Turns Out Michael Flynn's Perfect Transcript Is ... Not So Perfect
What is it, you are asking? Well! Your Wonkette, ever the humanitarian, can explain it to you easy. Luckily, the Trump administration Friday news dumped the transcript of Michael Flynn's calls with the Russian ambassador, so we even have a visual aid.
See, Russia didn't want Hillary Clinton to become president, so they stole her campaign's emails and released them using WikiLeaks as a front. Which is a crime, but is also totally cool because Donald Trump really wanted to be president and couldn't win on his own. So he appreciated that, and also how Russia flooded social media with racist, anti-Clinton propaganda.
The Obama administration did not appreciate it, though, because of the crimes and also the foreign interference in American democracy. So in December of 2016, Obama enacted sanctions on associates of the Kremlin and kicked out some Russian embassy staff.
This made the Trumplanders sad and mad, because they were very hot to hit that "reset button" with the country that had just conducted a cyberattack on America (for their benefit). Because they are A PATRIOT of the highest order! Also, the Obama administration was going to abstain from a vote at the UN condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Which is no fair according to Jared Kushner, because how could Obama, who was still the actual president at the time, do something that the incoming president didn't want?
So incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn was dispatched to chat up Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and see if he could get the Russians to postpone the vote at the UN until after Trump became president, at which point the US would veto the resolution. Flynn was also eager to contain Russia's response to the recently imposed sanctions, which Flynn implied would be relaxed once Trump was in office, so as not to "allow this [Obama] administration to box us in."
We don't seem to have the transcript of the December 22 call, but on December 23, Kislyak told Flynn that Russia wasn't going to be able to help at the UN, saying, "So, we will try to help, uh, uh, to give additional time for the conversation on this issue, but if it is put on vote, uh, for historical reasons, as I explained to you, we cannot vote other than to support it." Flynn said that it was okay, and that the important thing was for Russia and the US to work together to resolve the war in Syria. (Which ... oh, hey look how three years later the US has largely abandoned the field, leaving Russia and Iran to massacre civilians as they prop up their ally Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey hunts down our Kurdish partners. Heckuva coincidence, huh?)
On the subject of sanctions, however, Flynn found a more receptive audience. On December 29, Flynn, who was apparently unbothered by the Russian intervention in American democracy, requested that the Kremlin minimize the response.
FLYNN: Depending on what uh, actions they take over this current issue of the cyber stuff, you know, where they're looking like they're gonna, they're gonna dismiss some number of Russians out of the country, I understand all that and I understand that, you know, the information that they have and all that, but what I would ask Russia to do is to not - is - 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. You follow me, Ambassador?
To which Kislyak responded by threatening to cut off cooperation in Syria in response to the sanctions on Russian government figures, which he was apparently a lot more concerned about than the expulsion of Russian embassy staff from the US or the closure of Russian facilities here. Because it has always, always, alwaysbeen about the sanctions.
KISLYAK: One of the problems among the measures that have been announced today is that now FSB and GRU are sanctions, are sanctioned, and I ask myself, uh, does it mean that the United States isn't willing to work on terrorist threats?
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah.
KISLYAK: Because that's the people who are exactly, uh, fighting the terrorists.
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah, yep.
KISLYAK: So that's something that we have to deal with. But I've heard what you say, and I certainly will try to get the people in Moscow to understand it.
And it worked! Russia's expelled 31 Americans and called it even, and Trump tweeted out his thanks.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1483126893.0
The next day, Kislyak explicitly told Flynn that the Kremlin was acting with restraint due to Flynn's promise to "work with" Russia.
KISLYAK: Uh, you know I have a small message to pass to you from Moscow and uh, probably you have heard about the decision taken by Moscow about action and counter-action.
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah well I appreciate it, you know, on our phone call the other day, you know, I, I, appreciate the steps that uh your president has taken. I think that it is was wise.
KISLYAK: I, I just wanted to tell you that our conversation was also taken into account in Moscow and ...
KISLYAK: Your proposal that we need to act with cold heads, uh, is exactly what is uh, invested in the decision.
KISLYAK: And I just wanted to tell you that we found that these actions have targeted not only against Russia, but also against the president elect.
FLYNN: Yeah, yeah
KISLYAK: And with all our rights to responds we have decided not to act now because, its because people are dissatisfied with the lost of elections and, and its very deplorable. So, so I just wanted to let you know that our conversation was taken with weight.
By the way, all the awkward Russian English from Kislyak is verbatim. But it's better than our Russian, so we're not complaining.
All Of This Was Totally Normal, Or The Opposite Of That
The current Justice Department would have you believe that all of this was standard operating procedure, no big deal, nothing to see here. And thus it was UNLEGAL for the FBI to ask Flynn about this and give him a chance to lie. Which is ... not a standard they apply to any other defendant, but is also nonsense on its face.
You need look no further than Flynn's own behavior to demonstrate exactly how inappropriate he himself knew those conversations to be. Because on January 12, the Washington Post broke the news that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, at which point Trump lost his shit and ordered Flynn to "kill the story." So Flynn dispatched his aide KT McFarland to tell the Post that the calls were just to say Merry Christmas and offer condolences on the death of a Russian official. In their version of events, neither sanctions nor the UN vote were ever discussed. Which was bullshit, as McFarland knew perfectly well, since she was the one coordinating between Flynn and the presidential transition team holed up at Mar-a-Lago.
Marcy Wheeler has an exhaustive ticktock of McFarland's lies, both to the press and to the FBI. And why would Ms. McFarland do such a thing? Well, it's probably not because she thought the call was totally appropriate and completely normal. Might have been because Michael Flynn was colluding with Russia to undermine current US foreign policy at a time when the news was pointing out all the ways Russia had just helped to get Trump elected. You could ask McFarland, but she's busy flogging the FLYNN WUZ FRAAAAAAMED storyline all over Fox right now, so you might have to wait a while.
But Wait, What Does This Have To Do With Obamagate?
Well, American intelligence agencies were tapping the Russian ambassador's phone calls, because, hello, that is their actual job. And when they picked up an American citizen undermining US policy, they were naturally curious as to who that might be. Because that was also their actual job. And so Obama administration officials, who had every right to see who was on the other side of Kislyak's call, followed appropriate procedure to "unmask" his name. And that is OBAMAGATE, wherein it is entirely legal and appropriate for a civilian who is not a sitting government official to negotiate US government policy with a foreign adversary, but it is simply illegal and inappropriate for the lawfully elected president and his staff to notice it. Got it?
Similarly, Flynn was perfectly within his right to lie to the American people about the substance of his conversation with the Russian Ambassador, READ THE PERFECT PERFECT TRDASCJPPPPT, but it was inappropriate for intelligence officials to ask him about it because why even would they care if the new national security advisor was vulnerable to blackmail?
Here on planet earth, the transcripts prove that Flynn is guilty of exactly what he pleaded to, multiple times, in writing and verbally. He lied to the FBI when he said he hadn't discussed sanctions or the UN vote with the Russian ambassador, and his post-plea switch to pretending that he simply forgot about that part of the conversation is nonsensical. That was the entire conversation, aside from a couple of wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. He hadn't forgotten it on January 12 when he dispatched McFarland to lie about it to the Post, he hadn't forgotten it when he told the FBI on January 24th that sanctions never came up on the call, he hadn't forgotten it when he admitted the lie to Mueller, and he sure as hell hasn't forgotten it now when he's trying to drop his plea.
This is exactly why Bill Barr is frantically trying to gin up something to make it seem that all those government officials doing their job in the waning days of the Obama administration and the beginning of the Trump disaster were somehow the REAL CRIMINALS, and thus it was illegal to perjury-trap poor, innocent Michael Flynn into lying about a national security issue.
Because the best defense is a good offense, particularly when you're willing to burn down the entire Justice Department to win an election.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.