Transcripts of telephone calls that played a central role in the investigation into Russia were declassified and released on Friday, showing that Michael Flynn, as an adviser to the then elected president, Donald Trump, urged the ambassador of Russia to be “at sea” in response to the punitive measures of the Obama administration.
Flynn also assured Sergey Kislyak “that we can have a better conversation” about relations between the two countries after Trump became president.
The Democrats said the transcripts showed that Flynn had lied to the FBI when he denied the details of the conversation, and that he was undermining a serving president while communicating on sanctions with a country that had just interfered in the elections. 2016 elections.
The president’s allies who maintain the FBI had no reason to investigate Flynn in the first place insisted that the transcripts showed that he had done nothing wrong.
The transcripts were released by Senate Republicans after being provided by Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, who touched on one of the most controversial political topics during his first week on the job.
Ratcliffe’s extraordinary decision to release transcripts of intercepted conversations with a foreign ambassador is part of Trump’s allies’ ongoing efforts to leak previously secret information from the Russia investigation in hopes of bringing officials to the forefront. Obama era in a bad light.
The transcripts are unlikely to significantly reshape public understanding of contact between Flynn and the Russian ambassador at the time, a pivotal moment in the investigation of Russia.
They show that the men did discuss the sanctions, consistent with the general description of the appeal provided in the 2017 guilty plea that Flynn made to the team of special advocate Robert Mueller.
But the documents will undoubtedly add to the partisan divisions of the case, which have escalated in the past month with the Justice Minister’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
Adam Schiff, Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the transcripts show that Flynn had lied not only to the FBI but also to Vice President Mike Pence, who has publicly stated that Flynn and Kislyak did not not discussed sanctions. Trump fired Flynn for cheating on the administration, and later admitted that he had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
“These calls came shortly after the Russian government intervened in the 2016 elections in an attempt to help Trump win, and Flynn tried to mute Russia’s reaction to the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for this same interference, “said Schiff.
But Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, one of those who published the transcript, said that Flynn had done nothing wrong. Attorney General William Barr also called laudable conversation.
“Our court system doesn’t work when one side has all the cards,” said Grassley. “But it’s not just about protecting access to justice; it is also about exposing the schemes and abuses of power of those responsible for enforcing and defending the law. “
Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell tweeted that Flynn “should be applauded for asking that” cooler heads prevail “and for trying to keep things on an equal footing – encouraging mutual interest in Russia and the United States for stability in the Middle East and the fight against radicals. Islam ”.
The documents show that Flynn and Kislyak spoke several times between the time Trump was elected and took office. The appeal that Flynn pleaded guilty of lying took place on December 29, 2016, the day after Barack Obama signed a decree hitting Russia with sanctions for electoral interference.
Flynn urged Kislyak that any action by Russia in response to the sanctions be “reciprocal”.
The FBI interviewed Flynn about the appeal in January 2017. In this interview, according to a guilty plea reached with Mueller’s team, Flynn denied asking Kislyak to refrain from making the matter worse. Sanctions. He also said he did not remember a conversation two days later in which the ambassador implied that Moscow had decided not to react aggressively to the sanctions.
“Your proposition that we should act coldly, uh, is exactly what is, uh, invested in the decision,” said Kislyak.
The release follows the recent declassification by Richard Grenell, Ratcliffe’s predecessor as director of intelligence, by names of intelligence officials and the Obama administration who, in late 2016 and early 2017, asked the National Security Agency to reveal to them the name of an American whose identity was hidden. classified reports. This American turned out to be Flynn.
The names of American citizens are regularly redacted in intelligence reports documenting the surveillance of foreign targets, but US officials can request an identity if they think it is vital to understanding the information.
It is nothing unusual to unmask the demands, which were more widespread at the start of the Trump administration than they were at the end of the Obama administration. But Trump supporters have hinted that the demands were made for political reasons.
The nature of these NSA reports is unclear and they were not among the documents released on Friday.