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Even after Learning the FBI Was Investigating, Trump Berated Flynn for Not Being Obsequious Enough to Putin

The Independent has a story that is being taken as news: That Trump berated then National Security Advisor Mike Flynn in from of Theresa May for not telling him that Vladimir Putin had called.

Theresa May’s former Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, described Trump shouting in the middle of a formal luncheon.

Mr Timothy spoke about a “fairly extraordinary” lunch during which Mr Trump shouted at his then-national security advisor Michael Flynn.

“Somebody just mentioned in passing that Vladimir Putin had asked for a call with him, and right in front us he absolutely shouted down Mike Flynn,” he said.

“Like really shouted. This was at a formal dinner with butlers and fancy crockery – and he was properly shouting at him down the table.”

Mr Timothy said the president yelled: “If Putin wants a call with me you just put him through.”

It’s not actually a new story. Trump told a version of the story himself in real time, to Jim Comey, at the same dinner where he asked for loyalty from the FBI Director. According to Jim Comey’s memo memorializing the January 27 dinner, Trump raised the incident in an attempt to convince Comey that he, Trump, believed Flynn had poor judgment.

He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgement and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [Putin] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [Putin] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [Putin’s call] and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [President] of a country like [Russia]. This isn’t [redacted] we are talking about.”) He said that if he called [redacted] and didn’t get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”

But the differences in the story — with Timothy emphasizing that Trump was pissed for not putting Trump on the phone with Putin immediately, as compared to Trump’s claim that he was pissed because Flynn scheduled the return call six whole days later — are notable (if subtle), particularly when read in context.

We’ve known for some time that Sergey Kislyak first started tying to schedule a call between Trump and Putin during his December 29, 2016 call with Flynn, when Flynn asked Russia to keep any retaliation against US sanctions measured; the meeting itself was even mentioned in the original David Ignatius column that revealed the call. But we now have some of the transcripts of those calls. Those transcripts show how Kislyak pitched the meeting — and the January 21 date — even before Flynn raised the sanctions (Kislyak was also pushing for public US participation in a Turkish-Russian “peace” initiative on Syria to be held the first week of the Administration, something else included in KT McFarland’s cover story for the call).

KISLYAK: I mean heads up, we wanted you to know this. And the third final uh, point, General, is uh, I am entrust to convey through you to Seer- uh to President Elect, proposal from the Kremlin. Maybe to organize a conversation over the secure video line that starting on the twentieth would be available to Mr. Trump. And it’s there, certainly, uh – uh, between the White House and the Kremlin. And our proposal is to have the conversation on the twenty.first between our Presidents. And the idea of Mr. Putin is first of all to congratulate uh, your President Elect or the President, at the time, and maybe to discuss small number~ briefly, of issues that are on our agenda. So his proposal is on the twenty-first of January.

FLYNN: Okay. Ummm

[Timestamp: 05:20]

KISLYAK: Is by security video. Secure video line.

Then, on December 31, after Kislyak told Flynn that Putin had considered Flynn’s request not to escalate before deciding not to even respond, Flynn offered up that “the boss is aware” of the request for a January 21 secure call. Flynn acknowledged Kislyak was trying to schedule it for the day after the inauguration, but did not commit to that date.

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

KISL YAK: I will

FLYNN: And we can set that up Fairly quickly and well have at I don’t want to go through, I don’t want to go through a big, uh, uh, gyration of, you know, what is on the agenda. I think the agenda just needs to be a couple of simple things uh, and let the two talk about, let the two communicate if, if we end up having it on the 21st, if not

KISL YAK:

Absolutely, FLYNN: the 21st, then what we, we, uh, may end up, you know, sometime very close after just because other, other scheduled events, if that makes sense. Okay. [my emphasis]

Then, the day before inauguration, Kislyak left a message reiterating Russia’s request to speak “after the inauguration,” and reminding Flynn of their conversation — a conversation that had been revealed by David Ignatius, leading Flynn to start lying publicly about the request he had made on it.

KISLYAK: Good morning, General. This [sic] Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador. I, uh, apologize that I disturb you but I wanted to check whether you have, um, uh, answer to the idea of our two presidents speaking, uh, re-… uh, after the inauguration. You remember our conversation and we certainly would appreciate any indication as to when it is going to be possible. Uh, I would appreciate your calling back and telling me where we are. Thank you so much. All the best.

And then, according to the public story, Putin called to congratulate Trump on January 21, the call for January 28 got scheduled at some point, and on January 27, Trump had a public meltdown about how all that had gone down. In both versions of the story, Trump was pissed that Flynn hadn’t been responsive enough to Putin. In Trump’s version, however, he claimed to be unaware Putin wanted to call on January 21; Mike Flynn told Kislyak he knew of that all along (and the public record shows that Trump knew that Putin placed the call no later than a presser immediately before the lunch in question).

What happened the day before is instructive. On January 26, 2017, the day before Trump had an embarrassing meltdown because his National Security Advisor wasn’t prioritizing a call with Vladimir Putin that Trump first learned about — in the context of secret requests of Russia — weeks earlier, Trump learned that the FBI not only knew of the calls with Kislyak, but knew the substance of his calls with the Russian Ambassador. Trump learned that the FBI found those calls — in one of which Flynn affirmed that Trump knew of the call request — problematic.

On January 26, 2017, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates contacted White House Counsel Donald McGahn and informed him that she needed to discuss a sensitive matter with him in person. 142 Later that day, Yates and Mary McCord, a senior national security official at the Department of Justice, met at the White House with McGahn and White House Counsel’s Office attorney James Burnham. 143 Yates said that the public statements made by the Vice President denying that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions were not true and put Flynn in a potentially compromised position because the Russians would know he had lied. 144 Yates disclosed that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. 145 She declined to answer a specific question about how Flynn had performed during that interview, 146 but she indicated that Flynn’s statements to the FBI were similar to the statements he had made to Pence and Spicer denying that he had discussed sanctions.147 McGahn came away from the meeting with the impression that the FBI had not pinned Flynn down in lies, 148 but he asked John Eisenberg, who served as legal advisor to the National Security Council, to examine potential legal issues raised by Flynn’s FBI interview and his contacts with Kislyak. 149

That afternoon, McGahn notified the President that Yates had come to the White House to discuss concerns about Flynn.150 McGahn described what Yates had told him, and the President asked him to repeat it, so he did. 151 McGahn recalled that when he described the FBI interview of Flynn, he said that Flynn did not disclose having discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but that there may not have been a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. 152 The President asked about Section 1001, and McGahn explained the law to him, and also explained the Logan Act. 153 The President instructed McGahn to work with Priebus and Bannon to look into the matter further and directed that they not discuss it with any other officials. 154 Priebus recalled that the President was angry with Flynn in light of what Yates had told the White House and said, “not again, this guy, this stuff.” 155

When telling the FBI Director about Flynn’s failures to set up a call with Putin on January 21 that Putin’s Ambassador had asked for in the very same call where Trump’s National Security Advisor had made an ask that undermined Obama’s punishment of Russia for tampering in American democracy, Trump described it (in the same conversation where he asked Comey for loyalty) as poor judgment.

It’s unclear why Trump did that, in a dinner meeting fairly obviously designed to undermine FBI scrutiny of why Flynn did what he did.

But if Trump believed that Flynn exercised poor judgment, it would mean he judged that Flynn should have made good on the request that Kislyak made in the same call where Trump , via Flynn, made a request. It would have meant, in context, that Trump believed Flynn should have showed more subservience to Putin.

Glenn Greenwald’s Invented Claims in Defense of Bill Barr and Mike Flynn

Last week, Glenn Greenwald did a podcast defending Bill Barr’s efforts to overturn the prosecution of Mike Flynn (here’s a transcript; the italicized language below is my correction of that transcript). A whole slew of people wrote me in alarm over some of the claims he made in it. After some reflection, I decided to do a post showing how the public record that Glenn claims to have consulted in his podcast at least undermines some of his claims, and in places utterly refutes it.

Two points about this. First, after I made it clear I was working on this in conversations with Glenn, he wrote this post, once again claiming to know details of what I shared with the FBI and what their response to that was, which I assume was an attempt to bully me into withholding this post. Ironically, The Intercept is fundraising off that post, celebrating a post that gets key details wrong. That is their prerogative. Glenn will apparently continue to make these claims; while there are baseless claims in it, I will continue to focus on correcting his baseless claims about other issues more central to current affairs.

Before Glenn posted that post, I asked if people would support this one by donating to my local food bank. This post took a great deal of work, at a time I’ve got far more important things to do from a reporting and personal perspective. If you recognize that work and if you can afford it at this time of crisis, please consider a donation to Feeding America West Michigan. Thanks!

False claim: Mueller acknowledged that the crime was not particularly serious by recommending that Flynn be sentenced to not a single day in prison

As “proof” that no one should be worried about DOJ’s actions with regards to Flynn, Glenn claims that prosecutors said Flynn’s crime was not serious and he should do no prison time.

These flamboyant warnings about the critical importance of the Flynn prosecution and the cataclysmic consequences of the Justice Department’s decision to request its dismissal are particularly odd since General Flynn was accused of a single crime lying to the FBI pled guilty to it. And then the prosecutor Robert Mueller and his prosecutorial team acknowledged that the crime was not particularly serious by recommending to the judge that General Flynn be sentenced to not a single day in prison, citing both the cooperation he gave to the prosecution as well as the nature of the crime. So even the prosecutors in this case, have said that the conviction that came from the plea bargain doesn’t warrant a second in prison time.

While Mueller’s team appeared amenable to probation in their first sentencing memo, they did not actually recommend probation, leaving it up to Judge Sullivan’s discretion. Moreover, they introduced their recommendation for a low end of guideline sentence by stating Flynn’s crime was serious.

The defendant’s offense is serious. As described in the Statement of Offense, the defendant made multiple false statements, to multiple Department of Justice (“DOJ”) entities, on multiple occasions.

[snip]

For the foregoing reasons, as well as those contained in the government’s Addendum and Motion for Downward Departure, the government submits that a sentence at the low end of the advisory guideline range is appropriate and warranted.

After Flynn tried to get cute in his own sentencing memo, the government reiterated the seriousness of Flynn’s crime.

The seriousness of the defendant’s offense cannot be called into question, and the Court should reject his attempt to minimize it. While the circumstances of the interview do not present mitigating considerations, assuming the defendant continues to accept responsibility for his actions, his cooperation and military service continue to justify a sentence at the low end of the guideline range.

When Judge Sullivan asked prosecutors about benefits Flynn had obtained from cooperating at the sentencing hearing, Brandon Van Grack indicated that Flynn had been exposed to conspiracy and Foreign Agent charges, which could amount to a ten or fifteen year sentence (which is what Flynn says Covington counseled him before he pled guilty).

THE COURT: I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. Your answer is he could have been charged in that [EDVA] indictment.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And that would have been — what’s the exposure in that indictment if someone is found guilty?

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I believe, if you’ll give me a moment, I believe it was a conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, which I believe is a five-year offense. It was a violation of 18 U.S.C. 951, which is either a five- or ten-year offense, and false statements — under those false statements, now that I think about it, Your Honor, pertain to Ekim Alptekin, and I don’t believe the defendant had exposure to the false statements of that individual.

THE COURT: Could the sentences have been run consecutive to one another?

MR. VAN GRACK: I believe so.

THE COURT: So the exposure would have been grave, then, would have been — it would have been — exposure to Mr. Flynn would have been significant had he been indicted?

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes. And, Your Honor, if I may just clarify. That’s similar to the exposure for pleading guilty to 18 U.S.C. 1001.

THE COURT: Right. Exactly. I’m not minimizing that at all. It’s a five-year felony.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Excuse me one second. (Brief pause in proceedings.)

THE COURT: Yes, Counsel.

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I’d clarify that the maximum penalty for 18 U.S.C. 951 is a ten-year felony and five years —

After Flynn blew up his plea deal, prosecutors got more explicit about the seriousness of Flynn’s crimes in their second sentencing memo, one that had to be delayed twice to get approvals from everyone in DOJ.

Given the serious nature of the defendant’s offense, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in – and his affirmative efforts to undermine – the prosecution of Bijan Rafiekian, and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct, the government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

[snip]

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. 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]

The defendant’s offense is serious, his characteristics and history present aggravating circumstances, and a sentence reflecting those factors is necessary to deter future criminal conduct. Similarly situated defendants have received terms of imprisonment.

[snip]

The defendant monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it. When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it.

The only time any sentencing memo raised probation was the reply memo in January, which came after Barr started the process of reversing Flynn’s prosecution.

As set forth below, the government maintains that a sentence within the Guidelines range – to include a sentence of probation – would be appropriate and warranted in this case.

[snip]

Based on all of the relevant facts and for the foregoing reasons, the government submits that a sentence within the Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration is appropriate and warranted in this case, agrees with the defendant that a sentence of probation is a reasonable sentence and does not oppose the imposition of a sentence of probation.

Inapt comparison: Bill Barr’s orchestration of Cap Weinberger’s pardon is worse than Bill Barr doing the pardon here

In a crazy bit of straw man argument, Glenn claims (with no evidence) that those complaining about the Flynn matter don’t also care about past abuses of clemency and prosecutorial discretion.

And yet we’re hearing that the refusal to proceed with it is the end of American justice as we know. Apparently under this view, prior subversions of justice by the executive branch, such as the Act that I regard as the single most corrupt attack on basic justice in the United States, which is a decision by President Bush 41 to pardon numerous of his closest aides implicated in crimes relating to the IranContra scandal, including his defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger who had been charged with perjury crimes and trials that would have likely led to the investigation and probably the conviction of President Bush 41 himself.

The comparison is inapt for reasons that go to the core of how we hold the President accountable for abuse of his Article II authority.

Mueller has made it clear that if Trump weren’t the President, he would have been indicted for obstruction. One act of his obstruction involved firing Jim Comey in an attempt to end the investigation into Flynn. Another involved calling Flynn’s lawyer, Rob Kelner, and demanding that Kelner alert him if he was implicating the President. Which is to say, even before Barr’s actions here, Trump had taken steps Poppy Bush is not known to have done to try to prevent Flynn from implicating him in — among other things — working to undercut sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of the 2016 election.

The evidence strongly suggests that Flynn avoided implicating Trump in the strategy of the Kislyak call, in a way that matched Trump’s public denials. Here’s how the Mueller Report concluded it did not have sufficient evidence to conclude that Flynn lied to the FBI to protect Trump.

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]

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.

This is a matter about which Trump tried to create a contemporaneous record, one John Eisenberg thwarted to avoid obstruction exposure.

The next day, the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions.253

It’s one of the topics the White House scripted Steve Bannon to give in his HPSCI testimony.

And it goes to a question Trump blew off entirely in his response to Mueller.

i. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

That is, Flynn’s limited cooperation on the Russian investigation did not implicate Trump in ways that would have exposed him legally.

That’s the background to Bill Barr’s actions since January. The difference between this and the Weinberger pardon is precisely the point. If, when prosecutors explicitly called for prison time in January, Trump had simply pardoned Flynn, it would the equivalent of the Weinberger pardon. In addition, Trump would face the direct political consequences of doing so in November.

Instead, leading up to his motion to dismiss, Barr (the architect of the Weinberger pardon, but Glenn doesn’t mention that) removed a Senate-confirmed US Attorney, installed an unconfirmed flunky to oversee career prosecutors, and then got an outsider to go “find” documents that had already been reviewed by two outside oversight entities (DOJ IG and John Durham). Then Barr overrode the career prosecutors’ decision to move to dismiss the prosecution. He has subsequently replaced the past flunky at DC USAO with another one. That is, Barr is putting people in place solely to protect those who’ve refused to testify against Trump law, and doing it in a way that limits the political cost Poppy incurred with the Weinberger pardon. It also limits what Barr himself conceded might be further exposure for Trump for obstruction charges.

Misdirection: The FBI was corrupt during the 2016 election

Glenn complains that the entire Deep State (including the NSA, which is particularly crazy given that Mike Rogers was interviewing with Trump at a time he was at odds with his bosses) acted corruptly during the 2016, with the implication that this affected Trump.

There’s another reason it’s so important to understand what happened in this case, which is that it sheds light on and directly relates to very widespread corruption on the part of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DOJ and other agencies within the US security state during the 2016 election. For overtly political ends we already know of several extremely shocking revelations demonstrating abuse of power on the part of those agencies as part of the 2016 election.

This feels like just word diarrhea, so maybe Glenn hasn’t thought through what he said. But Glenn seems to suggest any corruption at DOJ and CIA and FBI (and NSA?!?!) harmed Trump.

It’s true that the FBI opened an investigation into four people associated with Trump’s campaign based off a tip from Australia, one that John Durham has said should have been opened as a Preliminary Investigation rather than a Full one (which would have no affect on techniques used).

It’s true that the Carter Page FISA application — obtained close to the end of the election and in secret — had real problems, though DOJ IG did not conclude that those errors arose from political bias. With respect to Woods Procedure violations, Page’s applications were actually better than a bunch DOJ IG later reviewed. Moreover, the worst problems on the Page applications came later, on the last two applications, under the Trump Administration. While Trump’s DOJ withdrew the probable cause determination for the third and fourth Carter Page application, it has not done so for the two earlier ones.

Meanwhile, two people have been fired for their actions in 2016. Both did things that did major damage to Hillary Clinton. Jim Comey was fired in part because repeatedly violated DOJ’s prohibitions about discussing declinations (and in part because he didn’t coordinate the declination statement with DOJ). And Andrew McCabe was fired because he confirmed the existence of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and allegedly lied about doing so to DOJ’s IG. (Whether he actually did lie remains the subject of litigation; DOJ failed to get an indictment against McCabe and DOJ IG withheld the testimony of Michael Kortan from his report on it).

The investigation into the Clinton Foundation, unlike the investigation into Trump’s campaign, had been predicated off of GOP oppo research, Clinton Cash, and it was leaked before McCabe confirmed it.

In fact, the only evidence the DOJ IG Report provided of biased agents handling informants targeting a candidate involved that same Clinton Foundation investigation.

We reviewed the text and instant messages sent and received by the Handling Agent, the co-case Handling Agent, and the SSA for this CHS, which reflect their support for Trump in the 2016 elections. On November 9, the day after the election, the SSA contacted another FBI employee via an instant messaging program to discuss some recent CHS reporting regarding the Clinton Foundation and offered that “if you hear talk of a special prosecutor .. .I will volunteer to work [on] the Clinton Foundation.” The SSA’s November 9, 2016 instant messages also stated that he “was so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.” The SSA explained this comment to the OIG by saying that he “fully expected Hillary Clinton to walk away with the election. But as the returns [came] in … it was just energizing to me to see …. [because] I didn’t want a criminal to be in the White House.”

On November 9, 2016, the Handling Agent and co-case Handling Agent for this CHS also discussed the results of the election in an instant message exchange that reads:

Handling Agent: “Trump!”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Hahaha. Shit just got real.”

Handling Agent: “Yes it did.”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “I saw a lot of scared MFers on … [my way to work] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. Haha.”

Handling Agent: “LOL”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Come January I’m going to just get a big bowl of popcorn and sit back and watch.”

Handling Agent: “That’s hilarious!” [my emphasis]

Perhaps Glenn meant to incorporate FBI’s failures involving Hillary investigations in his comments, but if so, he didn’t mention it.

False claims: The Mueller Report represented the completion of all Trump-related investigations and Mueller gave no “hint” of any leverage over Trump

Glenn continues to misrepresent what the Mueller Report was.

The Mueller investigation itself revealed that the two critical conspiracy theories that droveRussiagate” [sic] for three years number one that Donald Trump and the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election and that number two the Kremlin exerted all kinds of blackmail leverage over Donald Trump to effectively be able to rule the United States for the benefit of Moscow using not just compromising videotapes, but also financial leverage. We know that all of that turned out to be a myth, a conspiracy theory without basis. And we know that for all kinds of reasons, particularly the fact that the Mueller investigation, after 18 months of highly aggressive subpoena driven probes into every component of those conspiracy theories ended without indicting even a single American, not one single American indicted for the crime of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election in the Muller report didn’t even hint that let alone give credibility to let alone prove that there was any leverage being exerted over Donald Trump or the Trump White House by the Kremlin when it comes to things like blackmail average or other financial leverage.

Congratulations to Glenn for, this time, not exaggerating how long Mueller worked (22 months) like he normally does.

But Glenn continues to misunderstand both the allegations and the evidence.

First, in addition to any compromise (primarily financial, not the pee tape) tied to the crimes Mueller investigated, there was also the issue of a quid pro quo, Trump trading policy considerations in exchange for Russia’s election help.

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’s precisely why Flynn’s actions on sanctions were so important (as the language from the second sentencing memo makes clear). Glenn pretends that wasn’t investigated.

As regards to any “hint” of evidence of a conspiracy, the report specifically says that, “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” And when Glenn says the Report did not hint at such a relation, he necessarily is ignoring:

  • The improbably lucrative real estate deal offered to Trump with the involvement of a former GRU officer
  • The meeting offering dirt where Don Jr said the campaign would revisit a request for sanctions relief if they won
  • Paul Manafort’s sharing of internal campaign information with a GRU-connected oligarch, including at a meeting where he also discussed carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking; Manafort continued to pursue the Ukraine effort until he was jailed
  • Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases which — recent releases make clear — the FBI believes or believed involved advance notice of the dcleaks and Guccifer personas, followed by Stone’s effort to pay off Assange with a pardon, starting seven days after the election

Glenn also misconstrues the scope of the investigation, which included the transition period but (probably for very important constitutional reasons), with respect to a quid pro quo or even Putin’s influence over Trump (but not obstruction), ended on Inauguration Day. Similarly, he misconstrues the scope of the Report, which explicitly said it did not include counterintelligence issues like blackmail (something I’ve tried to help Glenn correct his errors on before).

Most importantly, Glenn again claims, in spite of abundant public records to the contrary, that Mueller reported after finishing everything up. That ignores the twelve sealed referrals, of which just the George Nader prosecution has been disclosed (though one surely relates to Jerome Corsi and another probably pertains to Stone).

It ignores documented evidence of ongoing investigations (another thing I already laid out for Glenn’s benefit):

It is a fact, for example, that DOJ refused to release the details of Paul Manafort’s lies — covering the kickback system via which he got paid, his efforts to implement the Ukraine plan pitched in his August 2, 2016 meeting, and efforts by another Trump flunkie to save the election in the weeks before he resigned — because those investigations remained ongoing in March [2019]. There’s abundant reason to think that the investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and Rudy Giuliani, whether it was a referral from Mueller or not, is the continuation of the investigation into Manafort’s efforts to help Russia carve up Ukraine to its liking (indeed, the NYT has a piece on how Manafort played in Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to cultivate Trump today).

It is a fact that the investigation that we know of as the Mystery Appellant started in the DC US Attorney’s office and got moved back there (and as such might not even be counted as a referral). What we know of the challenge suggests a foreign country (not Russia) was using one of its corporations to pay off bribes of someone. [Note: I have reason to believe, given a redaction in the recently-released Rosenstein scope memo, that this investigation is ongoing.]

It is a fact that Robert Mueller testified under oath that the counterintelligence investigation into Mike Flynn was ongoing.

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.

That’s consistent with redaction decisions made both in the Mueller Report itself and as recently as last week.

And it ignores documents released in the last month that show that, in September 2018, the government took a number of steps in a Foreign Agent investigation that were deliberately hidden from Stone (and all the rest of us). The redactions in those filings indicate the investigation remains ongoing. In addition to Foreign Agent charges, it includes conspiracy among the crimes being investigated. The prosecution of Stone on False Statements charges was, in part, an effort to obtain Stone’s notes of his election-year meetings with Trump and his encrypted communications in support of this more serious investigation.

Based on very recent documents, DOJ continues to investigate Trump’s rat-fucker for conspiracy and Foreign Agent charges. The Mueller Report clearly does not reflect the end result of these investigations, including with regards to whether Mueller believed any of Trump’s aides had conspired with Russia or its surrogates.

False claim: FBI had no basis for believing Carter Page was an Agent of Russia

Glenn claims that the FBI had no reason to believe Carter Page was an Agent of Russia.

Perhaps the most egregious of it concerns the spying that was done by the FBI by the Justice Department on US citizen and former Trump advisor Trump campaign advisor Carter page. It was revealed throughout 2017 and into 2018 that the FBI had obtained FISA warrants to spy on the communications of Carter Page. spying on the email and telephone communications of a US citizen is one of the most draconian acts that the FBI and the US government can do. And yet they did it to Carter Page after shortly after he had served as an advisor to the Trump campaign yet while the presidential campaign was still underway, and for two years we heard Carter Page is clearly an agent of the Russian government. He was clearly a key cog in the conspiracy to conspire between Trump the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the election. We heard it vehemently denied that the Steele dossier, the unproven unvetted mountain of allegations served as a basis for the FISA allegation and yet, after a very comprehensive investigation, by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice in 2019, a comprehensive report was issued that concluded that not only was there no basis for believing that Carter Page was an agent of the Russian government, but the FBI lied to the FISA court, in order to obtain the warrants, to eavesdrop on him an incredibly serious scandal for the FBI to spy on somebody who had been associated with a rival campaign during a presidential election, when it turned out that not only was there no basis for doing so, but that they actually lied to the court in order to obtain those warrants, and it was the Mueller Report itself. That made clear that there was never any reason to believe, contrary to the definitive assertions of the media and political consensus that we heard for years, there was no reason to believe that Carter Page was ever an agent of the Russian government.

The actions of the FBI on the Carter Page FISA applications are inexcusable (note, Glenn gets the dates of the FISAs wrong, but that’s not important). It’s clear that Kevin Clinesmith, in June 2017, affirmatively misrepresented information key to the application. And after the FBI started learning of problems with the Steele dossier, largely in 2017, they did not incorporate that into their applications about Page. Nothing excuses that.

The FBI opened a counterespionage investigation into Carter Page on April 6, 2016, long before that application, based off actions that preceded his designation as a Trump advisor.

The IG Report explained why there was basis to investigate Page as a foreign agent: because he not only willingly shared non-public economic information with known Russian intelligence officers, extending beyond the time he was closed by the CIA as an approved contact (and CIA did not know all instances in which he had done so), but when his role in the Evgeny Buryakov prosecution became clear, Page seemed to affirmatively seek to resume contact with the Russians. In addition, it (and released 302s) made it clear that Page tried to deny doing so when asked by the FBI about this in a follow-up. The DOJ IG Report also laid out how Page believed he would cash in on his ties with Russia. And the 302s show that the FBI did get information from witnesses that seemed to corroborate some of the claims in the Steele dossier (or at least indicate that Steele was getting the same rumors that some of the people who set up Page’s trips to Russia got). The Mueller Report also shows that Page was representing himself as Trump advisor on Ukraine policy during his December 2016 trip to Moscow, actions that (if they weren’t sanctioned by Trump, as they appear not to have been) damaged the President-elect. The IG investigators did not review all the intelligence obtained via the FISA order.

Also of note, DOJ IG did not understand the predication of the investigation against Page until after the report was published, misunderstanding that 18 USC 951 is a different crime than FARA, and as a result conducted a First Amendment analysis that would have been passed based off the economic espionage actions with known Russian intelligence officers.

The Mueller Report that Glenn treats as the end all and be all of the matter makes it clear the government still had questions about what happened with Page in Russia (and released 302s make it clear the government wasn’t able to account for all of Page’s time in Moscow).

The Office was unable to obtain additional evidence or testimony about who Page may have met or communicated with in Moscow; thus, Page’s activities in Russia-as described in his emails with the Campaign-were not fully explained.

And a redacted passage in the declinations section of the report (page 183) clearly provides more context.

False claim: FBI planted Stefan Halper within the Trump campaign

After a long rant about what a terrible person Stefan Halper is (which is beyond my focus), Glenn claims that the FBI planted him “within” the Trump campaign.

And yet Halper pops up in the middle of the Russia gate investigation to serve as an informant on the part of the FBI essentially a spy planted within the circle of Trump campaign officials to approach George Papadopoulos and to approach Carter Page and report back what he was hearing and finding to the FBI. Exactly what has long been claimed that the FBI had essentially planted a spy, a former CIA operative with close ties to the Bush’s within the Trump campaign during the course of the presidential election.

The DOJ IG Report describes that when the FBI first reached out to Stefan Halper to serve as an informant in the investigation, they were focused exclusively on Papadopoulos. But then Halper revealed he had already met Carter Page in July, and Page had asked him to join the campaign; Halper was already expecting a call from someone senior (presumably Sam Clovis) about joining the campaign, but said he did not want to join the campaign.

Case Agent 1 told the OIG that the team asked Source 2 about Papadopoulos, but Source 2 said he had never heard of him. The EC documenting the meeting reflects that Source 2 agreed to work with the Crossfire Hurricane team by reaching out to Papadopoulos which would allow the Crossfire Hurricane team to collect assessment information on Papadopoulos and potentially conduct an operation.

Case Agent 1 told the OIG that Source 2 then asked whether the team had any interest in an individual named Carter Page. Case Agent 1 said that the members of the investigative team “didn’t react because at that point we didn’t know where we were going to go with it” but asked some questions about how Source 2 knew Carter Page. Source 2 explained that, in mid-July 2016, Carter Page attended a three-day conference, during which Page had approached Source 2 and asked Source 2 to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign. According to the EC summarizing the August 11, 2016 meeting, Source 2 said he/she had been “non-committal” about joining the campaign when discussing it with Carter Page in mid-July, but during the August 11, 2016 meeting with the Crossfire Hurricane team, Source 2 “stated that [he/she] had no intention of joining the campaign, but [Source 2] had not conveyed that to anyone related to the Trump campaign.” Source 2 further stated he/she “was willing to assist with the ongoing investigation and to not notify the Trump campaign about [Source 2’s] decision not to join.” Source 2 also told the Crossfire Hurricane team that Source 2 was expecting to be contacted in the near future by one of the senior leaders of the Trump campaign about joining the campaign.

Everyone on the team specifically said that if Halper did join the campaign they would not use him as an informant.

All of the FBI witnesses we interviewed said that they would not have used Source 2 for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation if Source 2 had actually wanted to join the Trump campaign. SSA 1 said he did not remember anyone on the Crossfire Hurricane team advocating for Source 2 to actually join the Trump campaign and told the OIG he was relieved that Source 2 did not want to join the campaign “at all.” Strzok told the OIG his reaction was “no, no, no, no, no, no…. [O]h god no. Absolutely not” when he learned that Source 2 had been invited to join the Trump campaign. Case Agent 1 told the OIG that if Source 2 had joined the campaign, the Crossfire Hurricane team would not have used Source 2 “because that’s not what we were after.”

It is true that Halper had taped interviews with Page (who had already reached out to Halper and who subsequently would invite Halper to join his Russian-funded think tank), Clovis, and Papadopoulos during the campaign. But the IG Report makes clear that these actions had the proper approvals and did not focus on campaign activities.

Unsubstantiated claim: Halper accused Svetlana Lokhova of being a honey pot entrapping Flynn

Meanwhile, Glenn suggests Halper accused Svetlana Lokhova honey trapped Flynn.

But also, it was the same Stephen Halper that first tried to raise concerns that General Flynn had should have his patriotism and his loyalties held under suspicion, because he claimed that General Flynn was speaking with and working with a Russian scholar, a woman named Svetlana Lokhova, who was at Oxford, and he was concerned Stephen Harper was he said that Svetlana Lokhova was basically a honeypot a sexpot, designed to entrap General Flynn to turn into a spy.

There are two aspects to this claim: that Halper’s allegations about Lokhova were part of the reason the FBI investigated Flynn and that Halper specifically accused Lokhova of being a honey pot.

The EC opening the investigation into Flynn shows that Lokhova was not included in the predication of the investigation against Flynn, which included his role on Trump’s campaign, his TS/SCI clearance, his acceptance of money from Russian state entities like RT, and his trip to Moscow in December 2015.

The draft closing document that Glenn himself thinks is a smoking gun only describes one stream of CHS reporting that came in on Flynn — which likely is that of Halper. That stream amounted to very little, was not reported before Halper was asked (contrary to claims Sidney Powell has made), and if this is Halper, the lead was chased down and dismissed.

That is, either FBI didn’t even consider Lokhova, or if they did, they didn’t give it any credence, the exact opposite of what Glenn claims happened.

Glenn also made an argument about Maria Butina in there, which I’ve dismantled when Matt Taibbi made it.

Claim without evidence: Barack Obama disliked Flynn

Amid a section laying out what a staunch critic of Obama Flynn was, Glenn also claims that Obama strongly disliked Flynn.

It’s really not an overstatement to say that President Obama after a very short period of time couldn’t stand Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn is exactly the kind of general and exactly the kind of official that President Obama strongly dislikes. And the feeling was very mutual.

[a very very long-winded presentation of how Flynn feels about Obama but not vice versa]

What was important and what is important for the subsequent events is the fact that President Obama seethes but seethes with contempt for General Flynn and the feeling was very mutual.

I know of no evidence to support this. Public reports show Flynn was fired for performance reasons, and most accounts say that James Clapper made the decision.

False claim: Flynn worked for “interests connected to the Turkish government”

In a passage on Flynn’s consulting work, Glenn misrepresents what Flynn himself has said about the work.

And they represented numerous clients as people who leave the military and intelligence world often do, including foreign governments, including interests connected to the Turkish government, and that consulting work that General Flynn did at times was not properly disclosed, as it is very common for consultants not to disclose their work. But that was the work that he was doing between 2014 when he left the Obama administration and 2016 in the middle of 2016 when he became an important surrogate for the Trump presidential campaign.

This passage suggests that Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government and did that work before he became a chief surrogate for Trump.

The record shows the engagement with Ekim Alptekin started in late July, after Flynn had already figured prominently in Trump’s convention. Just days before Flynn sat in on Trump’s first classified briefing, he responded to an email from Alptekin describing his meetings with two Turkish ministers on the project by saying, “Thank you Ekim for your kind update. This is an important engagement and we will give it priority on our side.” Alptekin responded by describing his meeting with the two Turkish ministers and stating, “I have a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget and the scope of the contract.”

Moreover, unless Flynn perjured himself before the grand jury, he was not just working for “interests connected with the Turkish government,” he was working for the Turkish government.

I think at the — from the beginning it was always on behalf of elements within the Turkish government.

Of particular note, one of the lies Flynn told Covington as they prepared his FARA filings was that he wrote the November 8 op-ed published under his name as part of an effort to boost the Trump campaign’s war on terror cred. In reality, Flynn did not write the op-ed at all, he simply put his name to it.

Date and substance problems describing the sanctions

In a long passage in which Glenn suggests Russian interference isn’t proven, Glenn also muddles a lot of the facts regarding Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

On December 29, President Obama, the Obama administration announced a new series of sanctions, as well as the expulsion of various diplomats aimed at Russia in order to punish Russia for what the Obama administration said was Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It was Obama’s last one of his last acts on the way out the door was to give Democrats what they wanted by sanctioning Russia, imposing imposing new sanctions on Russia and expelling Russian diplomat as retaliation or punishment for what they claim was Russian interference in the 2016 election. [my emphasis]

Both the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee have issued reports confirming the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the election. And yet Glenn here suggests this was just an empty Obama Administration claim.

Moreover, Glenn misrepresents the full basis for the sanctions, which also retaliated for escalating Russian harassment of US diplomats in Russia.

And while it’s a minor issue, Glenn gets the date of the sanctions wrong. They were first reported on December 28, which is important because Kislyak reached out to Flynn on that day, not the other way around (the timing of this is central to problems with the story Flynn told, which was designed to hide his consultations with people at Mar-a-Lago), as did someone from the Russian Embassy.

Elaboration: Claims about the conversation

In his description of the actual calls between Flynn and Kislyak, Glenn elaborates on the public record, suggesting Flynn talked about what might happen after Inauguration with regards to sanctions (rather than just setting up a call and attending a conference in Astana).

Once the Obama administration announced the sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats, General Flynn, ready to take office as National Security Adviser, called the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak on two separate occasions on that day, December 29. When these new reprisals were announced, essentially to tell him Look, there’s no reason for you to overreact. There’s no reason for you to retaliate. We’re about to take office in three weeks, we’re going to improve relations with you, we’re going to have a whole new relationship, so there’s no reason for you to do anything now that will force us in turn to retaliate. He was essentially trying to tamp down tensions to lay the groundwork for one of President Trump’s President Elect Trump’s campaign promises and foreign policy objectives which was to improve relations with Russia,

While it’s possible this is the way the call occurred, it’s not supported by the public record. The Mueller Report describes the conversation this way:

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

The detail that Flynn suggested Russia respond “in reciprocal manner” is important because Russia did even less than that.

While Glenn says there were two calls between Flynn and Kislyak, he doesn’t describe the second one from these days, which is critical background to why the FBI focused on Flynn because of the calls. The Mueller Report describes it this way:

On December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and that Russia had chosen not to retaliate to the sanctions in response to the request. 1268

The transcripts themselves remain classified, as do Sally Yates’ descriptions of what was most alarming about these transcripts.

So we don’t yet know why reading the transcripts rather than hearing about the call elicited strong reactions from those who did read them, but they did, including not just people in the Deep State, but also Reince Priebus and Mike Pence.

Misrepresentation: It is normal for incoming National Security Advisors to reach out to their counterparts

Glenn correctly claims that it is normal for incoming national security officials to reach out to their counterparts. It is! He doesn’t say what made Flynn’s actions unusual, which is what increased the urgency about them: the lies he told to others within the Administration about the calls.

It is extremely common for transition teams and for national security officials who are incoming and an administration to reach out to their counterparts to try and create a new positive relationship. And that’s what General Flynn did by twice calling Ambassador Kislyak, whom he had known from his experience working as director of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency on December 29. Now those two conversations that General Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak were being monitored and recorded by the National Security Agency something that is extremely common is standard practice, as General Flynn knows and knew, because the NSA monitors and records the calls of as many officials as they possibly can, particularly in governments they consider to be adversarial such as Russia.

For some reason (perhaps so Glenn can liken surveilling US-based foreign officials with surveilling allies overseas) Glenn claims NSA picked up this intercept. FBI did.

But his silence about what makes Flynn’s actions here is utterly inexcusable: Flynn lied about what he had done to Mike Pence and others, which raised real questions at FBI about whether he was freelancing when he made the call (which might rightly be regarded as damage to Trump). As Mary McCord testified, that’s what made these calls different.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners, so the Logan Act seemed like a stretch to her. She described the matter as “concerning” but with no particular urgency. In early January, McCord did not think people were considering briefing the incoming administration. However, that changed when Vice President Michael Pence went on Face the Nation and said things McCord knew to be untrue. Also, as time went on, and then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made comments about Flynn’s actions she knew to be false, the urgency grew.

Note, too, some other small details here. Flynn knew Kislyak from paying a call before his RT gala trip; he denied any memory of meeting him in connection with his trip to Russia sponsored by the GRU. But he also made calls to Kislyak during the election that he attributed to condolence calls, which is the same excuse he used to claim his December calls weren’t about undermining US policy. It’s not public whether those other calls match Flynn’s claimed explanations for them.

False claims: Strzok and Page talked about needing to impede Trump and “discovered” these transcripts

Glenn next tells a story of the discovery of the Flynn-Kislyak transcript where the villains of his story play the central role, actually trolling through the FBI collections and discovering the conversations.

The NSA was spying on so General Flynn obviously knew and he later told the FBI that he knew that those conversations were being monitored or recorded, but they were being monitored and recorded because the NSA had successfully obtained access to Ambassador Kislyak’s communications knowledge of those two telephone calls that Michael Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak made its way to two particular officials with the FBI, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Paige, who became very controversial later on both because they were having an affair with one another, an extramarital affair, but more importantly, because there were all kinds of email exchanges between the two throughout the 2016 presidential election as they were participating in the investigation of the Trump campaign, where they were explicitly talking about the need to make certain that Donald Trump lost and then the need once he won to impede him to damage him and to try and undermine him anyway that they can. So it was these two FBI officials who discovered these conversations that General Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak.

There are a lot of small details here that Glenn gets wrong.

As noted, the calls were monitored by FBI, not NSA (which is not a significant difference but notable since Glenn and Snowden conflate foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement).

The FBI discovered the calls because the IC was trying to figure out why Putin didn’t respond as expected.

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 that might reflect on this? That turned up these calls at the end of December, beginning of January.

There’s not a shred of reason to believe that Strzok or Page “discovered” these conversations (Comey says analysts did).

I assume Glenn’s descriptions of the emails about “making certain Trump lost” are some text, not email, exchanges explained at length in the Midyear Exam IG Report. The most damning text dates to August 8, 2016, shortly after Crossfire Hurricane was opened.

“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”203

Another damning text dates to August 15, 2016, recounting a dispute in Andy McCabe’s office about how aggressively to conduct the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….”

Importantly, Strzok lost his bid to investigate more aggressively during the election, just like he lost his bid to investigate Hillary as aggressively as possible. While these are utterly damning (even with Strzok’s explanations of them), as the later IG Report made clear, the report concluded — having read all the Page and Strzok texts — neither Strzok nor Page were in a position to unilaterally make decisions.

The only known text that might remotely suggest either was trying to “impede him to damage him” pertains to a discussion about whether Strzok should join the Mueller investigation. In it, he said he didn’t think there was much there.

“For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with MYE. Now I need to fix it and finish it.” Later in the same exchange, Strzok, apparently while weighing his career options, made this comparison: “Who gives a f*ck, one more A[ssistant] D[irector]…[versus] [a]n investigation leading to impeachment?”204 Later in this exchange, Strzok stated, “you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

If Glenn is relying on this (he didn’t cite anything), Glenn claims that a text showing that the guy whose goal (he says) was to impede Trump didn’t think there was much implicating Trump, and he uses that as proof he was out to sabotage Trump. It seems, instead, to be proof that Strzok didn’t let his view of Trump cloud his assessment of the evidence, a conclusion backed by other known details of the investigation.

False claim: Lisa Page and Peter Strzok decided to keep the investigation into Flynn open

Glenn’s interpretation of the texts showing Strzok’s actions, especially, claims both that Comey didn’t want to investigate Flynn and did want to. At first, for example, Glenn suggests that Comey had ordered — rather than authorized — the closure of the investigation. It suggests some “snafu” rather than bureaucratic lassitude delayed the closure. And it suggests the Page and Strzok led this decision-making.

James Comey and the leadership of the FBI had decided to close the only pending investigation that the FBI had into General Flynn, which was part of the Operation Hurricane investigation, the investigation about improper ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government James Comey and the FBI leadership concluded there was no evidence to believe that General Flynn had any improper contacts or connections with let alone had conspired with the Russian government during the election and as ordered that investigation closed and filed the paperwork in early January. But when Peter Strzok and Lisa Page got hold of these conversations that Ambassador Kislyak had had with General Flynn and decided they wanted to investigate him for it and use it against him, they discovered in early January that the order that James Comey and FBI leadership had given to close the investigation against Michael Flynn never was finalized because of a bureaucratic snafu. That investigation contrary to the decision that the FBI had remained open and what the newly discovered documents reveal, among other things, is that Peter struck and Lisa page celebrated. The bureaucratic snafu was good luck because it meant that there was now a still a pending investigation that was supposed to have been closed into General Flynn, who they could latch on to and hook on to in order to try and investigate him. Now because of these new conversations that he had with Ambassador Kislyak.

Comey testified that he authorized — not ordered — the investigation to be closed.

At that point, we had an open counterintelligence investigation on Mr. Flynn, and it had been open since the summertime, and we were very close to closing it. In fact, I had — I think I had authorized it to be closed at the end of January, beginning — excuse me, end of December, beginning of January. And we kept it open once we became aware of these communications. And there were additional steps the investigators wanted to consider, and if we were to give a heads-up to anybody at the White House, it might step on our ability to take those steps.

[snip]

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

The part of the texts that Glenn relies on to say Page and Strzok celebrated the case hadn’t been closed makes it clear that incompetence, not any snafu, had delayed the closure. It also makes clear that these decisions were coming from the 7th floor (that is, McCabe or Comey).

Other critics of these actions rely on that 7th floor detail to substantiate their claim of a great plot, but even imagining there was one, it would mean Page and Strzok don’t have the decisive role Glenn says they did.

Misrepresentation: Jim Comey wanted to investigate a person rather than a call

Both in the above passage and a following one, Glenn suggests that the existence of these calls was used as excuse to investigate Flynn, rather than the existence of transcripts showing the incoming NSA altering Putin’s behavior would always be reason to investigate.

James Comey wanted to investigate General Flynn. He wanted to do what he could use these newly discovered calls Against General Flynn, but the Justice Department then led by acting director, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, believe that it was improper to investigate what was about to be a high level White House official without notifying the Trump transition team and then the Trump White House that the FBI was investigating what was seemed to become a very high level official, and they thought about it and they thought about it until James Comey without notifying the attorney general or the Justice Department officials who were opposed to it sent FBI agents to general Flynn’s office with the intention of questioning him about the telephone calls that he had with the Russian ambassador,

As the texts above make clear, at first no one knew what to do about these calls.

Once again, Glenn doesn’t mention the role of Flynn’s lies to Mike Pence in leading everyone, including DOJ, to treat the transcripts differently.

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

As Yates described it, things heated up after it became clear Flynn had lied.

In early January, DOJ began to “ramp up” their discussions regarding Flynn, in reaction to a David Ignatius column describing the phone calls in early January 2017, followed by a statement where Sean Spicer around January 13, in which Spicer denied there was sanctions talk on the calls and stated that the Flynn calls were logistical. The false statement by Spicer, which Yates assessed to be the White House “trying to tamp down” the attention, caused DOJ to really start to wonder what they should do.

On January 13, 2017, things “really got hot.” On that day, Vice President Pence was on Face the Nation and stated publicly he’d spoken to Flynn and had been told there had been no discussion of sanctions with Kislyak. Yates recalled she was in New York City that weekend, and received a call from McCord notifying her of the statements. Prior to this, there had been some discussion about notifying the White House, but nothing had been decided. Until the Vice President made the statement on TV, there was a sense that they may not need to notify the White House, because others at the White House may already be aware of the calls.

There are redactions in Yates’ testimony that likely hide critical details. But Yates did concede that,

Generally, when the Intelligence Community learns of a “criminal investigation,” their reaction is to back off and defer to the FBI; [redacted] Yates did not herself believe the investigation would be negatively impacted, but Brennan and Clapper backed off after their talk with Comey.

False claim: The FBI made Flynn tell lies he wasn’t already telling

Glenn then turned to Bill Priestap’s notes, quoting from the part that reflects a rethinking about whether they should share Flynn’s own words with him, rather than the part that lays out the overall goal of the interview. 

The day that FBI agents including Peter Strzok were sent to General Flynn to interrogate him about the calls that he had with General Kys — Ambassador Kislyak, and those handwritten notes made clear that the FBI was overtly flirting with an entertaining if not outright, executing an interrogation with corrupt and improper motives specifically to purposely induce General Flynn to lie to them so that they could use those lies to then punish him or turn him into a criminal to handwritten notes from the FBI official Bill Priestap specifically explicitly state quote, what’s our goal truth slash admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired? This is revealing that the FBI had no real interest in interviewing General Flynn about what he said to Ambassador Kislyak because they already knew what he said since they had the transcripts of those conversations the result of the surveillance that was done on those calls, the only conceivable objective to go and interview him was to purposely induce him to lie not show him those transcripts, asked him what he talked about in that conversation that he had almost a month earlier, and the hope of getting him to lie so that they could get him fired. Not exactly a legitimate FBI objective, or turn him into a criminal create a new crime by using their power of interrogation to induce him to lie and then charged him with lying to the FBI. Whatever the ultimate motive was, these notes are highly incriminating about what the FBI’s real intentions were.

Again, Glenn said nothing about Flynn’s lies to Pence, which undermines the claims Glenn makes here. The public record at the time supported a suspicion that Flynn had gone rogue in his call to Kislyak, and was hiding what he had done with the Administration. Indeed, the public record still claims that Trump did not instruct Flynn to take these actions (though he applauded them after the fact).

That background is particularly important because the notes are consistent with several other contemporary pieces of documentation, including what Bill Priestap told Mary McCord contemporaneously and what Comey said a few months later. which show the purpose of the interview was to see whether Flynn would be honest about his conversations with Russia, particularly in light of Flynn’s apparent lies to Mike Pence and Sean Spicer.

That’s the very same purpose for the interview laid out in the second sentencing memorandum approved by Bill Barr’s DOJ just months ago.

And Glenn ignores how those notes also show that FBI backed off its initial plan not to share any details from the transcripts, but instead to quote his words back to him, effectively sharing the content of it. The 302 shows that the FBI Agents did that. In one instance, Flynn even thanked the FBI Agents for their reminder.

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled. any discussions with KISLYAK about a United Nations (UN) vote surrounding the issue of Israeli settlements. FLYNN quickly responded, “Yes, good reminder.” On the 22nd of December, FLYNN. called a litany of countries to include Israel, the UK, Senegal, Egypt, maybe France and maybe Russia/KISLYAK.

But each time they did so with respect to Russia, the 302 shows, Flynn lied.

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.

Glenn also utterly and hilariously misrepresents what happened between that initial interview, the investigations that revealed conversations with Mar-a-Lago that Flynn had lied about in the interview, and when Flynn accepted a plea deal in November 2017 because he faced up to 15 years on the Foreign Agent charges.

Conflation of the leak that the Steele dossier had been briefed and the sharing of the Steele dossier

Glenn then moves onto the Steele dossier, suggesting that the person who leaked a detail from Trump’s briefing had the intent of leading BuzzFeed to publish it, and conflating the public reporting on Trump with the FBI’s investigation of him.

CNN and CNN on January 10, reported that the director of the FBI had gone and briefed President Elect Trump to inform him of highly compromising information in the hands of the Kremlin. But this but CNN said that they weren’t going to describe the nature of that compromising information because they hadn’t been able to vet it or determine whether or not it was really true. But that was a limitation that BuzzFeed quickly decided that they were not going to be constrained by him so very predictably, and almost certainly intentionally from the perspective of whoever leaked this briefing. BuzzFeed then published what is now called the Steele dossier. And that forever altered the course ofRussiagate” [sic]those allegations those scurrilous and ultimately unproven allegations in the Steele dossier. About the Kremlin holding blackmail information over Trump about the sexual and the financial nature and all of the other highly inflammatory inflammatory material ended up shaping what becameRussiagate” [sic] and at least the first two to three years of the Trump presidency leaked by the very, very same people who were in the process of now exploiting the failure to close the Flynn investigation to also investigate.

Glenn seems to insinuate here that FBI leaked the Steele dossier to Buzzfeed. David Kramer did (and in fact, FBI didn’t have one of reports in the dossier that got leaked yet, so they couldn’t have leaked it).

His claim that the Steele dossier changed the Russian investigation is precisely the claim Paul Manafort started pushing after meeting a top Deripaska aide in Europe in early 2017, suggesting that was the point if the dossier was Russian disinformation. But there’s a difference between saying that the dossier was the basis of public reporting on Trump — in the same way that Clinton Cash was the basis of public reporting on the Clinton Foundation — and saying it drove the FBI’s work in the wake of its leak.

It is clear that the FBI used the Steele dossier to establish probable cause in the Carter Page applications even after it learned information that should have led it to stop. The FBI also used the publication of the dossier as an excuse to interview George Papadopoulos. But there’s no basis to believe it impacted the others, including Flynn. For example, the draft closing document on Flynn only made one reference to a CHS (which is how FBI treated Steele) and it clearly wasn’t a reference to Steele. And the predication of the investigation into Michael Cohen made no mention of the dossier, even though the most inflammatory claims in the dossier were about him.

So while the dossier may have mattered to Glenn and other people not actually following the evidence closely, aside from the very notable example of the Carter Page FISA application, the FBI primarily used it as an excuse to interview George Papadopoulos. For everyone else, there’s no evidence it played a big role.

Claim without evidence: David Ignatius should go to prison for his Kislyak leak

In his treatment of the inexcusable leak to David Ignatius, Glenn suggests that leak was more criminal than anything else (even though Glenn himself has published such information), claiming that someone leaked “NSA intercepts.”

The Washington Post David Ignatius, who has built a career, receiving leaks from the CIA and publishing what the CIA wants him to publish published a column in which he revealed for the first time that the NSA had monitored the conversations between General Flynn on the one hand and Ambassador Kislyak on the other and after that, the contents of the communications between General Flynn Ambassador Kislyak were elite to both the Washington Post and the New York Times, which published in detail what those communications were. Now the reason that’s so striking is because under the law, it is a crime, obviously, to leak classified information of any kind, any information that’s classified, if somebody inside the government leaks it to a journalist, that’s a crime. But there’s only a narrow number of types of information that can become a crime for the journalists to actually publish it. The most serious kind of information is not only a crime for that leaker to leak to the journalists, but for the journalists to publish it. And one of those types of information is exactly the type that people inside the intelligence community leaked in order to destroy the reputation of General Flynn, namely intercepts by the NSA, of the communications of foreign officials. And the reason that the intelligence community in the law regards leaks of that type. So grave is such a grave offense is obvious because it has the potential to ruin the ability of the NSA to continue to monitor that information by alerting the adversary that they have access to that communication. If you look at the relevant law, which is title 18 of the US Code Section 798 that specifies when it’s a crime not just to leak classified information, but for a journalist to publish it. It specifies exactly the kind of information that people inside the government are leaking against General Flynn that’s how far they were willing to go that law reads quote, whoever knowingly and willfully communicates or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person or publishes any class government shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both. Now, you can see it explicitly provides that the crime is not just leaking. But publishing it’s one of the few types of leaks where you can actually criminalize the journalist now I’m against this law.

As noted above, these were FBI intercepts (though that likely doesn’t change the Espionage Act analysis).

I don’t defend the leak to Ignatius (and raised questions about it contemporaneously). But it’s important to note several things: it is sourced in a way — senior US government official — that could be second-hand (which is what Comey seemed to believe), could be an Original Classification Authority (Flynn’s team has accused James Clapper of the leak), which would not actually be a leak or illegal — it would be directly equivalent to many of the releases Ric Grenell has recently made — or could be a member of Congress. Glenn accused a vague “they” of leaking it with no evidence that the FBI did it.

Indeed, one thing Barr’s DOJ reclassified in the motion to dismiss is a detail from McCabe’s notes of his call with Flynn reflecting real concern about the leaks.

This was first shared with Judge Sullivan in unredacted form when he took Flynn’s plea in December 2018. This version is, in some respects, more classified than a version released last May. For example, last May DOJ revealed that McCabe agreed with Flynn that leaks were a problem.

Today’s version redacts that line as classified.

Similarly, the frothy right has totally misrepresented Strzok and Page’s concerns about the leak of Carter Page’s FISA order.

Also, there’s nothing in the Ignatius column that necessarily proves he got the content of the call, which is a closer case than Glenn makes out here under 18 USC 798.

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.

Glenn has published a great deal of information that would violate this law, claiming it served the public interest. He is here substituting his judgment for Ignatius and the leaker in the same way others have questioned his and Snowden’s judgment.

Schrodinger’s Materiality: Bill Barr’s DOJ Has an Active Filing Arguing Flynn’s Lies Were Material

Bill Barr’s DOJ has this to say about whether Mike Flynn’s lies to the FBI on January 24, 2017 were material.

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.

[snip]

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. 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.

You might be forgiven for believing that Bill Barr’s DOJ didn’t made a vigorous argument to Judge Emmet Sullivan that Flynn’s lies were material, one that remains active before Sullivan, because almost no coverage of recent events concerning Flynn accounts for the posture of the case, in which there are at least four pending decisions before Sullivan. Several of those active representations argue Flynn’s lies were material.

Instead, coverage claims that Bill Barr’s DOJ believes that Flynn’s lies were in no way material. It is true that, in a motion to dismiss the case submitted last week, Bill Barr’s DOJ argued the lies weren’t material.

The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue. Moreover, we not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.

[snip]

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. Whatever gaps in his memory Mr. Flynn might or might not reveal upon an interview regurgitating the content of those calls would not have implicated legitimate counterintelligence interests or somehow exposed Mr. Flynn as beholden to Russia.

I know journalists are used to covering the Trump administration as a series of independent outrages, each one drowning out a prior newly inoperative one. But in courts, statements from a given party are presumed to have continuity, at least until those statements are resolved legally.

DOJ, generally, is assumed to have continuity in any proceeding, even between Administrations, and generally only changes position when the law or an interpretation of it changes, and as such would apply to all affected parties.

That’s all the more true within the span of one Administration. And in this case, Trump’s Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed Flynn’s lies were material when he approved false statement charges against Flynn in December 2017, Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s DOJ argued Flynn’s lies were material when DOJ moved to sentencing in December 2018, Bill Barr’s DOJ argued “the FBI was engaged in a legitimate and significant investigation,” when it successfully defeated a request to dismiss the prosecution last fall, and Barr’s DOJ argued Flynn’s lies were material in January.

It is true that Barr’s DOJ has provided a claimed basis for changing its mind about the legitimacy of the investigation into Flynn and the materiality of the lies he told. It cites “newly discovered and disclosed information” as well as “recently declassified information.”

After a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information appended to the defendant’s supplemental pleadings, ECF Nos. 181, 188-190,1 the Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn—a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an “absence of any derogatory information.”

1 This review not only included newly discovered and disclosed information, but also recently declassified information as well.

Not only is the reference to “newly declassified information” a tell that this information is claimed only to be new to Flynn, the motion to dismiss does none of the things legal filings are supposed to do to substantiate claims like this. There’s no declaration from Jeffrey Jensen describing the reasons for his review and explaining how, over three years into this investigation, he came to discover “new” information that hadn’t been considered by Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker and Bill Barr or Robert Mueller and Jessie Liu when DOJ had previously argued this was a legitimate investigation. There’s no declaration from a Records Officer explaining how it is that the two files claimed to be new evaded anyone’s attention all these years and proving these documents hadn’t been reviewed by DOJ before. There’s not even a description in the filing specifying what it is that DOJ is claiming to be new, there’s just a citation to docket entries of stuff that was newly turned over to Flynn.

Plus, all of the facts on which this motion to dismiss relies — that the FBI hadn’t found anything in its counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, but decided to keep it open in early January 2017 when they discovered the Kislyak transcripts, and that people in DOJ and FBI had conflicting understandings of the status of the investigation leading up to the interview — has not only been known to DOJ but has been public since March 22, 2018, when Republicans released it in their Russian Report.

Director Comey testified that he authorized the closure of the CI investigation into General Flynn by late December 2016; however, the investigation was kept open due to the public discrepancy surrounding General Flynn’s communications with Ambassador Kislyak. [redacted] Deputy Director McCabe stated that, “we really had not substantiated anything particularly significant against General Flynn,” but did not recall that a closure was imminent.

[snip]

The Committee received conflicting testimony from Deputy Attorney General  (DAG) Yates, Director Comey, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General McCord, and Deputy Director McCabe about whether the primary purpose of the interview was investigating potentially misleading statements to the Vice President, which the Vice President echoed publicly about the content of those calls; a possible violation of the Logan Act; or a desire to obtain more information as part of the counterintelligence investigation into General Flynn.

Sullivan knows well that DOJ knew of this information, because he litigated a long dispute over this information starting in August and wrote an opinion on it in December. He even reviewed two of the 302s the government relies heavily on — those of Mary McCord and Sally Yates — to make sure the summaries DOJ gave to Flynn were sufficient, which is pretty good proof that DOJ knew about them and their representations about the almost-closed investigation and the discussions about the multiple things FBI was investigating. Billy Barr claimed in his interview that this was new to him — something he has not done in a representation to the court — but then described just what appears in the passage from the HPSCI Report, something which was public (and circumstances to which he alluded in his confirmation hearing). In fact, FBI has gone on the record to say that these records had already been shared with DOJ IG (which completed a report in December that didn’t treat them as unusual) and the John Durham inquiry (which began a year ago).

With regard to certain documents in the Michael Flynn matter from the 2016-2017 time period that are now the subject of reporting by the press, the FBI previously produced those materials to the Inspector General and U.S. Attorney Durham,” the FBI said.

So these documents aren’t even new to oversight elements in DOJ outside of the prosecutorial team that argued for the materiality of this case. Because the documents are not new to DOJ, DOJ has offered no valid reason to flip-flop about its view on the legitimacy of the investigation and the materiality of Flynn’s lies.

All the more so given one more detail about this case. Before prosecutors submitted the sentencing memo in January that made an aggressive case for the legitimacy of the prosecution and the materiality of Flynn’s lies, they had to get two extensions to secure the necessary approvals. In December, prosecutors got a week extension for their sentencing memo to get approval from the “multiple individuals and entities” who would need to approve it.

There are multiple individuals and entities who must review and approve the government’s submission, including any changes from the government’s prior sentencing memorandum and its specific sentencing recommendations.

Then, on January 6, the government asked for and got one more day.

As the government represented in its initial motion, there are multiple individuals and entities who must review and approve the government’s submission, including any changes from the government’s prior sentencing memorandum and its specific sentencing recommendations. The government has worked assiduously over the holidays to complete this task, but we find that we require an additional 24 hours to do so. The government respectfully requests that this Court extend the government’s deadline to provide its supplemental sentencing memorandum to Tuesday, January 7, 2020, at 12:00 p.m.

Having twice granted extensions so prosecutors could be sure they got all the approvals they needed for their sentencing memorandum, and absent any claim since they didn’t secure those approvals, Judge Sullivan would be well-justified in treating that sentencing memorandum arguing forcefully for the legitimacy of the investigation into Flynn as the view of the entire DOJ, up to and including the Attorney General.

And since DOJ’s claims to have discovered “new” information since then are not supported by any proof and are in fact refuted by the public record, he has good reason to treat the earlier representations from Bill Barr’s DOJ as the operative one.

In Judge Sullivan’s court, Bill Barr’s DOJ’s claim that Flynn’s lies are material remains an active legal claim in support of sentencing, even while Bill Barr’s DOJ claims something entirely different in opposition to continuing the prosecution. Even Bill Barr has conceded that Judge Sullivan gets to decide whether to accept the motion to dismiss. If Sullivan rejects it, he can move immediately to sentencing, relying on Bill Barr’s DOJ’s argument that Flynn’s lies were material. Bill Barr is arguing with himself here.

Flynn’s supporters have started to argue that Sullivan’s appointment of John Gleeson conflicts with the recent SCOTUS decision in Sineneng-Smith which prohibits courts from seeking out opinions from parties not before the court to present issues that haven’t otherwise been presented.

One week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 9-0 decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, that took judges to task for similar amicus antics. Her opinion for the Court in U.S. v. Sineneng-Smith upbraided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for violating a basic aspect of legal proceedings called the “party presentation principle.” In a nutshell, this concept dictates that judges must decide the case as presented by the parties before them. They are not to go out questing for dragons to slay (or issues to tackle) that the parties have not brought before them. As J. Ginsburg put it: “[C]ourts are essentially passive instruments of government … They ‘do not, or should not, sally forth each day looking for wrongs to right. [They] wait for cases to come to [them], and when [cases arise, courts] normally decide only questions presented by the parties.”

That’s not what’s happening here. Judge Sullivan is asking Gleeson to argue the view of a party that remains before the court: that of DOJ, which argued in December 2017 and in December 2018 and in November 2019 and in January 2020 that Flynn’s lies are material and the prosecution just. The issues of materiality have been before the court since 2017, and DOJ has argued for the materiality of Flynn’s lies vigorously. I have no idea what Sullivan plans to do with respect to additional testimony. But even based on the public record as it exists today (not least because the motion to dismiss egregiously misrepresents the exhibits it relies on and in them, presented evidence that the purpose of the Flynn interview was clear), Gleeson could easily substantiate DOJ’s still active representation before Judge Sullivan’s court (in their still-pending sentencing memorandum) that Flynn was rightly prosecuted for material lies to the FBI.

Unlike Trump, Bill Barr doesn’t get to just ignore claims his own DOJ has made in the past. He can claim he has reason to reverse those claims, but there, too, Sullivan has discretion. DOJ would have to ask leave to modify its sentencing recommendation, and provide proof lacking here they have reason to do so. As it stands, however, DOJ has not asked to modify the sentencing recommendation, and thus their claims about materiality remain before Sullivan unchanged, sitting there in the docket right next to Bill Barr’s DOJ’s radically different claims.

There has been some shitty commentary presenting Bill Barr’s motion to withdraw as a Both-Sides issue, but totally misconstruing which are the two sides, claiming it pits DOJ against critics.

The Justice Department argues that the FBI shouldn’t have conducted its Jan. 24, 2017, interview of Flynn, because the bureau was already aware through phone intercepts of what he had discussed with the Russian ambassador and there wasn’t proper justification for continuing the investigation of Flynn. That request to dismiss, put forward by Attorney General William Barr, has been criticized by nearly 2,000 former Justice Department officials and hailed by Trump and his supporters.

But it totally misconstrues the two sides here. They are Bill Barr’s DOJ versus Bill Barr’s DOJ.

This is the rare opportunity where the kind of Both-Sides journalism the Beltway press loves to practice has merit. On one side, there’s Bill Barr’s DOJ, which has a currently active argument that Mike Flynn’s lies were material to a legitimate investigation. On the other side, there’s Bill Barr’s DOJ, which has a different argument (one that conflicts with the exhibits presented with it) that because there was no legitimate investigation at the time, Mike Flynn’s lies were not material.

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.

Bill Barr Did Not Provide the Most Important Exhibit to His Mike Flynn Dismissal Motion: The Call Transcripts

There’s a giant hole in Bill Barr’s motion to dismiss the Mike Flynn prosecution: the call transcripts of the General’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

The Timothy Shea-signed motion claimed that the transcripts showed “arms-length communications” which provided no suggestion that Flynn might be “directed and controlled” by Russia.

Nor was anything said on the calls themselves to indicate an inappropriate relationship between Mr. Flynn and a foreign power. Indeed, Mr. Flynn’s request that Russia avoid “escalating” tensions in response to U.S. sanctions in an effort to mollify geopolitical tensions was consistent with him advocating for, not against, the interests of the United States. At bottom, the arms-length communications gave no indication that Mr. Flynn was being “directed and controlled by … the Russian federation,” much less in a manner that “threat[ened] … national security.” Ex. 1 at 2, Ex. 2 at 2. They provided no factual basis for positing that Mr. Flynn had violated FARA. Nor did the calls remotely transform Mr. Flynn into a “viable candidate as part of the larger … umbrella case” into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Ex. 1 at 3.

Significantly, Shea doesn’t cite the transcripts here! He cites the Electronic Communication opening the investigation against Flynn and the draft EC closing the Flynn case written 20 days before the Flynn interview. Moreover, he mis-cites the opening EC so as to suggest (as he does elsewhere in the memo), falsely, that Flynn was only being investigated under FARA, which usually has a public component, and not 18 USC 951, which more often does not.

This, then, is an assertion for which Barr provides no evidentiary backup.

Barr makes the assertion in a filing that includes several pieces of evidence that directly conflict with this judgment.

As I’ve noted, Mary McCord thought the idea of a call between the incoming National Security Advisor and the Russian Ambassador was “logical” until she reviewed the transcripts of the calls. “After reading them, she felt they were ‘worse’ than she initially thought,” in part because, “Flynn proactively raised the issue of sanctions.”

The Sally Yates 302 seems to suggest that as soon as Andrew McCabe read the transcripts it was clear Flynn was lying because he didn’t really engage in the conversation until sanctions came up (a view that is entirely consistent with McCord’s view, though Barr did not provide McCabe’s 302 for us to compare more directly).

This passage may also suggest that Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka did not read the full transcripts of the calls before the interview, which would explain why they might have relied on whether Flynn gave indications he was lying. If that’s true, it would also undermine other key claims made in this motion, most notably that the agents knew everything the transcripts said.

As for Yates herself, she provided Don McGahn several reasons why she believed these transcripts were troubling. Part of that description, as well as two of the examples she provided to substantiate the description, are redacted.

But Yates is specific: the “back and forth” between Kislyak and Flynn was contrary to the descriptions Flynn had offered publicly about the calls. Importantly, Yates’ description rebuts the Shea motion’s claim that this was an “arms-length” conversation.

Which is to say, in a key passage dismissing the possibility that the call transcripts included evidence that Flynn might have a relationship with Russia that could damage national security, the motion provides no evidence and in fact mis-cites something inapt as proof. But elsewhere, the filing does provide evidence about the call transcripts, and that evidence directly refutes the claim. Moreover, the filing redacts a number of other passages that go directly to the claim.

Importantly, whether or not the transcripts showed some reason to think Flynn’s relationship with Russia might affect national security is not an issue that Barr can invoke exclusive Executive judgment on, something on which judges generally defer to the Executive. The record shows that two Acting Attorneys General — one (Rod Rosenstein) appointed by Trump — already deemed the transcripts to include such evidence. Here, Barr isn’t even on the record making the claim. Just an Acting US Attorney who has not been Senate confirmed is.

A year ago, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the government to provide the transcripts of the calls between Flynn and Kislyak.

The government is hereby ORDERED to file on the public docket in this case the transcript of the “voicemail recording” referenced in the 75 Addendum to Government’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing and the transcripts of any other audio recordings of Mr. Flynn, including, but not limited to, audio recordings of Mr. Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials, by no later than May 31, 2019.

In response, the government obliquely said no, because they were not relying on those recordings for sentencing, effectively pointing out that no claims entered into evidence had relied on the transcripts (by the time Flynn pled guilty, he himself had provided evidence that he lied, and so they didn’t need to rely on the transcripts).

The government further represents that it is not relying on any other recordings, of any person, for purposes of establishing the defendant’s guilt or determining his sentence, nor are there any other recordings that are part of the sentencing record.

Now, however, the transcripts are utterly central to the claims the government is making. Indeed, the only evidence about the transcripts submitted with this motion rebuts the government’s claim.

Emmet Sullivan would be totally within his authority to require the government to provide the actual evidence on which they make at this point unsubstantiated claims in this filing.

Mike Flynn has been demanding these transcripts for quite some time. Given the declassification spree that Barr and Ric Grenell have been on, I would imagine they would have been made public if they helped Flynn at all. So I’m guessing Yates and McCord provided a more accurate description of these transcripts than Timothy Shea.

The Logan Act Is Just the Cherry on Mike Flynn’s Foreign Agent Sundae

There’s an ironic line in Billy Barr’s CBS interview this week, where he acknowledges that prosecutors can become too wedded to a particular outcome.

These are very smart people who were working in the special counsel’s office, and in senior levels of the FBI. So what drove them here?

Well, I think one of the things you have to guard against, both as a prosecutor and I think as an investigator, is that if you get too wedded to a particular outcome and you’re pursuing a particular agenda, you close your eyes to anything that sort of doesn’t fit with your preconception. And I think that’s probably the phenomenon we’re looking at here.

That’s because Barr and Sidney Powell have the frothy right chasing the Logan Act like six year olds after a soccer ball as if that was the only basis to interview Mike Flynn on January 24, 2017. It’s unclear whether frothy commenters have been duped by Barr’s guile, or they just haven’t read the record.

The record is crystal clear, however: When the investigation into Mike Flynn was opened on August 16, 2016, he was being investigated as a witting or unwitting Agent of a Foreign Power (Barr’s DOJ — and DOJ IG — have both made the same error in suggesting this was just about FARA, but the investigation was also predicated under 18 USC 951). Timothy Shea conceded in his motion to dismiss the prosecution that that investigation was never closed. And evidence from three different contemporaneous witnesses — Jim Comey, Mary McCord, and Bill Priestap — say that’s why the FBI interviewed Flynn on January 24, 2017.

Bill Priestap made clear that they did this interview to find out whether Flynn was acting as an agent for Russia.

The FBI’s provided rationale for doing the interview was that the existence of the investigation had already leaked, so Flynn was already aware that the information was being discussed publicly and there was no element of surprise. Priestap told the group the goal of the interview was whether to determine whether or not Flynn was in a clandestine relationship with the Russians.

That’s what Comey said, too.

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

The Priestap notes that the frothy right is pointing to as proof of abuse makes quite clear that the point of the interview was not to create a perjury trap, but to see whether Flynn would be honest about his relationship with the Russians.

Bob Litt, who (per these same records) was the first person to raise the Logan Act, analyzed the ways that Timothy Shea’s motion conflicts with the FBI’s DIOG. He described the interview to be, first and foremost, about counterintelligence.

The attorney general and his minions are making the astounding argument that when the FBI—aware of extensive Russian interference in U.S. politics in order to benefit the Trump campaign—learned that the incoming national security advisor requested that Russia not respond to the sanctions that were imposed in response to that interference and then lied to other government officials about that, it could not even “collect information or facts to determine” whether this created a counterintelligence threat. This cannot be right. Even if the prior investigation into Flynn had been closed, which it had not, these circumstances at a minimum justified an assessment under standard FBI policy.

In fact, the department’s motion virtually concedes the point. It dismisses Flynn’s lies to Pence and Spicer by saying that “[h]ad the FBI been deeply concerned about the disparities between what they knew had been said on the calls and the representations of Vice President Pence or Mr. Spicer, it would have sought to speak with them directly, but did not.” But that would be a kind of investigative activity, and under the DIOG, either the FBI has a basis to investigate or it doesn’t. If the facts justified talking to Pence about Flynn, they justified talking to Flynn.

Once you have a predicated investigation into 18 USC 951, adding another potential crime (the Logan Act) does not change that the investigation into 18 USC 951 remained, per Shea, ongoing.

In his interview, Barr misrepresents the record to claim what Flynn did — undermining the punishment imposed on a hostile foreign country after they attacked us — was “laudable.”

They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition. So.

[snip]

Let me say that, at that point, he was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.

And that call, there was nothing wrong with it whatever. In fact, it was laudable. He– and it was nothing inconsistent with the Obama administration’s policies. And it was in U.S. interests. He was saying to the Russians, you know, “Don’t escalate.” And they asked him if he remembered saying that, and he said he didn’t remember that.

There are several problems with this claim.

For starters, at first, Mary McCord agreed with this take. She dismissed the call for the same reasons Barr still does — that this was just the typical communication between an incoming national security team and foreign leaders.

Two things changed her mind.

The first was the evidence that Flynn was lying about what he did to others in the incoming Administration.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners, so the Logan Act seemed like a stretch to her. She described the matter as “concerning” but with no particular urgency. In early January, McCord did not think people were considering briefing the incoming administration. However, that changed when Vice President Michael Pence went on Face the Nation and said things McCord knew to be untrue. Also, as time went on, and then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made comments about Flynn’s actions she knew to be false, the urgency grew.

It is normal for officials in incoming Administrations to reach out to foreign leaders. But it is not the norm for incoming officials to freelance, to set policy that no one else in the Administration knows about. And the public evidence at the time the FBI interviewed Flynn was that he had done this on his own and was actively hiding it form his colleagues (as indeed the current record says he was).

The record that Barr distorted in this interview shows that FBI was in a holding pattern until there was public evidence that Flynn had lied to others in the Administration, which not only changed the calculus about warning the Administration, but created urgency to take an investigative step FBI might not otherwise have done.

The other thing that changed McCord’s mind about whether this was the normal pre-inauguration outreach was reading the transcript.

After reading them, she felt they were “worse” than she initially thought; she noted that her recollection of them is that Flynn proactively raised the issue of sanctions, and she feels it is hard to believe he would forget talking about something he raised himself.

Sally Yates described Flynn make a series of asks, some of which remain classified.

And McCord wasn’t the only one who responded that way. Once Mike Pence and Reince Priebus read the transcripts, Flynn was out the door the next day.

Notably, even though Ric Grenell is in the middle of a declassification spree, neither he nor Barr have chosen to declassify the actual transcripts here, even though Flynn has requested them repeatedly. Barr’s DOJ is also withholding other details that would describe the reaction of Administration officials to reading the transcript in the Buzzfeed FOIA. So it’s easy for Barr to claim this was normal, but a career prosecutor who read the transcripts said they weren’t, and Barr is deliberately withholding information that would let us test that claim.

This is why DOJ’s materiality argument fails, too. Had Flynn told the truth, the FBI might have had reason to treat this as the normal pre-inauguration contact. But once he lied, the FBI had more reason to continue investigating, to try to figure out why he lied. All the more so given that Flynn was hiding his other Foreign Agent relationship with Turkey at the time.

If Flynn’s behavior were, as Barr claims, “laudable,” then he would have simply admitted it. Once he lied about it, the FBI had more reason to suspect he had been freelancing, deliberately undermining American policy without the sanction and knowledge of others in the Trump Administration.

Only one thing explains Barr’s view, and it is damning. The FBI had reason to investigate anyway, and as Litt correctly lays out, these actions were solidly within the guidelines laid out in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. But the only way to conclude, as Barr has, that Flynn’s actions — calling up the Russian Ambassador and telling him not to worry about the sanctions imposed for helping Trump get elected — are not clear cut evidence that he was clandestinely operating as an Agent of Russia is if Trump told him to do it.

That doesn’t make it laudable. But it is as close as we’ve ever come to an admission that Flynn did this not just with the knowledge of, but on orders from, Trump. That’s probably why Trump is boasting about learning from Nixon right now: Because unlike Nixon, he got away with cheating to win an election.

Damning New Details from Mary McCord and Sally Yates

I wanted to point to some details from documents — the Sally Yates and Mary McCord 302s — submitted by DOJ yesterday in their bid to get out of the Mike Flynn prosecution. DOJ presumably submitted them for the way they show Jim Comey acting like Jim Comey, taking actions without approval from political leadership at DOJ in a failed attempt to politicize something. That he had done so was known, these 302s provide DOJ’s side of that story.

The 302s provide a bit more detail about how alarming the Mike Flynn transcripts were, though. For example, before McCord saw the transcripts, she assumed Flynn’s calls were simply an incoming Administration reaching out to foreign counterparts.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners, so the Logan Act seemed like a stretch to her. She described the matter as “concerning” but with no particular urgency. In early January, McCord did not think people were considering briefing the incoming administration. However, that changed when Vice President Michael Pence went on Face the Nation and said things McCord knew to be untrue. Also, as time went on, and then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made comments about Flynn’s actions she knew to be false, the urgency grew.

But when she actually read them, she realized they were worse than that. Specifically, she was surprised that Flynn had raised sanctions himself; the discussion didn’t come from Sergey Kislyak.

McCord did not recall exactly when she saw the transcripts of the Flynn calls, but believed she asked to see them after Pence’s statements about Flynn on Face the Nation. [Agent note: Pence was on Face the Nation on January 15, 2017.] McCord believed she probably had the transcripts by January 19, 2017, possibly having come over SIPRnet from Strzok. After reading them, she felt they were “worse” than she initially thought; she noted that her recollection of them is that Flynn proactively raised the issue of sanctions, and she feels it is hard to believe he would forget talking about something he raised himself.

When Yates talked to Don McGahn about it, she described that one of the problems with the calls but that Flynn made specific requests of Kislyak. Given these redactions, they must include stuff beyond the two issues that appear in Flynn’s own 302: the sanctions and the UN request.

And it wasn’t just McCord who took this more seriously when she saw the transcripts themselves. Her 302 adds details (which were secondhand from McCabe) to this description from the Mueller Report:

Based on the evidence of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak, McGahn and Priebus concluded that Flynn could not have forgotten the details of the discussions of sanctions and had instead been lying about what he discussed with Kislyak.202 Flynn had also told White House officials that the FB[ had told him that the FBI was closing out its investigation of him,203 but Eisenberg did not believe him.204

McCord describes how Pence went and got the transcripts from his Face the Nation appearance to compare with the Flynn transcripts. And Reince Priebus walked out of the room.

Pence, while reviewing, directed his Chief of Staff to get the transcript of his (Pence’s) Face the Nation interview, which he then compared to [redacted] transcripts. At one point in the meeting, Priebus said he’d seen enough and left the room.

And there are two more details about the White House response of interest. McCord specifically said, “Neither McGahn or Burnham gave any indication they had talked to anyone about the information.” She described that they had seemed “dumbstruck” by the news the previously day. But the following day, according to Yates, there was a very different tone to the meeting.

The second meeting was a distinct “tenor change” from the first. While the first meeting didn’t feel adversarial, McGahn started the second meeting with something like, “What’s it to DOJ if one White House official lies to another?” Yates was a little taken aback by that and explained again the same reasons for their concern that she had the day before. She told McGahn that there was more to this than one official lying to another, and Flynn’s actions themselves were problematic, especially when followed by lies and the public getting a false statement.

Of course, McGahn had talked to other people about the warning. He had spoken with Trump.

Finally, the day after Yates and McCord spoke to Don McGahn about it the second time, John Eisenberg emailed McCord using Flynn’s phone.

On January 28, 2017, McCord received an email from Flynn’s email account, but signed by John Eisenberg, Deputy Counsel for the President for National Security Affairs. The email stated it was a follow-up to McCord’s interactions with McGahn, and asked for a time to have a secure call. Given that the email was from Flynn’s email account, McCord opted not to reply to the email directly.

[snip]

When McCord and Eisenberg connected on the telephone on January 29, 2017, Eisenberg told McCord he had been in Flynn’s office prior to his sending the email to McCord and an assistant had switched his and Flynn’s telephones when giving them back. He explained they had the same password, so Eisenberg accidentally sent the email to McCord from Flynn’s phone.

While the phone confusion is easily explained — Flynn’s office would be a SCIF, so phones would be left outside — the claim they shared passwords is inconceivable.

And, of course, it makes it clear that once Eisenberg got involved, he (the same guy who hid Trump’s Ukraine transcript) started working directly with Flynn on the pushback.

Horowitz

Michael Horowitz’s Credibility Is at Risk

I’m generally a fan of Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s Inspector General.

For example, unlike many people, I think the Inspector General report on Andrew McCabe makes a credible case that the Deputy Director got caught being less than fully forthcoming with the IG — though I also think McCabe’s lawsuit has merit and expect his claim that the report itself was not completed in proper fashion may prove key to that inquiry.

But yesterday’s Comey report — and the office’s continued failure to release a report on the non-Comey leaking that hurt Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election — threatens to do grave damage to his credibility.

As I laid out in this piece at The New Republic, I think the IG Report captures the way Comey didn’t meet the standards he set for whistleblowers and Hillary Clinton over his career. I get the feeling IG staffers find Comey just as insufferable as I do!

But that’s a problem, because the case they make that Jim Comey violated FBI rules in retaining memos documenting the highly inappropriate behavior of the President is shoddy, largely because the factual findings laid out make the claim he mishandled classified information dubious and the assessment of whether he released non-public investigative material and whether his memos recorded official acts in no way supports the claims made. The IG probably could have made a solid case on the latter issue; they just didn’t.

For example, there’s the conclusion that Comey improperly disclosed Trump’s request that he drop the investigation into Michael Flynn (i.e. “I hope you can let this go”) to his friend Daniel Richman, who then told the New York Times. For the first time, the report in the second section cites Comey’s colleagues’ response to his action. “Members of Comey’s senior leadership team used the adjectives ‘surprised,’ ‘stunned,’ ‘shocked,’ and ‘disappointment’ to describe their reactions to learning that Comey acted on his own to provide the contents of Memo 4, through Richman, to a reporter.”

The report later also claims there is “no doubt” that his colleagues used those words because he violated the FBI duty to safeguard investigative matters. But if there were truly no doubt, then the report could have shown that by citing those witnesses stating that themselves. Since the report relies on this language in its analysis of two different findings, those reactions should be included, with full context, in the factual findings section.

Then there’s the report’s claim that, in releasing that same memo, Comey had revealed non-public investigative information. To back this up, the report includes two lengthy footnotes on former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’s extensive testimony to Congress about her discussion with White House Counsel Don McGahn about Flynn—testimony that revealed a great deal about the status of the FBI’s Flynn investigation as it existed on the day she got fired. These footnotes attempt to argue that Yates’s disclosures were less substantive than Comey’s repeated references to Trump describing the calls Flynn had made to Russia’s ambassador (calls that were publicly disclosed) and insisting that Flynn had done nothing wrong. The second footnote describes that information by asserting, “Comey’s disclosure of Memo 4 provided the public with details relevant to the Flynn investigation.”

But what Yates’s testimony demonstrates is that Yates had, without objection from the Justice Department, introduced a great deal of information about the investigation into Flynn into the public record before Comey’s disclosure. Furthermore, the report cannot claim that he revealed details about the investigation itself. The actual new information that the memo disclosed was a description of how the president had, in highly unusual fashion, tried to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. The memo could only have disclosed investigative information if the president himself was being investigated—and he wasn’t yet.

The inspector general might have argued that fielding a request from the president to end an ongoing investigation is part of that investigation itself. But it tellingly does not lay out that case, instead merely claiming that such a request is “relevant” to the investigation.

Perhaps most problematically, the report provides abundant evidence of how unusual were Trump’s efforts to intervene in ongoing investigations, how his efforts broke all sorts of DOJ rules designed to protect investigative independence.

More generally, the report does not discuss whether presidential efforts to intervene in investigations, in violation of department rules about proper communication channels and chain of command, constitute the official business of the FBI director. The report does, however, lay out abundant evidence that such efforts are not normal. It quotes former FBI General Counsel Jim Baker stating that any one-on-one meetings are “quite outside the norm of interactions between the FBI Director and a President of the United States.” It describes Baker and Comey’s repeated efforts to address Trump’s direct communications: After Trump asked Comey to let the Flynn investigation go, the report quotes Comey as saying he “took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened—him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen.”

After Trump called Comey directly about an intelligence investigation on March 9, 2017, Comey called then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions immediately, “to keep the Attorney General in the chain of command between [Comey] and the President.” The last memo records Comey reviewing again the proper channels for the president to intervene in investigations; the report’s discussion of it notes that Comey’s chief of staff shared the details in real time with the proper chain of command.

Is this what constitutes official business? This is what the inspect general’s report would have you believe: that the president asking Comey to do things that break the FBI’s rules is part of the FBI director’s job—and hence, Comey is at fault for airing that official business to his associates and ultimately the press. The report treats a memo recording the president demanding that he “‘lift the cloud’ created by the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election” as official business, implying that Comey should have done what the president asked of him.

As the report reveals, a whistleblower provided a full copy of Comey’s memos to the IG Department. At that point, then, the IG had solid documentation of all the ways Jeff Sessions and others had failed to protect the independence of the Department.

There’s no sign the IG investigated that problem, which remains ongoing.

Instead, after months of pressure from Trump, it instead made a weak case that Comey broke the rules, without assessing all the other urgent problems revealed by the memos.

I actually don’t think the IG produced this report in response to pressure from Trump. The facts they do lay out — to the extent they lay out the facts — aren’t that supportive of Trump.

But I do think the IG presents abundant evidence of other problems at DOJ that remain pressing. And instead of focusing on those, they instead made a weak case against Jim Comey.

I don’t like Jim Comey’s sanctimony either. But given the way the IG focuses on Comey to the detriment of the other violations of DOJ process, it suggests this investigation was affected by more personal animus than anything Peter Strzok did.

Aspiring Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe Does Not Want DOJ’s Mob Experts Exchanging Information with Mob Experts

Last night, President Trump announced that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is resigning, effective August 15, and will be replaced by Congressman John Ratcliffe, who is totally unqualified for the job, but who said mean things to Robert Mueller the other day, which makes him the perfect Trump pick.

There will be many controversial steps in installing Ratcliffe (not least that Sue Gordon, currently the Principal Deputy, should take over as Acting DNI when Coats leaves, but Trump seems to have a plan to ignore the law that mandates that).

But I also think Ratcliffe’s confirmation process will be troubled, and not just because he’s totally unqualified for the job. Because he has been one of the key players into the Republican investigation into the Trump investigation, there are a bunch of transcripts of him acting really stupid in depositions, even more stupid than he acted in public in the Mueller hearing. As I noted in this post, in Michael Cohen’s second interview with HPSCI, for example, Ratcliffe got his ass handed to him by Cooley Law graduate Cohen.

The Republican conspiracy theory about Bruce Ohr depends on a series of misunderstandings

One of the most alarming examples involves the joint Oversight/Judiciary interview of Bruce Ohr.

The Republicans at the time (and still, I assume) believed that Bruce Ohr served as some secret back channel to keep feeding dossier tidbits to the FBI even after Christopher Steele had been fired as an informant for sharing details of his investigation with the press, part of a nefarious plot by Hillary to keep Steele’s intelligence reports flowing at the FBI. The evidence at least suggests that, instead, FBI was using Ohr as a way to monitor what Steele was doing while keeping the Brit completely firewalled from the actual investigation. In spite of being an expert on the topics implicated by the Russian investigation, Ohr was not read into the investigation or the Mueller probe, and had a relationship with Steele going back years. So he was a good way to get informed updates from Steele without risking Steele might learn more about the investigation.

Mr. Ohr. No. I think they just say thank you for the information, and then it disappears into the FBI.

Republicans also believe that Ohr should not have shared information with DOJ and FBI because his wife, Nellie, was doing contract work with Fusion GPS at the time. Virtually every time the Republicans talk about her role, however, they exhibit rank ignorance of the full scope of Fusion’s work for Democrats and Nellie’s role in that, as well as the way that Steele’s work was largely independent of those other efforts (though did respond to questions posed as part of it).

Mr. Ratcliffe. And if you did, then they would have known that your wife was being compensated in part for contributions to what we’ve referred to as the Steele dossier?

Mr. Ohr. Well, just to be careful about that, my wife was researching various entities who are some of the same people mentioned in the dossier.

My understanding of the dossier, and I didn’t look at it that carefully, but it seems to be reports from Chris Steele to Fusion GPS.

So I don’t think my wife’s information, as far as I knew, was reported in those specific reports. It was certainly provided to Fusion, which had both Chris Steele’s reports and my wife’s research.

Nellie did research that didn’t get published (though likely fed a few stories) that probably proved more accurate than Steele’s HUMINT and as such should have been the focus of the oppo campaign. But the public record (and Ohr’s impression knowing Steele’s past work) is that what is known as the dossier was entirely Steele’s work, not edited by Fusion or integrated with information otherwise obtained by them.

Some Republicans (though not Ratcliffe) also seemed to assume in the hearing that it is remarkable that a women qualified to do research on Russia would get hired to do research on Russia, and instead assume there’s some secret plot that got her hired. But as Bruce Ohr made clear several times in the hearing, he alerted the FBI of his wife’s tie to the contractor paying Steele from the very beginning.

Mr. Meadows. So you gave no commentary on the validity of what the source told you or what you thought? You gave no commentary?

Mr. Ohr. I —

Mr. Meadows. Your 302s don’t suggest that.

Mr. Ohr. No. I warned them that my wife work for Fusion GPS.

Mr. Meadows. When did you do that?

Mr. Ohr. When I first spoke with Mr. McCabe

But the core of the frothy Republican conspiracy about Ohr is an effort to shift the timeline of when Steele started feeding information to the FBI back before the investigation into Trump’s associates got opened, so as to be able to claim that Steele’s information predicated not just Carter Page’s FISA application, but the investigation as a whole.

The information Christopher Steele shared in the July 30 meeting is not the same information that appears in the dossier

An early attempt to do this was to point to communications between Steele and Ohr — who had been sharing information on Russian organized crime since 2007 — and claim a Steele reference to Oleg Deripaska was really proof of an early obsession between the two about Trump.

When that conspiracy was debunked, the frothy right then turned to a meeting Ohr and his wife had with Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016, at which Steele provided some information on Russia, including (but not limited to) some information that would eventually show up in the dossier. After the meeting, Ohr, of his own accord,  passed the information onto someone else he had worked organized crime matters with going back years, Andrew McCabe, whose counselor, Lisa Page, happened to be in the room when that meeting took place. That, in turn, led to a meeting with Peter Strzok. But both those meetings (and certainly the Strzok one) took place after the investigation into Trump’s associates had already gotten opened. Nevertheless, Republicans use that Ohr meeting to claim that Steele was trying to gin up an investigation into Trump even before he first formally shared his dossier with the FBI.

There are a few problems with this theory.

First, as noted, what Steele shared with Ohr on July 30, 2016 was not, precisely, what made it into the dossier. Over the course of his testimony, Ohr described four things that Steele shared with him that day.

Mr. Ohr. In the July 30th conversation, one of the items of information that Chris Steele gave to me was that he had information that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, had stated to someone — I didn’t know who — that they had Donald Trump over a barrel.

[snip]

Mr. Ohr. So Chris Steele provided me with basically three items of information. One of them I’ve described to you already, the comment that information supposedly stated and made by the head, former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

He also mentioned that Carter Page had met with certain high-level Russian officials when he was in Moscow. My recollection is at that time, the name Carter Page had already been in the press, and there had been some kind of statement about who he had met with when he went to Moscow. And so the first item that I recall Chris Steele telling me was he had information that Carter Page met with higher-level Russian officials, not just whoever was mentioned in the press article. So that was one item.

And then the third item he mentioned was that Paul Hauser, who was an attorney working for Oleg Deripaska, had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with Oleg Deripaska, had stolen a large amount of money from Oleg Deripaska, and that Paul Hauser was trying to gather information that would show that, you know, or give more detail about what Paul Manafort had done with respect to Deripaska.

[snip]

Q Were there any other topics that were discussed during your July 30, 2016, meeting?

A Yes, there were. Based on my sketchy notes from the time, I think there was some information relating to the Russian doping scandal, but I don’t recall the substance of that.

Those four things are:

  1. A former head of SVR (other Steele dossier notes make it clear that this is Vyacheslav Trubnikov) told someone else who told a Steele source that Russia had Trump “over a barrel.” (Note, Ohr’s telling of this adds to the evidence that the frothy right misread Kathleen Kavalec’s notes about Steele’s intelligence to understand Trubnikov as a source for Steele rather than as someone his source was reporting on.)
  2. Carter Page met with some high ranking Russians when he was on his publicized trip to Moscow in July.
  3. Oleg Deripaska was trying to expose details of Paul Manafort’s “theft” from him.
  4. Something about the Russian doping scandal.

Just item 1 and 2 on this list appear in any form in the dossier. But item 1 — which Ohr repeatedly describes, based off his notes, as stating just that Russia had Trump “over a barrel,” doesn’t mention the pee tape at all. (Remember, the allegations that Russia had a compromising video from Trump’s 2013 trip had been out there since shortly after the trip, and both Hope Hicks and Michael Cohen were aware of and responding to those allegations during the campaign.) Moreover, the general allegation that Russia had some means of embarrassing Trump was already true by that point: he had shown a willingness to work with a former GRU officer, sanctioned banks, and the Russian government to chase an improbably lucrative real estate deal in Moscow, and he had lied about having ongoing business projects with Russia just days before Ohr’s July 30 meeting with Steele.

And while the reference to Page meeting with top Russian officials was used in his FISA application, what appears in the application goes well beyond what Steele appears to have shared in the meeting, to include the apparent promise of kompromat before the DNC emails got released. Notably, Page’s actions in Moscow were one of the things the Mueller Report concludes remain unexplained.

Item 3 — that Trump’s campaign manager was at risk of being hit with damning new accusations by a very powerful Russian oligarch — doesn’t show up in the dossier, but was actually true and serves as crucial background to Manafort’s ongoing efforts, just days later, to share campaign information with Deripaska not just to stave off such disclosures, but also to restore his old role installing leaders who would be favorable to Deripaska business interests.

And item 4 has nothing to do with Trump at all, but was a subject of real interest to the FBI, not least because the same GRU officers who conducted the hack of the DNC were — at precisely the time this meeting took place — beginning a similar campaign against international anti-doping agencies.

In other words, none of the things Steele shared with Ohr at that first meeting have proven untrue (though the allegations about Page probably are not true). And the two details that go beyond the dossier — that Manafort was under pressure from Deripaska and that Russian continued to engage with its doping scandal — are not just true, but were unequivocally issues of urgent interest to the FBI.

John Ratcliffe thinks the FBI should remain ignorant about Russian organized crime

And John Ratcliffe, the guy who wants to oversee the entire intelligence community, didn’t think that one of DOJ’s foremost experts in Russian organized crime, Ohr, should learn what he could from another recognized expert in Russian organized crime, Steele, and pass on what he learned to another government expert in Russian organized crime, McCabe.

He grilled Ohr at length, suggesting that it was improper for him to share information with another expert in Russian organized crime, and improper for him to pass on information he obtained to the agents who could vet and, if credible. use the information.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And one of those was shortly after you met with Christopher Steele. On July 30, you had a meeting with Andy McCabe and Lisa Page.

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

[snip]

Mr. Ratcliffe. And it was sometime, you believe, in August, because it was shortly after the meeting with Christopher Steele?

Mr. Ohr. Probably, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And that was because, at that point in time, you wanted the FBI to have that information and be aware of your contact with Christopher Steele?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Did anyone prompt that call to Andy McCabe?

Mr. Ohr. No, I don’t think so. I think that was me. Just me.

Mr. Ratcliffe. You, out of just an idea that that was the appropriate thing to do?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. But you also thought it was appropriate to be communicating with Christopher Steele.

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. Even though you don’t have any authority, apparently.

Mr. Ohr. He is just calling me or meeting with me, as we had done on and off for many years. So if he tells me something that is of interest or concern, I pass that to the FBI.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And you said something about you thought that was your job.

Mr. Ohr. Yes. Part of my job, as I saw it, as having been for a long time responsible for organized crime at the Department, was to try to gather as much information or introduce the FBI to possible sources of information, whatever ways to further the program’s goals.

In fact, as Ohr explained in his interview, he had been sharing information with Steele going back almost a decade.

A I believe I met Chris Steele for the first time around 2007. That was an official meeting. At that time, he was still employed by the British Government. I went to London to talk with British Government officials about Russian organized crime and what they were doing to look at the threat, and the FBI office at the U.S. Embassy in London set up a meeting. That was with Chris Steele. And there were other members of different British Government agencies there. And we met and had a discussion. And afterwards, I believe the agent and I spoke with Chris Steele further over lunch. That was, I think, the first time I met him.

Q And you said that Mr. Steele worked for the British Government at the time. Was that at MI-6?

A Yes.

Q And you said in this meeting that he was one of several British Government employees at the meeting?

A Yes.

Q So, based on that introduction, is it fair to say that your contacts with Christopher Steele began as a, you know, shared professional specialization?

A Yes.

Q And that specialization would be Russian organized crime?

A Yes.

In other words, John Ratcliffe wants to make a big deal out of the fact that DOJ’s top person on organized crime was trying to combat organized crime by collecting and sharing information on organized crime. This is the guy Trump wants to be be in charge of the entire intelligence community.

Ratcliffe objects that Ohr shared information with career employees and not his political appointee boss

Ratcliffe didn’t just object that Bruce Ohr compared notes with other experts on Russian organized crime, he also objected to the fact that Ohr passed that information along not to political appointees — who according to the conspiracy theories could then use the information as part of an ultimately unsuccessful Deep State plot to undermine Trump — but instead to career people who could actually decide what to do with the information.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. But yet Sally Yates — she was your boss, right?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. You said she didn’t know that you were talking to Steele or Simpson?

Mr. Ohr. Correct.

Mr. Ratcliffe. How do you know she didn’t know?

Mr. Ohr. Well, I didn’t tell her.

[snip]

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. So, again, going back to the Sally Yates issue, is it your testimony that at some point in time as you were sitting down with the FBI for the purpose of talking to them about information that you were helping to coordinate from Christopher Steele that you shouldn’t have advised or didn’t advise Sally Yates about the fact that you were being interviewed for that purpose?

Mr. Ohr. I did not inform Sally Yates that I was talking to the FBI and that I was receiving information from Chris Steele. That’s correct.

Mr. Ratcliffe. My question is, did you have the thought that it might be a good idea to let my boss know that I’m being interviewed by the FBI?

Mr. Ohr. It was — my thought at the time was I should get this to the career people who would work on it, but that was my thought.

This is ultimately something that Ohr got disciplined for — not revealing the extent of his contacts with Steele earlier. But it was also the opposite of what he would do if he wanted to politicize the information, and precisely what he would do if he considered it the course of normal information exchange. By keeping this information within career channels, Ohr took the most appropriate step to avoid politicizing it.

It’s also true that, absent some proof that Yates found out about some of the details of Steele’s conversations with Ohr (in particular, how concerned Steele was about the possibility of Trump being elected) before she approved the FISA order on Carter Page, this conspiracy theory doesn’t make any sense. Which may be the real reason Ratcliffe is so infuriated that Ohr claims he didn’t inform Yates about what, to Ohr, was ordinary information sharing.

The echo chamber Ratcliffe occupies would prevent him from keeping America safe

Again, Ratcliffe’s own questioning of one of DOJ’s top experts on organized crime makes it appear that he affirmatively objects to the fact that that expert received true and timely information from another recognized expert and passed it on to another expert.

I actually don’t believe John Ratcliffe really is affirmatively opposed to the FBI receiving as much information about Russian Oligarchs threatening to expose top campaign managers or ongoing Russian efforts to retaliate for having been caught cheating in sports, even though that’s what his questioning of Ohr necessarily presumes. I think, instead, he is stuck so deep inside a Republican echo chamber looking for conspiracy theories even in events that can be easily explained that he is incapable of seeing how dangerous his assumptions really are: including the assumption that the FBI should reject information from credible sources about ongoing threats.

That he is so deeply ensconced in the frothy right is why Trump picked him for the job — because, to those who are equally ensconced in the echo chamber, he could appear to have damaged Robert Mueller last week. And of course, Trump will be perfectly happy to have someone who sees not what is, but what needs to be true to feed Trump’s own false claims.

But having picked Ratcliffe, Trump has given Democrats the perfect opportunity to turn frothy conspiracies on their head, to demonstrate the danger of them. Both before Ratcliffe’s eventual confirmation hearing and during it, Democrats will have abundant evidence — from Ratcliffe’s own performance in interviews where he repeatedly gets exposed as a fool — to demonstrate the dangers of appointing someone so deep inside an echo chamber he doesn’t even realize the entire premise of his questioning is that the US should not pursue as much information about threats as possible.

Sure, he’s likely to be confirmed anyway. But Democrats have the opportunity to lay out the costs of Republicans casting such a vote, to install someone who affirmatively objects to FBI getting information on urgent threats to oversee the intelligence community. And when Ratcliffe’s echo chamber beliefs serve to blow up — whether by feeding Trump what he wants to hear about North Korea or Iran or Russia — Democrats will then have the record that Republicans chose to put someone with a clear record arguing that the FBI should have less information about credible threats and not more.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Trump Claimed To Be Angry Flynn Didn’t Make Good on Putin’s January 21 Requested Phone Call

As I noted, newly unsealed parts of Mike Flynn’s January 24, 2017 302 make it clear that he explained away his calls with Sergey Kislyak on December 29, 2016, in part, by claiming that Kislyak asked Flynn to set up a videoconference between Trump and Putin on January 21, 2017, the day after Trump would be inaugurated.

During the call, KISLYAK asked FLYNN to set-up a VTC between President-elect TRUMP and Russian President PUTIN on January 21st.

[snip]

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled any []ation 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…

That’s damning enough: Putin wanted to capitalize on his investment right away.

But it’s still more damning given a detail from the Comey memos. During the January 27, 2017 dinner that Trump invited Comey to that same day to demand loyalty, Trump suggested he believed Flynn was unreliable. The basis for that unreliability is that Flynn didn’t tell Trump that Putin — and not Theresa May — was the first foreign leader to give him a congratulatory call after the inauguration.

He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgement and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [Putin] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [Putin] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [Putin’s call] and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [President] of a country like [Russia]. This isn’t [redacted] we are talking about.”) He said that if he called [redacted] and didn’t get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”

This was, remember, the day that Don McGahn and Sally Yates had their second conversation about the FBI investigation into Flynn for lying about his December 29, 2016 conversation with Kislyak. I’ve had mixed opinions about this passage, originally thinking it was an attempt to distance himself from Flynn, but later noting that it fit the (largely chronologically undated) observations by Trump aides that Trump really was fed up by Flynn by the time he was forced to resign.

Here’s the thing, though. At least according to the White House record of Trump’s toast to May, the claim is a lie. That’s because Trump never claimed that May was the first to call Trump after his inauguration. Rather, he applauded her because she was the first to visit Trump after inauguration.

Thank you very much. I am honored to have Prime Minister Theresa May here for our first official visit from a foreign leader. This is our first visit, so — great honor.

It is true that May called Trump sometime on January 21.

It’s also true that in the first question after their comments on January 27, Trump was asked about the phone call with Putin the following day (and he feigned uncertainty whether it would happen).

STEVE HOLLAND, REUTERS: Thank you. You’re going to be speaking tomorrow with the Russian president. What message would you like to convey to him? How close are you to lifting some of the sanctions imposed on Russia over its Ukraine incursion? What would you expect in return?

And Prime Minister May, do you foresee any changes in British attitudes towards sanctions on Russia?

TRUMP: Well, I hear a call was set up, Steve, and we’ll see what happens. As far as the sanctions, very early to be talking about that. But we look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. That won’t necessarily happen, unfortunately probably won’t happen with many countries.

But if we can have, as we do with Prime Minister May and the relationship that we’ve all developed and even in the short relationship that we just developed just by being with each other and have lunch and — we’ve really had some very interesting talks and very productive talks. But if we can have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I’m all for that. That would be a tremendous asset.

If nothing else, it means Trump knew of the call before lunch, which was scheduled after the press conference, so could not have been surprised to learn of call timing by then.

But now consider the comment after considering that Trump had at least one conversation with Don McGahn about the substance of Flynn’s lies before this meeting, and — given McGahn’s request to have the underlying materials — may have asked to know specifically what Flynn said.

On January 26, 2017, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates contacted White House Counsel Donald McGahn and informed him that she needed to discuss a sensitive matter with him in person. 142 Later that day, Yates and Mary McCord, a senior national security official at the Department of Justice, met at the White House with McGahn and White House Counsel’s Office attorney James Burnham. 143 Yates said that the public statements made by the Vice President denying that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions were not true and put Flynn in a potentially compromised position because the Russians would know he had lied. 144 Yates disclosed that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. 145 She declined to answer a specific question about how Flynn had performed during that interview, 146 but she indicated that Flynn’s statements to the FBI were similar to the statements he had made to Pence and Spicer denying that he had discussed sanctions.147 McGahn came away from the meeting with the impression that the FBI had not pinned Flynn down in lies, 148 but he asked John Eisenberg, who served as legal advisor to the National Security Council, to examine potential legal issues raised by Flynn’s FBI interview and his contacts with Kislyak. 149

That afternoon, McGahn notified the President that Yates had come to the White House to discuss concerns about Flynn.150 McGahn described what Yates had told him, and the President asked him to repeat it, so he did. 151 McGahn recalled that when he described the FBI interview of Flynn, he said that Flynn did not disclose having discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but that there may not have been a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. 152 The President asked about Section 1001, and McGahn explained the law to him, and also explained the Logan Act. 153 The President instructed McGahn to work with Priebus and Bannon to look into the matter further and directed that they not discuss it with any other officials. 154 Priebus recalled that the President was angry with Flynn in light of what Yates had told the White House and said, “not again, this guy, this stuff.” I 55

[snip]

The next day, January 27, 2017, McGahn and Eisenberg discussed the results of Eisenberg’s initial legal research into Flynn’s conduct, and specifically whether Flynn may have violated the Espionage Act, the Logan Act, or 18 U.S.C. § 1001. 160 Based on his preliminary research, Eisenberg informed McGahn that there was a possibility that Flynn had violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and the Logan Act. 16 1 Eisenberg noted that the United States had never successfully prosecuted an individual under the Logan Act and that Flynn could have possible defenses, and told McGahn that he believed it was unlikely that a prosecutor would pursue a Logan Act charge under the circumstances. 162

That same morning, McGahn asked Yates to return to the White House to discuss Flynn again. I63 In that second meeting, McGahn expressed doubts that the Department of Justice would bring a Logan Act prosecution against Flynn, but stated that the White House did not want to take action that would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation of Flynn. 164 Yates responded that Department ofJustice had notified the White House so that it could take action in response to the infonnation provided.165 McGahn ended the meeting by asking Yates for access to the underlying information the Department of Justice possessed pertaining to Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak. 166

In other words, by the time Trump claimed to the FBI Director that he didn’t know Putin called him on January 21, he already knew that the FBI had interviewed Flynn about a conversation where (he claimed) Kislyak had asked to set up a call on January 21, and he may have had more specificity about whether or not the request for a January 21 call came up.

We can’t tell, given the kind of liars we’re dealing with, what is true. These are some of the possibilities:

  • Kislyak never asked for a January 21 meeting but Flynn used the actual call on January 21 as an excuse
  • In response to Kislyak’s request, Flynn did set up the meeting, but Trump was trying to claim he didn’t listen in that day
  • Kislyak asked for a January 21 meeting and Putin did call, but Flynn somehow intercepted the call and kept it a secret from the President

Whichever it is, the centrality of setting up a January 21 call with Putin — as opposed to the January 28 call we already knew about — really raises the import of Trump’s claimed reason to be pissed at Flynn in a meeting where he was already thinking about how to end an investigation into his ties with Russia.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.