Transcripts between then-incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian ambassador were released Friday afternoon, after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified and released them to Congress.
“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. There was nothing improper about his call, and the FBI knew it,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement, after releasing the documents.
The transcripts released included the call between Flynn and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29, 2016, that had supposedly prompted the FBI to keep its investigation of Flynn as a potential Russian agent from shutting down.
The transcript showed that Flynn had asked Kislyak to respond to sanctions from the Obama administration in a “reciprocal” manner.
“But what I would ask Russia to do is to not — is — if anything, because I know you have to have some sort of action — to, to only make it reciprocal. Make it reciprocal. Don’t — don’t make it — don’t go any further than you have to. Because I don’t want us to get into something that has to escalate, on a, you know, on a tit for tat,” Flynn told Kislyak.
He also said, “And please make sure that its uh — the idea is, be — if you, if you have to do something, do something on a reciprocal basis, meaning you know, on a sort of even basis.”
Then-FBI agent Peter Strzok used that phone call to keep the FBI’s investigation of Flynn as a potential Russian agent open, according to recently released court documents.
FBI leadership then decided to use the call to interview Flynn about it on January 24, 2017, and try to get him to admit to a violation of the Logan Act, an obscure 1799 law prohibiting private citizens from interfering in diplomacy, or to lie so he could be prosecuted or fired.
Strzok and another FBI agent, Joe Pientka, wrote in interview notes that they did not think he was lying to them during that interview. Nonetheless, special counsel prosecutors charged Flynn was lying to them, and Flynn pleaded guilty under a plea deal.
The Justice Department recently dropped its case against Flynn, arguing that even if he lie to investigators, it was immaterial to the FBI’s investigation of whether he was a Russian agent.
Grassley said it was a shame it took nearly three and a half years for the public to read the transcripts.
“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. 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,” he said.
“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.”