A newly declassified document confirms that the Obama administration was spying on Lt. General Michael Flynn even though the FBI had “no indication” that President Trump’s short-lived national security advisor had been colluding with Russia.
According to the document, disgraced former FBI director James Comey told then-President Obama that he had “no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak.”
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) May 19, 2020
White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent herself a curious email on Jan. 20, 2017, detailing a Russia briefing with Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and fired former FBI Director James Comey.
Portions of Rice’s email have previously been released, but some Flynn-related material remained redacted until Tuesday, May 19.
According to the email, after the briefing, Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind,” and said he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions.
According to recently declassified documents, Yates testified to congress that she was “surprised” to hear Obama asking about Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak in the meeting because she had not been aware of the calls herself.
Recall that Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made an unmasking request on Flynn on that same day. Joe Biden also made an unmasking request on Jan. 12, 2017 —the day before the illegally leaked information about Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak were published in the Washington Post.
Rice wrote in her email that Obama “specified that he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.” He also allegedly stressed that Comey’s team “should proceed as it normally would by the book.”
“From a national security perspective, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,” Rice wrote.
For the past year, the FBI had been spying on Trump’s campaign and later his transition team as part of its Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
Rice’s email, declassified by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, says that Comey then told Obama that he was doing everything “by the book” as it relates to law enforcement,” but he had “concerns” about Flynn because he was “speaking frequently” with Kislyak.
Flynn spoke by phone with Kislyak five times in December 2016 after President Obama signed an executive order announcing sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn, an experienced national security professional who knew his calls would be monitored, merely told the Russian ambassador not to escalate tensions, and Russia agreed.
“President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn,” Rice wrote. According to the email, “Comey replied ‘potentially,’” and “added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’”
Because the FBI was listening in on the phone calls, Comey knew full well that Flynn was not sharing “sensitive information” with the Russian ambassador.
Moreover, Comey gleefully admitted during a television interview a year later that his team did not do things “by the book” when he sent a pair of agents to the White House interview the new national security advisor without a lawyer present.