The Flynn Nothingburger: Obama Cleared Trump Admin to Deal with Russia

The mainstream media have been in overdrive since Friday morning, depicting phone calls between Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak as evidence of nefarious dealings by the Trump transition team.

Howard Portnoy reports that ABC News even had an uncorrected story out there for hours describing Trump’s authorization of his team’s contacts with Russians as occurring during the election campaign; i.e., before Trump was elected, and thus became the president-elect.

The problem with the whole theme is that the Obama administration was well aware of the contacts Trump and his team were engaging in with the Russians.  And had “no problem with them.”

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That’s a direct quote.

First, we’ll take a second to revisit what Michael Flynn copped to in his plea on Friday.  He agrees that he made false statements about four matters of content in his phone calls with Kislyak.

According to the charging document, those false statements were that:

  • “On or about Dec 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States … to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day, and FLYNN did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”
  • “On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution; and that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to FLYNN Russia’s response to his request.”

It was not any sort of crime to discuss these matters with Kislyak.  Flynn is just agreeing that at some point during the investigation, he made false statements about what he said (or, apparently, what he remembered).

The second point about the 22 December conversation relates to an anti-Israel resolution in the UN (UNSCR 2334), which was in limbo on 22 December but came to a vote on 23 December.  Obama abstained from the vote instead of exercising the U.S. Security Council veto, which allowed the resolution to pass.

All over the mainstream media, these exchanges are being depicted as dreadful events ordered by Jared Kushner, approved by Trump, participated in by K.T. McFarland, and on and on.

I pointed out yesterday that Obama and his team made similar contacts with foreign officials, including Russia’s, during the transition in 2008 (here’s the link one more time).  The contacts were about a significant policy and one on which Obama differed with George W. Bush.

This simply isn’t a big deal.  Since Friday morning, the White House has even told CNN the Obama administration “authorized” the Trump team contacts with the Russians.

The statement cited in the tweet has been attacked as “fake news,” or a desperate maneuver by Trump.  But, in fact, on 13 January, State Department spokesman Mark Toner explicitly said that there was no problem with the contacts the Trump transition team was making with foreign officials.  I wouldn’t cite that as “authorization,” myself – but then, the State Department was clear that no authorization was required.

You may remember that 13 January 2017 was the day after the Washington Post ran its first article on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak.  The question posed to Mr. Toner during the State Department daily briefing was clearly predicated on the leaked information in that article…



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