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Phone Transcripts from 2016 Show Flynn Discussed Sanctions with Russian Ambassador

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Phone Transcripts from 2016 Show Flynn Discussed Sanctions with Russian Ambassador

2020-06-01 18:37:29

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Michael Flynn (Image source: Public domain)


There has been a large push by Donald Trump and some of the GOP to exonerate former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The Justice Department tried to throw out the charges against him, but a judge in that case isn't willing to go along with that so easily. The tapes of his conversation with a Russian ambassador were just released, and they don't seem like they are leading up to him being totally exonerated, as they show they definitely discussed sanctions.


The conversations between the two men were secretly monitored in an effort to gather more information on then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. They have come into question in the rush to exonerate Flynn. 

After his conversation with Kislyak, Flynn was accused of lying to both the FBI and Mike Pence about his contact with the ambassador. He was named national security adviser anyway, then fired by Trump a few weeks later.


Flynn took a plea deal in former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in December 2017. A year later, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan accused him of selling out his country and advised him to delay sentencing, which he did. 

That next summer he changed his legal team, and then this year Flynn asked to withdraw his guilty plea. The DOJ responded by dropping criminal charges against him, but Sullivan stepped in and put that on hold.


In a December 29, 2016 transcript of a call between Flynn and Kislyak, it's evident they are discussing the Obama administration kicking 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives out of the U.S. and imposing sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies. The administration's response was after the Russians were found to have hacked the presidential election, which led to Trump's win. 

The Trump administration released the transcript to lawmakers who then made it public. It includes direct quotes from the two men as well as summaries of their comments.


In the transcript, Flynn told the ambassador, "Do not allow this administration to box us in right now!" He added, "I know you have to have some sort of action," adding that he would like Russia "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 [sic] to escalate to tit-for-tat." 

While Kislyak said he understood, he added that sentiments "are raging now in Moscow."


Flynn also said he understood, "but I really do not want us to get into the situation where we, everybody goes back and forth and everybody has to be a tough guy here. We don't need that right now. We need cool heads to prevail." 

"Now when FSB and GRU are sanctioned," says a summary in the transcript, "and Kislyak asks himself, does it mean that the U.S. is not willing to work on terrorist threats, Kislyak poses a question. Flynn says, yes."


Flynn again asked Russia to not expel more Americans than Russians, as if Moscow kicked out 60 people, "you will shut down the embassy," he said. "Let's keep this at an even-kill level; then when we come in, we will have a better conversation where we are going to go regarding our relationship." 

"These transcripts clearly demonstrate that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and the vice president when he denied discussing sanctions," said House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA).


"It should be no surprise that the president and his allies wish to promote conspiracy theories to distract and rewrite history, as the true facts and history are so damning." 

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he will continue to push for "additional relevant disclosures until we are satisfied that the American people know the full truth."


Flynn and White House officials have said he did not talk about sanctions with Kislyak, but this makes clear he did throughout the majority of the conversation. It also seems when Moscow didn't retaliate, it was because Flynn had intervened. 

On December 31, 2016, the two spoke again. Kislyak emphasized their conversation two days earlier had been "taken into account in Moscow," adding, "Your proposal that we need to act with cold heads, uh, is exactly what is uh, invested in the decision."


Flynn replied, "Good."  

The ambassador painted both himself and Flynn as victims of Obama. "We found that these actions have targeted not only against [sic] Russia but also against the president-elect," he said. He added that he hoped "within two weeks we will be able to start working in [a] more constructive way."


Flynn did not seem to be upset with Kislyak nor Moscow for the election being hacked and didn't indicate that Moscow will have to pay any type of price for it.  

Trump's allies believe the transcript shows that there was nothing amiss in the conversations.


"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 Senate Finance Chair and President pro tempore Chuck Grassley (R-IA). "There was nothing improper about this call, and the FBI knew it." 

This means the transcript hasn't solved anything. Johnson is still waiting for more information, Schiff feels it proves the charges against Flynn, and Grassley feels it exonerates him.

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