A recently declassified email from then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice on January 20, 2017, describing an Oval Office meeting on January 5, 2017, showed that then-FBI Director James Comey told President Obama he was concerned about the frequency of Michael Flynn’s calls with a Russian ambassador during the transition period.
However, a former Trump transition official and longtime former Flynn aide who recently spoke to Breitbart News said Flynn easily had thousands of calls and interactions during what was a chaotic time during which he had minimal help fielding these calls and likely would not be able to recall exactly what anyone said.
“For 85 days, he had 25 phone calls a day with world leaders. He’s not going to remember anything other than, ‘Yeah, I think I talked to that guy,'” the former transition official said, who wished to speak on background due to Flynn’s ongoing case.
The former transition official, who had worked with Flynn in the military for about a decade, recalled how chaotic the transition period was and said others on the transition team who had served in previous transition periods assured them that it was normal. He said they were told the transition period was “85 days of chaos” and to “just work with what you’ve got.”
He said Flynn did not have any kind of support staff during the transition. In contrast, when he was a three-star general and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he had about 20 people working in his office.
“I think the biggest thing that people miss is that when you’re a general, somebody organizes all your phone calls for you. Someone takes notes for all your phone calls. Someone gives you talking points for all your phone calls, for all your meetings, everything. That’s all structured. That’s all staffed,” he said,
“In a transition, there’s nobody. His assistant was a kid from New York. … He left the shoe business and just walked over to Trump Tower and said, ‘I want to volunteer’ or something. … A great kid, but he could just get him from point A to B. So he had nothing. It was literally just Flynn and a phone going from meeting to meeting,” he said.
Flynn had even less support during his alleged call with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak on December 29, 2016; he was on vacation on the beach in the Dominican Republic, where the connection was not good.
He said President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence were much better staffed and had aides helping write up talking points for phone calls, but Flynn did not, since his calls were lower-level conversations.
Flynn had “easily 25 to 40 phone calls and meetings per day, and then email on top of that,” the former transition official said. “Interactions per day are up over 100, 200 interactions a day. You’re going to remember two of those because they’re important. You’re going to flush most of that from one week to the next.”
“So I wasn’t surprised to see the first interview of those FBI agents saying we don’t think he’s lying to us; we just think he’s misremembering,” he said.
The former transition official said Flynn would have talked to counterparts from all of the U.S.’s allies, as well as peers such as Russia and China.
“So you’re going to touch base with all of them. And then he’s going to talk to all our peers out there. I’m sure he spoke to China, to Russia, to all the big countries that were speaking to us. I’m sure he wasn’t talking to Iran or Venezuela,” he said. “He’s talking to everybody that we have a security relationship with.”
“It’s also meetings with Susan Rice and meetings with the head of the FBI. It’s meeting all the people who might stay in office for the next administration and all the outgoings. It’s going to read classified documents, so your whole day is just consumed with [meetings],” he said.
He stated that the number of people he personally met with in the government and people that came in to talk to them were “staggering.”
“And [Flynn’s] is multiplied because he’s the principal,” he said.
The former transition official’s account adds context to the circumstances surrounding Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, which the FBI then used as a reason to keep open an investigation into Flynn, interview him at the White House on January 24, 2017, and later try to prosecute him for allegedly lying during the interview.
The FBI agents who interviewed Flynn said they did not think he was lying to them about his calls with Kislyak, according to a summary of their interview. However, special counsel prosecutors later charged Flynn with lying to them.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal but later withdrew that plea, citing pressure from prosecutors to go after his son.
This month, the Justice Department moved to dismiss the case alleging that Flynn lied to the FBI.