Another post-election media freakout died quietly this week as the FBI said it found no evidence of wrongdoing in National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador.
At the height of this short-lived hysteria, Democrats were hoping Flynn would go to jail for violating the Logan Act, an obscure law that has only been enforced once, 213 years ago. The Logan Act is only ever mentioned in connection with Republicans, as evidenced by the media’s comprehensive failure to remember that Barack Obama and his appointees also contacted foreign leaders in 2008, before he was sworn in.
The Washington Post pronounces last rites, noting that FBI agents “listen to calls all the time that do not pertain to any open investigation,” primarily because they are interested in what the foreign official on the other end of the line has to say.
The Post’s sources noted that Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were “probably aware that Kislyak’s phone calls and texts are being monitored,” so it was “highly unlikely” they would “allow their calls to be conduits of illegal coordination.”
That is one of several spots where the Post makes a game effort to keep the aura of suspicion around the Flynn calls alive. The report also states, “the fact that communications by a senior member of Trump’s national security team have been under scrutiny points up the challenge facing the intelligence community as it continues its wide-ranging probe of Russian government influence in the U.S. election and whether there was any improper back-channel contacts between Moscow and Trump associates and acquaintances,” but then says Kislyak was the one being monitored in this case, not Flynn.
The actual news is that Flynn was not the target of an investigation (despite widely circulated rumors to the contrary), and there was nothing improper about his actions. The Post flatly states that “Flynn himself is not the active target of an investigation, U.S. officials said.”
Other reports, such as a Sunday posting from the Wall Street Journal, have said it was unclear if any Flynn investigations were still in progress.
CNN also said on Tuesday that investigators are still “scrutinizing” calls between Flynn and Kislyak as “part of a broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian activities in the US,” which would seem contradicted by the Post’s report that Flynn is not the target of an active investigation.
The CNN report, however, went on to state that “so far there has been no determination of any wrongdoing,” and it concedes the same crucial detail about how the Flynn calls were “heard in the course of monitoring of communications of Russian diplomats.”
The UK Daily Mail notes that the first call between Flynn and Kislyak, which occurred on either December 28 or 29 according to various sources, was “initiated by a text message sharing holiday greetings.”
Among the topics discussed by Flynn and the Russian ambassador were “a plane crash that killed members of a Russian choir.” They also discussed setting up a post-inauguration phone call between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and the possibility of U.S. participation in Russia-brokered Syrian peace talks to be held in Kazakhstan. As things worked out, the U.S. observed through the eyes of its ambassador to Kazakhstan, at Russia and Turkey’s invitation, but did not actively participate.
Pointedly not included in this list of topics are the sanctions outgoing President Barack Obama imposed on Russia. Flynn’s media assailants implied that he was attempting to offer the Russians illicit assistance to deal with the sanctions.