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After three years of bipartisan requests the controversial phone transcripts of former national security advisor Lt. General Michael Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reveal the biggest bombshell: Flynn did not discuss removing sanctions imposed on Russia, as suggested by former senior Obama FBI officials charged with investigating him. The transcripts were released to two top GOP Senators on Friday after being declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The December 2016 classified conversations with Kislyak, which were believed to be leaked to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in January, 2017 led to the controversial firing of Flynn from his short tenure at the White House. Ignatius wrote that Flynn had discussed lifting the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration on Russia. However, in the transcripts there is no point at which Flynn discusses or promises the nefarious actions described by those sources that gave the information to Ignatius. Ignatius noted in his column that Flynn violated the Logan Act, which has rarely been used in prosecution and is a federal law that criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized American citizens with foreign governments that are in dispute with the U.S.
The transcripts were sent Friday afternoon to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, offices. They had requested the transcripts numerous times, saying the classified documents were at the heart of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s charges that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
Unfortunately, the transcripts were never made available to his legal team throughout the past three years. Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell has repeatedly requested the documents, saying they were necessary to evaluate the claims against her client.
“Lt. General Flynn, his legal team, the judge and the American people can now see with their own eyes – for the first time – that all of the innuendo about Lt. General Flynn this whole time was totally bunk,” said Grassley. “There was nothing improper about his call, and the FBI knew it.”
Grassley added that “it’s a shame it’s taken nearly three and a half years for everyone to see the underlying evidence against Flynn that Rosenstein and the Mueller team went to great lengths to keep hidden.”
The only time anything related to the sanctions was brought up in the conversation was by Kislyak in regard to the 35 Russian diplomats expelled in December, 2016 by then-President Obama in response to Russia’s alleged interference in the election. In fact, Flynn doesn’t even bring up the word sanction during the conversation.
From the transcripts:
“Flynn wants to convey the following [to Moscow]: Do not allow this administration to box us in right now! Kislyak says the have conveyed it very clearly.
Flynn: So, depending on what actions they take over this current issue of cyber stuff, where they are looking like they are going to dismiss some number of Russians out of the country. I understand all that and I understand that the information that they have and all that. But I ask Russia to do is to not, if anything, I know you have to have some sort of action, to only make it reciprocal; don’t go any further than you have to because I don’t want us to get into something that have to escalate to tit-for-tat. Do you follow me?
Kislyak says he understands what Flynn is saying, but Flynn might appreciate the sentiments that are raging now in Moscow.”
In one part of the transcripts Kislyak brings up the word ‘sanction’ to Flynn but in reference to a possible joint effort by Russia and the United States to target terrorists.
FLYNN: We don’t need to, we don’t need that right now, we need to- we need cool heads to prevail, and uh, and we need to be very steady about what we’re going to do because we have absolutely a common uh. threat in the Middle East right now
KISLYAK: We agree.
FLYNN: We have to eliminate this common threat.
KISLYAK: We agree. One ofthe problems among the measures that have been announced today is that now FSB and GRU are sanctions, are sanctioned, and I ask myself, uh~ does it mean that the United States isn’t willing to work on terrorist threats?
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah.
KISLYAK: Because that’s the people who are exactly, uh, fighting the terrorists.
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah, yep.
The call was being intercepted by the FBI, which had a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on the Russian ambassador. The revelation of the FISA warrant in Ignatius’ column tipped off the Russians that the phone lines were intercepted. The leaking of the phone conversation is considered a federal crime, however, no one has yet been charged with the leak.
Transcripts Have Been Kept Secret Since 2017
In February, 2017, then Grassley, who was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. initially requested records related to the Flynn investigation, as stated in the press release.
According to Grassley’s office, they renewed the request for the transcripts in May and June of 2018. However, the Justice Department continued to stymy the Senate with excuses to withhold the material, they added.
Then, earlier this month, following the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case, Grassley and Johnson called again called for the release of the transcripts. Their request included declassifying “the underlying transcripts and still-classified Defense Intelligence Agency material, as well as to provide copies of the FBI’s summaries of its interview with Flynn,” stated the press release.
Grassley said, “our justice system doesn’t work when one side holds all the cards. But this isn’t just about safeguarding access to justice; it’s also about exposing shenanigans and abuses of power by those entrusted to uphold and defend the law. After all the screw-ups and malicious behavior by FBI and DOJ officials during the Russia investigation, we simply cannot take them at their word anymore. We need oversight and transparency to sort out this mess. I’m grateful that former acting DNI chief Grenell took the important steps of properly declassifying this material and letting some sunlight in. Transparency brings accountability. Keep it coming.”