney General and the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia that Flynn’s underlying conduct in 2016 and 2017 was unobjectionable and that therefore there wasn’t a “legitimate” basis for the FBI to be investigating Flynn’s secret communications with the Russian Ambassador at all, even though Russia had just completed an elaborate effort to manipulate the American electoral process in order to help elect Donald Trump.

[snip]

There is, however, at least one other possibility—one that’s much more troubling but that doesn’t involve prosecutorial “bad faith,” as such:  It could be, as Charlie Savage recently put it, that Attorney General Barr sincerely “considers to be illegitimate the government’s counterintelligence effort to understand the scope of Russian election interference in 2016 and any links to the Trump campaign.”  That would explain the astounding assertions in the DOJ motion that Flynn’s calls with Kislyak “were entirely appropriate on their face” and that there wasn’t any “legitimate” basis for a counterintelligence investigation, even after Flynn lied to the Vice-President-Elect about the content of the calls.  Indeed, in a recent interview, Attorney General Barr asserted that the FBI investigation was “based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call [Flynn] made as a member of the transition.”  According to Barr, there “was nothing wrong with it whatever. In fact, it was laudable.”

If that’s the reason Barr insisted on moving to dismiss the Flynn charge, it raises a far, far greater problem than whether Michael Flynn is or isn’t convicted of a criminal offense.  Such a view reflects an alarming disregard for the constitutional difference between an incumbent President and the incoming administration.  It ignores the harms of engaging in such private diplomacy in secret, without the knowledge of the State Department.  It treats as “laudable” an effort to undermine the incumbent President’s conduct of foreign affairs in real time—and to do so in order to accommodate a hostile nation that had just engaged in a concerted effort to distort the U.S. presidential campaign in order to secure the election of the very President whose agent is engaged in the stealth diplomacy, and where that very President (and/or his agent engaged in the shadow communications) might possibly be in debt to that nation, and/or compromised by it.  It also assumes that the FBI should have turned a blind eye to all this even after several top officials of the new administration made repeated false representations to the public about the new National Security Advisor’s communications with that foreign power, either knowing that the statements were false or, more troubling still, having been assured by Flynn that the communications were very different from what the Bureau knew them to be.  If the Attorney General of the United States believes all of that conduct was “legitimate,” “appropriate” and “laudable,” and that there wasn’t any “legitimate” basis for investigating it, then how can anyone be confident that the Department of Justice under his stewardship will faithfully fulfill its constitutional responsibilities?

I think Lederman is right: Even more than the question of whether Flynn does time is the question of what it means that Barr intervened and — based off no new evidence — weighed in to say that it was laudable that Flynn called up Russia and undermined the punishment Obama imposed after Russia tampered in the election and illegitimate for FBI to investigate why he did so (predictably, the motion to dismiss doesn’t deal with Flynn’s work for Turkey).

But I would go further.

Lederman is rightly offended that Bill Barr has just given sanction to undermining the constitutional transition between one administration and another.

But that’s not all that the FBI was investigating, nor is it what the record suggests Barr is sanctioning.

In his post, Lederman suggests the FBI didn’t take any of the logical steps to chase down Flynn as a counterintelligence concern.

As I hoped I’ve shown above, that was precisely correct—the principal objective of any interview with Flynn should have been to get to the bottom of the potential counterintelligence threat.  FBI Director Comey himself later testified that he sent his agents to interview Flynn on January 24, 2017 at least in part because there was a “disconnect” between what the Vice President was saying in public and what Flynn had in fact said to Kislyak, and Comey wanted his agents “to sit before [Flynn] and say ‘what is the deal?’”  And FBI Counterintelligence Chief Bill Priestap apparently agreed.  His notes from that morning state his view that “if [Flynn] initially lies, then we present him [redacted] and he admits it, document for DOJ, and let them decide how to address it.”

As far as the available public record shows, however, the agents who interviewed Flynn didn’t take that route.  Instead, it appears that Bureau leadership apparently decided before the interview that if Flynn didn’t confirm to the agents what they knew he had said to Kislyak, “they would not confront him or talk him through it.”  (The quote is from a later 302 report of an interview with one of the agents, Peter Strzok.  Unfortunately, the reasons for that decision appear to be redacted from Strzok’s 302 Report.  Nor is it clear who made this tactical decision.)  In the interview itself, Flynn said he couldn’t recall any discussion with Kislyak of the sanctions and expulsions, even after the agents used his own words from those conversations in order to jog his memory (and/or to subtly signal to him that they had a recording).  And then the agents left it at that.  They didn’t confront Flynn with evidence of what he had said to Kislyak; didn’t ask him why he said such things; about who else, if anyone, he discussed the call with, before or after; why he had disregarded the Obama administration’s pointed request that he not have such conversations; why he had lied to Pence, et al.; etc.  In other words, they didn’t do any of the things one might expect investigators to do if their goal was to get to the bottom of the case, and assess the scope and degree of any possible counterintelligence threat, during that interview.  Instead, all they appeared to accomplish was to confirm that Flynn was committed to lying about his calls with Kislyak.

This is the one part of Lederman’s post that I believe is wrong.

On January 24, 2017, the FBI would have learned that Flynn was going to continue to lie about his discussion of sanctions. But the evidence would still have supported an interpretation that Flynn had gone rogue, that he — someone who had been paid directly by Russia in the previous year and met directly with Putin — had decided to undermine all of US policy in response to the Russian operation all by himself.

That interpretation would change.

Moreover, the record shows the FBI did take next steps, but next steps that served to get at the key purpose for Flynn’s lies, to hide that he had consulted with Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak. As I have laid out here, the FBI did some call records analysis (on Flynn’s private phone, because he hadn’t used his government issue BlackBerry). That would have disclosed a bunch of calls to Mar-a-Lago beforehand, calls that were clearly inconsistent with Flynn’s claims to the FBI. Ultimately, FBI obtained the devices that first Flynn, and then other members of the Transition had used. Those would show emails explicitly discussing strategy on sanctions. Between getting those communications and getting Flynn to flip, FBI would eventually have gotten KT McFarland to tell her version of the story.

After a year of work, the FBI would have substantiated that Flynn’s lies served to hide his consultation with Mar-a-Lago. Mueller never got him or McFarland or Steve Bannon to admit that Trump weighed in ahead of time (and Mueller was deliberately coy about whether he has phone records suggesting he did).

Ultimately, though, Mueller was never able to answer a key question: whether Trump had ordered Flynn to do what he did.

Although transition officials at Mara-Lago had some concern about possible Russian reactions to the sanctions, the investigation did not identify evidence that the President-Elect asked Flynn to make any request to Kislyak.

As Lederman himself notes, Trump blew off questions about his role in all of this when asked.

Although it’s therefore almost certain Trump knew at least roughly what Flynn planned to say to Kislyak, the Mueller investigation did not find any evidence that Trump directed Flynn to say anything about sanctions.  (Mueller asked Trump specifically about these incidents (see Questions V(b)-(e)), but in his written responses the President … simply ignored those questions, as though they hadn’t even been asked.)  Several weeks later, then-President Trump said in a press conference that although he didn’t direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak, “it certainly would have been okay with me if he did.  I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

And Lederman notes the part of the January sentencing memo that describes how central a question sanctions were to Mueller’s investigation.

In a sentencing memorandum it filed in January 2020, the Department of Justice explained that after Flynn’s calls with Kislyak and the false stories that Pence and others were purveying, the FBI “did not know the totality of what had occurred between the defendant and the Russians,” and that “determining the extent of [Flynn’s] actions, why [he] took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.”  This was particularly true because “[a]ny effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.”

What he doesn’t consider, however (though he comes awfully close), is the aspect of Mueller’s investigation that considered whether there was a quid pro quo.

In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

That is, Mueller wasn’t just investigating whether Trump was friendly to Russia because he was friendly to Russia or whether he was friendly to Russia out of tacit acknowledgement that Russia had helped him.

Mueller was also investigating (and parts of DOJ may still be investigating) whether Trump entered into one or more quid pro quos in which he accepted help getting elected in exchange for implicit or explicit pay-offs later.

Whether or not Mueller proved a quid pro quo (and there are aspects of this that remain ongoing, or recently were ongoing before Barr’s latest efforts to undermine them), that was an obvious, legitimate topic for investigation after a campaign advisor got approached about Russia’s help in April and after Trump asked Russia for help in the same press appearance where he offered to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

That’s what FBI’s investigation ultimately became. That’s the question the answer to which Flynn’s lies about consulting with Mar-a-Lago have obscured. That is the part of the investigation that Flynn’s lies had a material impact on.

Bill Barr is saying it was illegitimate for the FBI to investigate whether the incoming President engaged in a quid pro quo to get elected and therefore Flynn’s lies that hid key details needed to answer that question are not material to any investigation that FBI should be engaging in.

And he’s saying it just before campaign season begins again in earnest.

Flynn Was Hiding that He Coordinated His Kislyak Call with Mar-A-Lago

One of the defenses the frothy right — from Billy Barr down to bots on Twitter — keeps making about Mike Flynn is that because he knew his calls with Sergey Kislyak would be recorded, he would know that the FBI knew what he had said during his January 24, 2017 interview, and so had no reason to lie.

Indeed, whereas DOJ reclassified stuff from an  Andrew McCabe memo that was made public last year (hiding McCabe’s concern about leaks), the only new line in McCabe’s memo they declassified served to substantiate Flynn’s acknowledgment that FBI knew what he had said to Kislyak.

Mr. Flynn, himself a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, stated that he readily expected that the FBI already knew the contents of his conversations with the ambassador, stating: “you listen to everything they say.”

In their motion to dismiss the Flynn prosecution, DOJ used this quotation of Flynn to claim that because FBI already knew what he said with Kislyak, they had no need to interview Flynn.

In any event, there was no question at the FBI as to the content of the calls; the FBI had in its possession word-for-word transcripts of the actual communications between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak. See Ex. 5 at 3; Ex. 13. at 3. With no dispute as to what was in fact said, there was no factual basis for the predication of a new counterintelligence investigation. Nor was there a justification or need to interview Mr. Flynn as to his own personal recollections of what had been said.

Except DOJ and all of Flynn’s frothers are missing (or suppressing) something so obvious I pointed it out when Flynn’s 302 was first released in heavily redacted form 18 months ago.

Flynn wasn’t lying to hide what he said to Kislyak.

He was lying to hide that he had coordinated with people at Mar-a-Lago before speaking with Kislyak.

In the 302 of his January 24, 2017 interview, for example, FBI agents described Flynn attributing the delay in returning Kislyak’s text on December 28 (and, we now know, the Russian Embassy’s call) to the shitty cell reception in Dominican Republic.

Shortly after Christmas, 2016, FLYNN took a vacation to the Dominican Republic with his wife. On December 28th, KISYLAK sent FLYNN a text stating, “Can you call me?” FLYNN noted cellular reception was poor and he was not checking his phone regularly, and consequently did not see the text until approximately 24 hours later. Upon seeing the text, FLYNN responded that he would call in 15-20 minutes, and he and KISLYAK subsequently spoke.

After Agents circled around to ask whether he had discussed the expulsions of diplomats (which, incidentally, I think is a fourth lie, one not charged, suggesting his comments on expulsions go beyond what appears in public reports), Flynn claimed he didn’t know that Obama had imposed the sanctions at all because he wasn’t watching the news and his government BlackBerry wasn’t working (thereby confirming he returned Kislyak’s call using a device the government couldn’t obtain without legal process).

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled any conversation with KISLYAK surrounding the expulsion of Russian diplomats or closing of Russian properties in response to Russian hacking activities surrounding the election. FLYNN stated that he did not. FLYNN reiterated his conversation was about the PUTIN/TRUMP VTC and the “Astana thing” (the Kazakhstan conference described earlier). FLYNN noted he was not aware of the then-upcoming actions as he did not have access to television news in the Dominican Republic and his government BlackBerry was not working.

When cued with his specific “tit-for-tat” comment, Flynn again claimed not to have known about the sanctions before his call.

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled any conversation with KISLYAK in which the expulsions were discussed, where FLYNN might have encouraged KISLYAK not to escalate the situation, to keep the Russian response reciprocal, or not to engage in a “tit-for-tat.” FLYNN responded, “Not really. I don’t remember. It wasn’t, ‘Don’t do anything.'” The U.S. Government’s response was a total surprise to FLYNN. FLYNN did not know about the Persona Non-Grata (PNG) action until it was in the media.

When asked one more time about his calls that day, he again pointed to Dominican Republic’s shitty cell service to claim ignorance of the sanctions.

FLYNN remembered making four to five calls that day about this issue, but that the Dominican Republic was a difficult place to make a call as he kept having connectivity issues. FLYNN reflected and stated he did not think he would have had a conversation with KISLYAK about the matter, as he did not know the expulsions were coming.

Three different times in this interview, Flynn claimed he did not know about the sanctions before speaking with Kislyak, and in a fourth response, he falsely attributed all the delay in returning Kislyak’s call exclusively to the shitty cell service. But according to the Mueller Report, he had found out about the sanctions from a text a KT McFarland assistant sent him, if not before.

Russia initiated the outreach to the Transition Team. On the evening of December 28, 2016, Kislyak texted Flynn, “can you kindly call me back at your convenience.”1229 Flynn did not respond to the text message that evening. Someone from the Russian Embassy also called Flynn the next morning, at 10:38 a.m., but they did not talk. 1230

The sanctions were announced publicly on December 29, 2016. 1231 At 1 :53 p.m. that day, McFarland began exchanging emails with multiple Transition Team members and advisors about the impact the sanctions would have on the incoming Administration. 1232 At 2:07 p.m., a Transition Team member texted Flynn a link to a New York Times article about the sanctions. 1233 At 2:29 p.m., McFarland called Flynn, but they did not talk. 1234 Shortly thereafter, McFarland and Bannon discussed the sanctions. 1235 According to McFarland, Bannon remarked that the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia, and that Russian escalation would make things more difficult. 1236 McFarland believed she told Bannon that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak later that night. 1237 McFarland also believed she may have discussed the sanctions with Priebus, and likewise told him that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak that night. 1238 At 3: 14 p.m., Flynn texted a Transition Team member who was assisting McFarland, “Time for a call???”1239 The Transition Team member responded that McFarland was on the phone with Tom Bossert, a Transition Team senior official, to which Flynn responded, “Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today.” 1240

In fact, Flynn’s specific testimony was not that he had waited to call Kislyak back because of connection issues (though that was probably part of it), but because he wanted to consult with McFarland and others first. He returned Kislyak’s call immediately after consulting with McFarland.

Flynn recalled that he chose not to communicate with Kislyak about the sanctions until he had heard from the team at Mar-a-Lago.1241 He first spoke with Michael Ledeen, 1242 a Transition Team member who advised on foreign policy and national security matters, for 20 minutes. 1243 Flynn then spoke with McFarland for almost 20 minutes to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions. 1244 On that call, McFarland and Flynn discussed the sanctions, including their potential impact on the incoming Trump Administration’s foreign policy goals. 1245 McFarland and Flynn also discussed that Transition Team members in Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation. 1246 They both understood that Flynn would relay a message to Kislyak in hopes of making sure the situation would not get out of hand.1247

Immediately after speaking with McFarland, Flynn called and spoke with Kislyak. 1248 Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East. 1249 With respect to the sanctions, Flynn requested that Russia not escalate the situation, not get into a “tit for tat,” and only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner.1250

Not only did Flynn make efforts — by lying — to hide his consultation with Mar-a-Lago when he was interviewed on January 24, but after Kislyak relayed to Flynn that Putin had specifically taken Flynn’s call into account, Flynn took immediate efforts to hide that sanctions had come up by writing McFarland a cover email she could share with others that didn’t mention sanctions.

Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267

Flynn knew the FBI had access to the Kislyak transcripts when they interviewed him. Kislyak was a foreign target and so fair game.

But Flynn believed the FBI might not access his communications with the rest of the team (indeed, once Trump’s people discovered Mueller had obtained the Transition communications from GSA in the wake of Flynn’s guilty plea, they threw an every-loving hissy fit). Not just Flynn, but everyone else, was trying to cover up those conversations in which they had strategized the call. Indeed, even after Flynn pled guilty, the White House scripted Bannon to deny them.

And the difference — the fact that Flynn wasn’t trying to hide his calls with Kislyak so much as he was trying to hide his consultations with the people at Trump’s resort — conclusively demonstrates why the lies were material. The FBI knew what Flynn had said to Kislyak, but on January 24, they FBI didn’t know how many calls Flynn had exchanged with others at Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak. The Mary McCord 302 reveals analysis of Flynn’s call records had not yet been done by February 16.

McCord’s notes (page 42) reflect that at that time, analysis of Flynn’s phone records was nearly done.

The FBI would have used those call records — of what Flynn made clear in his interview were for his personal, not his government issued (secure) phone — to identify whether it was true that Flynn had been cut off in Dominican Republic, and whether it was true that he really didn’t know about sanctions when he spoke to Kislyak.

Indeed, the FBI were still trying to understand all the details about the discussions at Mar-a-Lago until they obtained the Transition emails with a warrant, which probably happened on August 25, 2017. KT McFarland claimed not to remember the 20 minute call with Flynn in her second interview on September 14, 2017, something she would un-forget after Flynn pled guilty, though Barr’s DOJ is hiding the rest of the details about that call. And FBI didn’t get a full accounting of what happened between Flynn and Mar-a-Lago at least until McFarland started unforgetting on December 22, 2017 in the wake of Flynn’s plea.

In short, it took the FBI almost an entire year to get a general understanding of the events surrounding that call in significant part because of the lies Flynn told in the interview, lies about stuff that didn’t show up in the Kislyak transcript. For much of that time, FBI would have had reason to believe Flynn had acted on his own, giving FBI every reason to believe Flynn was secretly working with Russia (like they were coming to understand he had secretly been on the payroll of Turkey).

That’s the definition of materiality. And, as I’ve noted, Bill Barr’s DOJ is on the record agreeing, in the still-active sentencing memorandum for Mike Flynn submitted in January, that it was material precisely because FBI needed to understand who ordered him to make that call.

Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

[snip]

As the Court has already found, his false statements to the FBI were material, regardless of the FBI’s knowledge of the substance of any of his conversations with the Russian Ambassador. See Mem. Opinion at 51-52. The topic of sanctions went to the heart of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation. Any effort to undermine those sanctions could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.

Had Trump admitted, right from the start, that he ordered the Code Red, this wouldn’t have been material. Had Mike Flynn been honest that he had coordinated his response with advisors sitting at Mar-a-Lago with Trump, this might not have been material. Had KT McFarland admitted her side of the consultations when interviewed by the FBI in August and September 2017, it might change the materiality of Flynn’s lies.

But Donald Trump and Mike Flynn and KT McFarland treated this as something to hide for almost the entirety of a year. And that’s why the lies mattered.

The Public Record Claims that Flynn Had No Permission from Trump to Undermine US Policy in Calling Kislyak

In the last several days, part time Director of National Intelligence and full time Twitter troll Ric Grennell declassified the names of people who unmasked Mike Flynn’s name in call transcripts with Sergey Kislyak. The public record already shows the FBI did so after they discovered his calls explained why Russia had not responded as expected after Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia on December 28, 2016.

The press has, predictably, chased this issue as a matter of partisan game, demonstrating utter disinterest in how obviously they are being chumps in a political ploy.

Release of the list, which would be an unprecedented move, is likely to resurrect a partisan debate over an episode that had roiled the early days of Mr. Trump’s presidency and has taken on renewed urgency after the Justice Department moved to drop a criminal case against Mr. Flynn last week.

It takes enormous leaps of willful ignorance of the facts to treat this as the partisan spat that Trump wants it to be.

That’s true, for two reasons:

  • The public record shows that the Obama Administration did need to know Flynn’s identity to understand the Kislyak intercept and accorded Flynn deference as a result until such time that it appeared Flynn had acted without official sanction
  • The public record, over three years after the call, remains consistent with Mike Flynn making that call to Sergey Kislyak without permission from Trump himself, meaning the public record is consistent with Flynn acting on his own

Under FISA, the Executive Branch may not disseminate an American’s identity obtained from a FISA intercept, “unless such person’s identity is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance.” But if the Executive Branch needs that person’s identity to understand foreign intelligence, they can unmask the identity.

It matters that this call was made by the incoming National Security Advisor. At first, Flynn’s identity made the call look less suspicious. But within days of its discovery, Flynn’s own actions had created reason for far greater concern that the incoming NSA had made this call.

At first, the Flynn unmasking led to deference to him, albeit with concerns about sharing intelligence with (just) him

When Russia did not respond to the December 2016 sanctions, per Jim Comey’s testimony, the Intelligence Community tasked its members to learn why not.

And so the last couple days of December and the first couple days of January, all the Intelligence Community was trying to figure out, so what is going on here? Why is this — why have the Russians reacted the way they did, which confused us? And so we were all tasked to find out, do you have anything [redacted] that might reflect on this? That turned up these calls at the end of December, beginning of January.

Some days later, the FBI provided an answer: because someone had called up Russia and asked them not to escalate, and days later Russia had called up and told the same person that Vladimir Putin had not responded because of his call. Imagine the possible implications of this call without the identity. The call could reflect an amazingly powerful private individual who for some reason had the ability to make Vladimir Putin to take action against his stated interests. Or it could reflect something fairly routine. You had to know who made the call to figure out which it was.

In his testimony, Comey made it clear that, 1) they did unmask Flynn’s name but 2) the FBI issued no finalized report on this, meaning they were protecting the discovery from wider dissemination.

We did not disseminate this [redacted] in any finished intelligence, although our people judged was appropriate, for reasons that I hope are obvious, to have Mr. Flynn’s name unmasked. We kept this very close hold, and it was shared just as I described.

Sally Yates’ 302 describes how Obama responded. He stated specifically that he wanted no more follow-up information, but he did want advice on whether his White House should treat Flynn differently as a result.

After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind. Obama started by saying he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions. Obama specified he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.

[snip]

Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, but can’t recall if he specified there was an “investigation.” Comey did not talk about prosecution in the meeting. It was not clear to Yates from where the President first received the information. Yates did not recall Comey’s response to the President’s question about how to treat Flynn.

A letter Congress sent to Susan Rice quoting from her own letter to the file makes it clear that Obama explicitly stated he wanted no involvement in any law enforcement matters. He just wanted to know whether the Administration should limit how they would share classified information with Flynn during the transition.

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.

[redacted]

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.

As to DOJ, at first Mary McCord treated this just as Republicans would want: by assuming this was just the normal pre-inauguration outreach one would expect from an incoming National Security Advisor.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners.

There are several takeaways from this record. We don’t know exactly what the transcripts say (and neither did some of the people involved), but this reaction is entirely inconsistent with Flynn saying anything to Kislyak to indicate he was operating on Trump’s orders. If he had, then Obama would not have had a concern about sharing information with Flynn and only Flynn. If it was clear Trump was involved, Obama’s concerns would be mitigated because Trump constitutionally would be entitled to this anyway. There’s no evidence Flynn made it clear he had Trump’s sanction to make these calls.

These actions also make it clear that, while the FBI responded to this as they would any counterintelligence investigation, both Obama and Rice were very careful about respecting the transition of power. The redacted passage in Rice’s letter is consistent with Obama adopting some caution, but deferring any more drastic measures unless, “anything changes in the next few weeks.”

From January 15, 2017 to the present, the public record has always been consistent with Flynn deciding to make the call on his own — and possibly acting rogue

Ten days after the Obama Administration adopted a cautious response to learning of Flynn’s calls, something did change.

The Vice President went on Face the Nation and told a journalist that he had asked Mike Flynn and Flynn denied speaking about sanctions at all.

MIKE PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually was initiated on Christmas Day he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.

JOHN DICKERSON: So did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day?

MIKE PENCE: They did not have a discussion contemporaneous with U.S. actions on–

JOHN DICKERSON: But what about after–

MIKE PENCE: –my conversation with General Flynn. Well, look. General Flynn has been in touch with diplomatic leaders, security leaders in some 30 countries. That’s exactly what the incoming national security advisor–

JOHN DICKERSON: Absolutely.

MIKE PENCE: –should do. But what I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

From that moment to this day, the record is consistent with Mike Flynn working without the knowledge of or prior sanction from Trump and Pence. I believe Flynn did have prior sanction from Trump, but I believe that only because I think Trump and Flynn have hidden that detail for years. But because Flynn and KT McFarland, at least, told Mueller’s prosecutors that they had no memory of consulting with Trump about what to say to Kislyak ahead of time and Trump has categorically denied it, the public record says that Flynn made the decision both to undermine the official policy of the United States and decide what policy to pursue after consulting with a few Transition aides, but not Trump himself, which was a key conclusion of this part of the Mueller Report.

Although transition officials at Mara-Lago had some concern about possible Russian reactions to the sanctions, the investigation did not identify evidence that the President-Elect asked Flynn to make any request to Kislyak.

To be clear, starting in November 2017 — ten months after Obama’s people got Flynn’s name unmasked — Flynn and KT McFarland for the first time started admitting that Flynn had consulted with Trump’s staff at Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak, after denying it for that time. (This passage is largely sourced to a November 17, 2017 Flynn interview and a December 22, 2017 McFarland interview.)

Flynn recalled that he chose not to communicate with Kislyak about the sanctions until he had heard from the team at Mar-a-Lago.1241 He first spoke with Michael Ledeen, 1242 a Transition Team member who advised on foreign policy and national security matters, for 20 minutes. 1243 Flynn then spoke with McFarland for almost 20 minutes to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions. 1244 On that call, McFarland and Flynn discussed the sanctions, including their potential impact on the incoming Trump Administration’s foreign policy goals. 1245 McFarland and Flynn also discussed that Transition Team members in Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation. 1246 They both understood that Flynn would relay a message to Kislyak in hopes of making sure the situation would not get out of hand.1247

Immediately after speaking with McFarland, Flynn called and spoke with Kislyak. 1248 Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East. 1249 With respect to the sanctions, Flynn requested that Russia not escalate the situation, not get into a “tit for tat,” and only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner.1250

Multiple Transition Team members were aware that Flynn was speaking with Kislyak that day. In addition to her conversations with Bannon and Reince Priebus, at 4:43 p.m., McFarland sent an email to Transition Team members about the sanctions, informing the group that “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.” 1251 Less than an hour later, McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump. Bannon, Priebus, Sean Spicer, and other Transition Team members were present. 1252 During the briefing, President-Elect Trump asked McFarland if the Russians did “it,” meaning the intrusions intended to influence the presidential election. 1253 McFarland said yes, and President-Elect Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.1254 McFarland also discussed potential Russian responses to the sanctions, and said Russia’s response would be an indicator of what the Russians wanted going forward. 1255 President-Elect Trump opined that the sanctions provided him with leverage to use with the Russians. 1256 McFarland recalled that at the end of the meeting, someone may have mentioned to President-Elect Trump that Flynn was speaking to the Russian ambassador that evening. 1257

So Flynn had the input of Michael Ledeen, McFarland, and through McFarland, the input of Transition Team members at Mar-a-Lago.

But — as I lay out in this post — the timeline laid out in Mueller’s deliberately unclear account shows no consultation between Flynn and Trump, or even McFarland and Trump, before the call. Someone may have mentioned that Flynn was making the call in a briefing Trump attended, but there’s no evidence Trump provided input on what he should say. Moreover, by the time of that briefing, Flynn appears to have already made the first call. McFarland reported to Flynn on the briefing in the same call where he told her what had transpired on his call.

1:53PM: McFarland and other Transition Team members and advisors (including Flynn, via email) discuss sanctions.

2:07PM: [Transition Team Member] Flaherty, an aide to McFarland, texts Flynn a link to a NYT article about the sanctions.

2:29PM: McFarland calls Flynn, but they don’t talk.

Shortly after 2:29PM: McFarland and Bannon discuss sanctions; according to McFarland’s clean-up interview, she may have told Bannon that Flynn would speak to Kislyak that night.

3:14PM: Flynn texts Flaherty and asks “time for a call??,” meaning McFarland. Flaherty responds that McFarland was on the phone with Tom Bossert. Flynn informs Flaherty in writing that he had a call with Kislyak coming up, using the language, “tit for tat,” that McFarland used on emails with others and that Flynn himself would use with Kislyak later that day.

Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today.

Sometime in here but the Report doesn’t tell us precisely when: Flynn talks to Michael Ledeen, KT McFarland, and then Kislyak. [my emphasis]

4:43PM: McFarland emails other transition team members saying that,  “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.”

Before 5:45PM: McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and others on the sanctions. McFarland remembers that someone at the briefing may have mentioned the upcoming Kislyak call.

After the briefing: McFarland and Flynn speak by phone. Flynn tells McFarland, “that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration,” and McFarland tells Flynn about the briefing with Trump.

Moreover, the record shows that, after Flynn reported back to McFarland after Kislyak told him Russia would not respond because of the call Flynn made, he sent an email specifically designed to cover up that Kislyak had said so.

Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.126

Not only did Trump say, shortly after he fired Flynn, that he did not direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak (though he said he would have directed him to do so if he wasn’t already doing it), but according to the public record, Flynn claims to have first told Trump he may have spoken about sanctions on 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. 193 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. 195 The President asked Flynn what he and Kislyak discussed and Flynn responded that he might have talked about sanctions.196

The record also shows that, after Trump asked Reince Priebus to get KT McFarland to write a statement asserting that Trump had not spoken with Flynn before the call, she declined to do so because she didn’t know whether it had or not and John Eisenberg advised she not do so because it would make her Ambassadorial appointment look like a quid pro quo (which recently released 302s makes it look like).

Priebus called McFarland into his office to convey the President’s request that she memorialize in writing that the President did not direct Flynn to talk to Kislyak.255 McFarland told Priebus she did not know whether the President had directed Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions, and she declined to say yes or no to the request.256 P

255 KTMF _ 00000048 (McFarland 2/26/ 17 Memorandum for the Record); McFarland 12/22/ 17 302, at 17.

256 KTMF _00000047 (McFarland 2/26/ 17 Memorandum_ for the Record) (“I said I did not know whether he did or didn’t, but was in Maralago the week between Christmas and New Year’s (while Flynn was on vacation in Carribean) and I was not aware of any Flynn-Trump, or Trump-Russian phone calls”); McFarland 12/22/ 17 302, at 17.

In short, even today, there is no evidence that Flynn had any permission from Trump to make this call. For over three years, Flynn and Trump have insisted he did not, which makes the significance of the intercept very different.

The public record, over three years later, is that Mike Flynn called up the country that just attacked us and — with no permission from Trump to do so — undermined the foreign policy of the United States.

So two things happened with this intercept.

At first, the fact that it was made by the incoming National Security Advisor led top DOJ officials to treat it with deferral. That is, they decided the meaning and the context was that of an incoming NSA calling foreign countries, and therefore fairly routine.

But ten days later, the transcript would look like something entirely different, the incoming NSA — who had received direct payments from Russia in the years leading up to this action — acting on his own with the Russian Ambassador. The President specifically denied having any role in the calls and fired Flynn (though said he didn’t mind the call). He went to some lengths to create a record to substantiate that he had not spoken to Flynn about it.

It would take ten months before prosecutors would have testimony (they had call records reflecting calls by March and probably had emails by August 2017) reflecting any consultation on Flynn’s part with any of his colleagues. Until they got that testimony, Flynn would have looked like had gone rogue, and decided to not only undermine Obama’s policy, but to set Trump’s policy, all on his own.

Either of those situations would justify unmasking someone’s identity. In either one of those situations, the FBI and other national security officials would have an obligation to track who was undermining the punishment for an attack by a hostile government, whether they deferred to it (in the case for the period when it seemed routine outreach) or investigated it (once it became clear the official was lying about it).

To suggest or even parrot, as Trump’s lackeys are, that this was a partisan decision suggests the United States should ignore when top national security officials appear to go rogue, undermining the current Administration without any evidence of sanction from the incoming one.

Judge Sullivan Already Ruled that Mike Flynn’s David Ignatius Story Doesn’t Help Him

When I noted that the John Durham investigation has been investigating the first 10 months of the Russian investigation for 11 months now (and seemed on track to continue for another four months at least), I didn’t include a number of details laid out in this government filing and this NYT story.

The government filing makes it clear that St. Louis US Attorney continues his second-guess review of the investigation into Mike Flynn, three months after he began.

The NYT story describes that, in addition to the DC AUSA on Durham’s team and two prosecutors from Connecticut, he’s also got an SDNY prosecutor.

Mr. Durham is relying on a team of prosecutors, including Nora R. Dannehy and Neeraj Patel, from Connecticut, as well as former and current F.B.I. agents to complete his investigation. Anthony Scarpelli, a top prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, was detailed to the team along with a federal prosecutor from Manhattan, Andrew DeFilippis.

Two former F.B.I. agents, Timothy Fuhrman and Jack Eckenrode, are also assisting. An F.B.I. agent who oversaw public corruption in Chicago and served in Ukraine as an assistant legal attaché, Peter Angelini, has also joined Mr. Durham’s team.

Arguably, Durham has more staffers than the investigation he is investigating had.

The NYT story also provides further evidence that Trump’s flunkies have been able to get Durham to chase down each of their grievances on command. Durham has been investigating something lifted out of a Sidney Powell filing — one already rejected by Emmet Sullivan — regarding the source of the leak to David Ignatius which led Mike Flynn to start lying, at first to the press.

Last year, Mr. Durham also started examining the 2017 column by The Post’s David Ignatius, said a person familiar with that line questioning. Mr. Ignatius revealed that Mr. Flynn had spoken in late 2016 with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, as the Obama administration was about to place sanctions on Russia for its election sabotage.

Mr. Ignatius noted Mr. Flynn’s close contacts with the Russians and suggested that because Mr. Flynn was apparently conducting foreign policy while another administration was in power, he might have violated the Logan Act. The law is an obscure statute that bars private citizens from interfering with diplomatic relations between the United States and foreign governments and is widely considered to be essentially defunct.

The next month, Mr. Flynn resigned after lying to the vice president and other White House officials about the call with Mr. Kislyak. He eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about the nature of his discussions with Mr. Kislyak but later backtracked, asking a federal judge to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.

Powell asked for this last September as part of an elaborate claim that James Clapper — who, of course, fired Mike Flynn for cause — had it in for Flynn and therefore set him up to be ambushed by the FBI once he became National Security Advisor. In addition to asking for records of calls between Clapper and Ignatius, she asked for all records pertaining to Ignatius.

All FBI 302s or any notes of interviews of David Ignatius or any other reporter regarding the publication of information concerning Mr. Flynn and/or the reporters’ contacts with James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, John Brennan, Michael Kortan, or anyone in the FBI, DNI, DOD, DOJ, or CIA regarding Mr. Flynn.

[snip]

All FBI 302s, notes, memoranda of James Clapper regarding Mr. Flynn, and the cell phone and home phone records of Mr. Clapper and David Ignatius between December 5, 2016, and February 24, 2017.

The NYT reported that KT McFarland also was attributing the dramatically varied stories she told to the FBI to the Ignatius story.

Mr. Ignatius’s column “set off a chain of events that helped lead to the Russia probe,” K.T. McFarland, the former deputy national security adviser to Mr. Trump, wrote in her recent book, “Revolution: Trump, Washington and ‘We the People.’”

Mr. Durham has reviewed Ms. McFarland’s interviews with F.B.I. investigators in other inquiries, examining what she has said about Mr. Ignatius’s reporting and asked other witnesses about it, according to person familiar with elements of the investigation. She revised her answers to questions from investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on elements of Mr. Flynn’s talks with Mr. Kislyak but has accused the investigators of trying to ensnare her in “perjury trap.”

Mr. Durham has not questioned Ms. McFarland.

Let’s run with this for a moment, shall we? In addition to criticizing the Obama Administration for not responding more aggressively to the Russian operation and asserting that we needed to find out whether the Russians had fed Christopher Steele disinformation (both assertions Republicans have made), Ignatius revealed that a Senior Government Official told him that Flynn had had multiple conversations with Sergei Kislyak in advance of Russia declining to respond to Obama’s sanctions.

Question 3: What discussions has the Trump team had with Russian officials about future relations? Trump said Wednesday that his relationship with President Vladimir Putin is “an asset, not a liability.” Fair enough, but until he’s president, Trump needs to let Obama manage U.S.-Russia policy.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.

Note, contrary to a lot of claims about this story, there’s no indication that the content of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak got shared (and even just toll records showing the conversations did happen would be enough for a spooked up reporter like Ignatius to ask the question). In addition, the term, “government official,” is often used to hide the identity of members of Congress. It in no way is limited to someone like Clapper.

Nevertheless, let’s assume for the moment Flynn’s allegations are correct and Clapper was the guy who tipped off Ignatius to Flynn’s calls with Kislyak.

Clapper — and virtually all the other people who were part of discussions about this call early on — were Original Classification Authorities. He had just as much authority to declassify the existence of the Flynn calls as Ric Grenell had to declassify the Carter Page applications (arguably more so, since Clapper had obtained and sustained a security clearance on his own right for four decades, with none of the questionable conflicts Grenell has that remain unexamined). Even accepting Flynn’s claim that Clapper did leak the existence of the call, it would not be illegal. There’s an argument that says the intelligence community, with Clapper’s experience that Flynn was unsuited to run DIA and burgeoning questions about what Flynn had done for a frenemy government while serving as Trump’s foreign policy advisor, had to do something about the fact that the NSA designee had secretly worked for another government during the election, was still refusing to come clean about that, and had been caught on a wiretap undermining the official policy of the United States and arguing that Russia should face almost no punishment for interfering in the US election.

Trump would say Obama should simply have warned him. Except Obama did warn him, even before all the details of his work for Turkey had come out. And Trump ignored that warning.

Accepting Flynn’s allegation that Clapper did that (solely for the sake of argument), that would be a fairly quick way to figure out whether Flynn did what he did in contravention of Trump’s desires, something that Trump presumably would have wanted to know.

In response to the story, Flynn ordered his subordinates, including McFarland, to tell a series of lies, lies that conflicted with both what the intelligence community and the Russians knew.

UPDATE: The Trump transition team did not respond Thursday night to a request for comment. But two team members called with information Friday morning. A first Trump official confirmed that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak by phone, but said the calls were before sanctions were announced and didn’t cover that topic. This official later added that Flynn’s initial call was to express condolences to Kislyak after the terrorist killing of the Russian ambassador to Ankara Dec. 19, and that Flynn made a second call Dec. 28 to express condolences for the shoot-down of a Russian plane carrying a choir to Syria. In that second call, Flynn also discussed plans for a Trump-Putin conversation sometime after the inauguration. In addition, a second Trump official said the Dec. 28 call included an invitation from Kislyak for a Trump administration official to visit Kazakhstan for a conference in late January.

That’s not a crime, but insanely stupid from a counterintelligence perspective. Then, when the FBI asked him about it (in a situation that would not become public, in which he could simply have said that the Trump Administration wanted to pursue a different strategy, which would make him stupid but probably not criminal), Flynn continued to lie about it. When McFarland was asked details about the events surrounding the call, she claimed to have no memory of details that she would later unforget; that’s what her perjury trap amounts to: she continued to tell a story she knew Flynn had been fired for.

Which is to say, even if Flynn’s suspicions are true, if Clapper told Ignatius about the existence of calls, it would be (for Clapper) a legal way to try to sort out whether someone hiding damning secrets about two foreign governments was about to be put in charge of US national security.

Nothing about doing so would have changed the fact that Flynn was unsurprised by the FBI to be asked about this, was friendly and relaxed when he met with the FBI, knew it was illegal to lie to the FBI, and nevertheless proceeded to tell an easily identifiable lie.

When rejecting Powell’s request for Clapper and Ignatius’ call record in December, Judge Emmet Sullivan pointed out that even if everything she alleged about Clapper was true, that wouldn’t change that her client lied to the FBI.

Request 35 seeks “[a]ll FBI 302s, notes, memoranda of James Clapper regarding Mr. Flynn, and the cell phone and home phone records of Mr. Clapper and David Ignatius between December 5, 2016, and February 24, 2017.” Id. at 7. The government responds—and the Court agrees—that each request is not relevant to Mr. Flynn’s false statements during his January 24, 2017 FBI interview or to his sentencing. Gov’t’s App. A, ECF No. 122-1 at 2-5. Mr. Flynn fails to make out a Brady claim for the requested information regarding any earlier investigations, the circumstances that led to the January 24, 2017 FBI interview, or the events surrounding his prosecution because Mr. Flynn fails to establish the favorability element. Even assuming, arguendo, that the information regarding the circumstances that led to Mr. Flynn’s January 24, 2017 FBI interview, the events surrounding his prosecution, and any earlier investigations were both exculpatory and suppressed, Mr. Flynn bears the burden of showing a reasonable probability of a different outcome. Strickler, 527 U.S. at 291. “[E]vidence is material only if there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Bagley, 473 U.S. at 682 (“A ‘reasonable probability’ is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.”). Mr. Flynn cannot overcome this hurdle.

Mr. Flynn appears to seek this information to: (1) support his claims of government misconduct; and (2) cast doubt on the legal basis for the FBI’s investigation. See Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 19, 19 n.13, 34-35. Mr. Flynn also asserts, without support, that the Special Counsel’s Office was “manipulating or controlling the press to their advantage to extort the plea.” Def.’s Br., ECF No. 109 at 4. Regardless of Mr. Flynn’s new theories, he pled guilty twice to the crime, and he fails to demonstrate that the disclosure of the requested information would have impacted his decision to plead guilty.

To be sure, Mr. Flynn was aware of the circumstances of the January 24, 2017 interview, and the allegations of misconduct against the FBI officials before he entered his guilty pleas. Sentencing Hr’g Tr., ECF No. 103 at 8-9. Mr. Flynn did not challenge those circumstances, and he stated, under oath, that he was aware that lying to the FBI was a crime. Id. In response to this Court’s questions, Mr. Flynn maintained his guilty plea. Id. at 9-10. None of Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that prejudice ensued. See Strickler, 527 U.S. at 291. The Court therefore finds that there was no reasonable probability that Mr. Flynn would not have pled guilty had he received the requested information in Requests 1, 3, 4, 11, 17, 21, 25, 28, and 35.

Earlier this month, Covington & Burling provided Flynn’s team with some materials they had overlooked when they transferred his case to Sidney Powell last summer. On Thursday, Covington & Burling gave the government over a hundred pages of declarations from four attorneys defending the competence of the legal advice they gave Flynn. Yesterday, the government provided Flynn reports that Jeffrey Jensen has done on the investigation into Flynn.

Beginning in January 2020, at the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri (“USA EDMO”) has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The review by USA EDMO has involved the analysis of reports related to the investigation along with communications and notes by Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) personnel associated with the investigation.

The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO in March and April 2020 and are provided to you as a result of this ongoing review; additional documents may be forthcoming.

Hours later, Powell filed a supplement to her motion to dismiss Flynn’s case for government misconduct (again, Sullivan has ruled on virtually all of these issues), claiming to show proof that Brandon Van Grack had promised not to prosecute Flynn’s son, but instead providing an email stating, “The government took pains not to give a promise to MTF regarding Michael Jr., so as to limit how much of a ‘benefit’ it would have to disclose as part of its Giglio disclosures to any defendant against whom MTF may one day testify” — that is, to show that Flynn did not have a guarantee. Even if the email said what she claimed, it would be yet more proof that Flynn lied under oath to Sullivan in December 2018 when he said no such promise had been made.

She also claimed the reports from Jensen included,

stunning Brady evidence that proves Mr. Flynn’s allegations of having been deliberately set up and framed by corrupt agents at the top of the FBI. It also defeats any argument that the interview of Mr. Flynn on January 24, 2017 was material to any “investigation.”

Maybe she does have proof the FBI agents fucked up. The NYT reports that someone briefed on them claimed, “the documents indicated that F.B.I. agents did not follow standard procedures as they investigated Mr. Flynn,” which is different than framing Flynn. 

But Powell has made such claims over and over, and each time thus far, the claims have proven to be not only way overblown, but full of embarrassing factual errors.

And unless she can show Sullivan something new, something that changes the fact that Flynn told obvious lies in his original interview with the FBI, he risks not just the original charge, but additional perjury referrals from Sullivan.

Meanwhile, Flynn has rejoined Twitter (he even blocked me finally, after following me for four years!), posting a declaration from January as if it was news. The declaration, along with these new emails, strongly suggests his son was in legal trouble as well.

It would be unwise to underestimate Bill Barr’s ability to interfere with DOJ’s normal processes (precisely the allegation being waged against the FBI). Still, Judge Sullivan still gets a vote, and on some of this stuff, he already voted against it.

At First, KT McFarland Told a Similarly Misleading Version of the Story Mike Flynn Will Be Pardoned For

In his abundant free time, the President tweeted about pardoning Mike Flynn on Sunday.

According to Matt Gertz, this was a response to a Lou Dobbs segment with John Solomon where Dobbs said there are 302s that “can’t be found.” Per transcripts Gertz shared, this is a reference to Sidney Powell’s claim — repeated with Dobbs the day before — that the first draft of Flynn’s 302 is missing (she also complained that Flynn never received a January 2017 memo stating that DOJ did not believe Flynn was an agent of Russia, which is unrelated to whether he was an agent of Turkey or lied to the FBI about his interactions with Russia).

Emmet Sullivan has already judged Trump’s complaint to be baseless

In December, Emmet Sullivan already judged this complaint to be baseless because the notes written before any “original 302” and all the 302s already provided Flynn track each other and the 302s consistently capture Flynn’s lies.

Mr. Flynn speculates that the government is suppressing the “original 302” of the January 24, 2017 interview, Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 28; he claims that the lead prosecutor “made it sound like there was only one 302,” id. at 29; and he makes a separate request for the FBI to search for the “original 302” in one of the FBI’s databases, id. at 28-30. In Mr. Flynn’s view, the “original 302”—if it exists—may reveal that the interviewing FBI agents wrote in the report “their impressions that [Mr.] Flynn was being truthful.” Id. at 28. Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI destroyed the “original 302” to the extent that it was stored in the FBI’s files. Id. at 30. Comparing draft FD-302s of Mr. Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview to the final version, Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI manipulated the FD-302 because “substantive changes” were made after reports that Mr. Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador “contrary to what Vice President Pence had said on television previously.” Id. at 14-15. Mr. Flynn points to the Strzok-Page text messages the night of February 10, 2017 and Ms. Page’s edits to certain portions of the draft FD-302 that were “material.” Def.’s SurSurreply, ECF No. 135 at 8-9.

To the extent Mr. Flynn has not already been provided with the requested information and to the extent the information exists, the Court is not persuaded that Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that he is entitled to the requested information. For starters, the Court agrees with the government that there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents’ notes.

[snip]

Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

Even though a judge has already ruled that this complaint is baseless, Trump took a break from mismanaging a pandemic to inch closer to a Flynn pardon based on it.

Given the increasing likelihood Trump will use the cover of the epidemic to pardon Flynn, it’s worth pointing to another set of evidence that Flynn’s prosecution for lying was sound: he’s not the only one who tried to cover up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut President Obama’s sanctions on Russia.

Like Flynn, KT McFarland hid Trump Transition efforts to undercut sanctions at first

In FBI interview reports (302s) released in the BuzzFeed/CNN FOIAs, some details of KT McFarland’s interviews prior to his guilty plea have been released. McFarland was interviewed four times before Flynn’s plea deal became public: August 29 (this 302 has not yet been released), September 14, October 17, and October 19, 2017.  Those 302s show that, at first, KT McFarland downplayed the Trump Transition efforts to undermine Obama’s sanctions on Russia that Mike Flynn got fired and prosecuted for (as well as tried to protect Jared Kushner in his role trying to undercut Obama policies on Israeli settlements).

McFarland’s first interview, on August 29, came in the wake of Mueller’s team acquiring Transition emails from the General Services Administration without notice to the campaign, followed by a warrant to read them. It’s likely her (still unreleased) initial interview and the beginning of her second one were based off a presumption that some emails making it clear the Transition had discussed sanctions would not get shared with Mueller’s team. When she got showed them, she claimed not to remember all details about them.

Her initial interview, as noted, has not been released. The unredacted passages from her second one (she did all pre-Flynn interviews without a lawyer, but in the presence of her spouse, who is a lawyer) show she shaded the truth about things she should have known the FBI had counter-evidence to. (In what follows, I’m bolding things she said in early interviews that her later testimony contradicts.)

For example, in that second interview, McFarland professed to not recall who attended a Presidential Daily Brief on December 28, 2016 where sanctions were discussed.

McFarland was shown a calendar entry for December 28, 2016 and confirmed the entry would have represented a PDB. She sat in the briefing, but did not recall who was there besides [Deputy Director of National Intelligence Edward] Gistaro. It was a small number of people and it took place in a basement studio apartment in the hotel.

Note: Gistaro had already testified at least once before this interview, on June 14, but that was likely focused on Trump’s demand that Dan Coats “help with the [Russian] investigation.” But it’s certainly possible his is one of the interviews in the interim that remain undisclosed.

In addition to her vague memories about meetings at Mar-a-Lago, McFarland also claimed she “did not recall any conversations she may have had with Flynn the day sanctions were announced.” While her description of what Flynn told her about his call with Sergey Kislyak is largely redacted, it’s clear she told the FBI it pertained to “Russian President Putin’s desire for a contemporary video conference after the inauguration.” This is the cover story Flynn asked her to tell the press in January 2017, and it’s part of what Flynn got fired for. Yet she was still relying on it in an interview with the FBI seven months later.

In her third interview, McFarland admitted that sanctions may have come up, but claimed again not to have specific knowledge of it.

News that the Obama Administration planned to impose sanctions on Russia started to come out on December 28, 2016, but they had not been officially announced and specifics were unknown. Sanctions were just one of “several and many things” going on at that time. McFarland, who was in Mar-a-Lago with the President-elect, did not recall what specific conversations she had at which times or to whom she spoke, but sanctions were in the news so it would make sense to her they were among the topics discussed.

In this interview report, McFarland’s explanation for an email involving Tom Bossert discussing sanctions is redacted, but the unredacted parts claim,

McFarland never discussed the specific terms of the sanctions with anyone. She would have told Michael Flynn about how the session with the President-elect went during one of their phone calls.

This claim would have been especially sketchy to the FBI since Flynn had already told the FBI, in January, that he only learned about sanctions from those at Mar-a-Lago.

McFarland also claimed not to remember what she discussed with Flynn when.

She did not have specific recollections about the times of the calls with Flynn or what was discussed in which call. Flynn mentioned several times several issues he intended to discuss with the Russians, and McFarland believed she would have given her theories about the sanctions.

McFarland’s memory started to grow clearer after outlines of Flynn’s testimony were released when he pled guilty on December 1, 2017.

McFarland’s post-Flynn plea memories grow significantly clearer

As the Mike Flynn cooperation addendum laid out, one reason Flynn’s reluctant cooperation was useful is it led others — including, but not limited to, McFarland — to unforget the truth.

[T]he defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate. In some instances, individuals whom the SCO interviewed before the defendant’s guilty plea provided additional, relevant details about their knowledge of key events after his cooperation became publicly.

Days after Flynn’s guilty plea, on December 5, she must have realized that he had given testimony that contradicted hers and informed FBI agents she was in the process of lawyering up. McFarland asked one of the FBI Agents she had been interacting with for the Tom Bossert and Mike Flynn emails she had already testified about, which were included in a December 2 NYT story on Flynn’s plea.

McFarland asked whether SSA [redacted] could provide two emails which he and SA [redacted] had shown to her in her interviews. She did not have the emails, but they were now apparently widely held, including by the New York Times, which published, but grossly misrepresented them. The emails were one from her dated December 29, 2016 in which she discussed President Obama’s three political objectives in imposing sanctions and mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with the Russian ambassador that evening; and an email from Flynn to her the next day, December 30, 2017, in which Flynn reported on his conversation with the ambassador. McFarland felt she was at a a disadvantage since “everyone in the world” had copies of the emails except for her.

McFarland’s fourth 302 — which the Mueller Report heavily relies on — is heavily redacted. But what’s not redacted shows McFarland remembering details about conversations she had had about sanctions that she had professed not to remember in her earlier interviews.

McFarland and Bannon met on December 29. [redacted] but they also talked about sanctions. [redacted] Bannon told McFarland the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia. [redacted] Bannon thought a Russian escalation would make things more difficult. McFarland thought she told him Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador later that night. [redacted]

McFarland stated that she may have run into Priebus and given him a short version of her conversation with Bannon about the sanctions. [redacted] She may have told Priebus that Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador that night, but was not sure.

[redacted]

McFarland and Flynn spoke on the telephone at around 4:00 pm on December 29.

[redactions and snip]

McFarland knew before the [sic] Flynn’s call that Flynn was going to feel out the Russian ambassador on the overall relationship, knowing that the sanctions would influence it.

There’s a heavily redacted section that nevertheless shows that McFarland provided significant details about the meeting with Trump on December 29 (including that Trump “said he had reason to doubt it was the Russians” who had hacked the DNC). Even with the redactions, it’s clear she discussed what might happen with the sanctions at that meeting. And she admitted that “someone may have mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with Kislyak as they were ending the meeting.”

Additionally, McFarland laid out all the details of conversations with Flynn she had previously claimed not to remember, both before and after his calls with Kislyak.

[Flynn] told McFarland the Russian response was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the Trump administration.

[snip]

When Flynn and McFarland spoke on December 31, Flynn told McFarland he talked to the Russian ambassador again. He said something to the effect of “Well, they want a better relationship. The relationship is back on track.” Flynn said it was a good call and he thought his own call had made a difference but not the only difference. [redacted] McFarland congratulated Flynn for his work.

In short, contrary to what she claimed in her earlier interviews, McFarland proved she had memories of:

  • Discussions she had with at least Steve Bannon about sanctions before Flynn’s call with Sergey Kislyak, and possibly Reince Priebus
  • The specific times of at least some of her calls with Flynn
  • Details of the meeting at which sanctions were discussed with Trump
  • Specific details of calls between her and Flynn, both before and after his calls with Kislyak

McFarland is not the only one whose memory grew clearer after it became clear Mueller had heard at least one truthful version of what had transpired in late December 2017; the story Bannon initially told, even after Flynn’s plea, almost certainly evolved as well (his later interviews have been withheld thus far, but we know his memories about the WikiLeaks releases got clearer over time). Reince Priebus’ first interview, on October 13, 2017, has not yet been released. The tiny unredacted bits of Priebus’ Janaury 18, 2018 interview, conducted in the wake of Flynn’s plea, showed that he hedged but did admit they may have discussed Flynn’s call in advance.

The consistency with which those who were present at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 tried not to remember discussing sanctions in advance of General Flynn’s calls, much less what might have gone down with Trump, suggests this is not a matter of Flynn being a rogue liar. Rather, it suggests a concerted effort to downplay what happened and to minimize any involvement Trump had in it, one that was undercut by Flynn’s plea deal.

One story downplaying efforts to undermine sanctions is a lie; multiple stories is a cover-up

That’s why no one should credit Trump’s claims to believe that Flynn was mistreated in his prosecution. Not only has Judge Sullivan ruled that it’s not true, but the available evidence — even with proof that Bill Barr’s DOJ is abusing the FOIA response process to hide the true extent of all this — shows that multiple people with consistent memories of what happened at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 initially professed not to remember what happened that day.

That’s not Flynn being ambushed and improperly prosecuted. That’s Flynn — who up until he decided to plead guilty was part of the Joint Defense Agreement with the President and others — being the first break in an effort to cover-up what really went down.

And the public record has one more highly damning detail that shows Flynn knew from the start that this was a cover-up.

In the section of the Mueller Report incorporating details Flynn and McFarland unforgot in November and December 2017, it reveals that Flynn intentionally excluded the details about the Kislyak follow-up call about sanctions when he sent McFarland a text message reporting on the call.

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. 1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. 1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” 1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267

[snip]

According to McFarland, Flynn remarked that the Russians wanted a better relationship and that the relationship was back on track. 1270 Flynn also told McFarland that he believed his phone call had made a difference. 1271 McFarland recalled congratulating Flynn in response. 1272 [my emphasis]

In her second interview, months before she unforgot that they had had a self-congratulatory conversation about Flynn’s success in undermining Obama’s efforts to punish Russian for interfering in the election, McFarland also claimed not to be concerned that Flynn hadn’t mentioned sanctions in a text he sent her after the call. “She did not recall being concerned that Flynn did not mention sanctions in this email.”

Except that it would not be a matter of concern. It would be a matter of knowing that Flynn had created a false record of what happened. And months later, she would admit that she did know that was a false record. This appears to be the text (which she forwarded as an email) that she tried to obtain from the FBI once she realized that Flynn had flipped.

None of this will prevent Trump from pardoning Flynn. But it does provide reason why Judge Reggie Walton should review the 302s of those involved in the December 2017 events even as he reviews the full Mueller Report, which almost certainly includes an explanation of why Mueller did not charge McFarland for her initial misleading comments. The public deserves to have all the evidence that, in pardoning Flynn, Trump won’t be pardoning someone he believes to have been ambushed and who as a result told a misleading story. He’ll be pardoning the one person who paid a price for covering up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut sanctions imposed to punish Russia for tampering in the 2016 election.