Michael Flynn vs the Deep State
Recent release of the transcripts of both General Flynn's December 29, 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and FBI Director Comey's testimony to Congress of March 2, 2017 add immeasurably to our understanding of what happened with Flynn and the Ambassador and with Comey, Congress, and the public's perception.
General Flynn has earned respect, or notoriety, depending on how you feel about his position, for opposing our foreign policy in support Saudi Arabia and others who arm ISIS and Al Qaeda. As Director of Defense Information in the Obama administration, he predicted the support of a Salafist Caliphate to replace Assad in Syria would be a disaster for the region, which is probably why he was fired.
Sy Hersh has documented* that Flynn "wouldn’t shut up" about the need to work with Russia to defeat the common enemy in Syria, Islamic terrorism. But the Obama administration waffled** and undermined efforts to do so by supporting armed groups "marbleized" with Al Qaeda and by thwarting*** Russian ceasefire arrangements.
Flynn's call with Kislyak re-affirms his opposition to undermining the fight against terrorism and affirms his desire to keep the focus in the Middle East on that fight. Indeed, if you read the transcript as speaking about sanctions, he clearly urges the Russian government not to retaliate against the sanctions in a way that would harm the fight against terrorism.
Jim Comey, on the other hand, deals with the question of whether Flynn lied to 2 FBI agents about whether he spoke with Kislyak about sanctions. There is no transcript of the FBI interview of Flynn, no recording, and no contemporary notes, no official 302 report. It was lost. So we just have Jim Comey's testimony to suggest what Flynn said in the interview.
Comey outlines 2 reasons for his sending FBI agents to interview Flynn. He states that he and the intelligence community and the Obama administration were concerned and confused by the fact that the Russians didn't retaliate against the sanctions. Apparently, encouraging the Russians not to retaliate was seen as a threat. That wouldn't really warrant an investigation, though, in most people's universe, so, conveniently, the media got hold of the fact that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak, and a TV talk show host asked VP Pence if Flynn had talked with Kislyak about sanctions, and Pence said Flynn had told him he hadn't. So now, Comey says, he had a reason to investigate.
Key to Comey's testimony is the passage in which he establishes Flynn's recognition of the transcript of the call as a more reliable record of what he spoke about with Kislyak than his own memory. It is so frustrating to see Michael Flynn have to parse this out with Lockheed General Counsel Comey, whom I would describe as King Weasel of Weasel Word World. But that's apparently where we are, with Flynn being described by Pence and Comey as saying he didn't remember speaking about sanctions with Kislyak.
I will add some excerpts from the transcripts in Comments.
DECLASSIFIED by DNI Ratcliffe on 29 May 2020
II. December 29, 2016 Call
FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE INVESTIGATIONS
Thursday, March 2, 2017