Earlier this week in “Flynn’s fate” I noted the sentencing memo filed by the Mueller team in the case of former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn earlier this year. I have embedded the sentencing memo below. In relevant part the case against Flynn is based on FBI interviews with him about his conversations (intercepted communications) with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak following Trump’s election.
This is the entirety of the sentencing memo description of Flynn’s offense regarding these communications:
The defendant’s offense is serious. As described in the Statement of Offense, the defendant made multiple false statements, to multiple Department of Justice (“DOJ”) entities, on multiple occasions. See Statement of Offense,
United States v. Flynn, No. 17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Dec. 1, 2017) (Doc. 4) (“SOF”).
The first series of false statements occurred during an interview with the FBI on January 24, 2017. At the time of the interview, the FBI had an open investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including the nature of any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump. Days prior to the FBI’s interview of the defendant, the Washington Post had published a story alleging that he had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the United States on December 29, 2016, the day the United States announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in response to that government’s actions intended to interfere with the 2016 election (collectively, “sanctions”). See David Ignatius, Why did Obama Dawdle on Russia’s hacking?, WASH. POST (Jan. 12, 2017). The Post story queried whether the defendant’s actions violated the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from corresponding with a foreign government with the intent to influence the conduct of that foreign government regarding disputes with the United States. See 18 U.S.C. § 953. Subsequent to the publication of the Post article and prior to the defendant’s FBI interview, members of President-Elect Trump’s transition team publicly stated that they had spoken to the defendant, and that he denied speaking to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions. See, e.g., Face the Nation transcript January 15, 2017: Pence, Manchin, Gingrich, CBS NEWS (Jan. 15, 2017).
When the FBI interviewed the defendant on January 24 about his interactions with the Russian ambassador, the defendant falsely stated that he did not ask the Russian ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions, and falsely disclaimed any memory of his subsequent conversation with the ambassador in which the ambassador stated that Russia had acceded to the defendant’s request. See SOF at ¶ 3. In addition, the defendant made false statements to the FBI about his prior interactions with the Russian government in December 2016 concerning a pending United Nations Security Council resolution. See id. at ¶ 4. The defendant’s false statements to the FBI about (i) his contacts with a Russian government emissary, (ii) the requests he conveyed to the Russian government through that emissary, and (iii) Russia’s response to those requests, were material to the FBI’s investigation into the nature of any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
Query whether Flynn must have known his communications with Kislyak had been intercepted. The guy is the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. See Byron York’s Examiner column “Ten questions for Comey.”
The government’s interception of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak is implicit in the quoted portion of the sentencing memo above. Flynn must have been asked questions the answers to which the government already had. How “serious” could his misrepresentations have been under the circumstances.
In her weekly Wall Street Journal column today — “Mueller’s gift to Obama” — Kim Strassel comments on the genuine scandal underlying this aspect of the case against Flynn. It is a small piece of the puzzle in the biggest scandal in American history and it is still playing itself out. Strassel’s column lays out this particular piece with perfect clarity. See also Debra Heine, “Why Michael Flynn was set up.”
Strassel provides an indirect quotation of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on the leaks underlying journalistic accounts of Flynn’s conversations. Nunes characterizes the leaks as the most destructive to national security that he seen in his time in Washington. Their illegality is “serious” beyond any of Flynn’s legal misconduct, yet we await the identification of the perpetrators and the rendition of justice like we wait for Godot. It’s not gonna happen.
We all understand what is happening here, and what isn’t, but it’s almost unbelievable.