On January 5, 2017 a briefing was held in the Oval Office with Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Yates, Samantha Rice and Joe Biden. It was this meeting that Rice later memorialized in her strange email to herself weeks after the fact. In that email, she recounts how Obama instructed his team to “play by the book,” but also withholding information from the Trump administration was discussed. The following day, Comey briefs Trump on Russian interference in the election based on the IC assessment along with other officials, then privately told Trump of the more salacious details of the Steele dossier without telling him things were unverified. He also withheld the fact the dossier was paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign. Four days later, because Trump had been briefed on the dossier, a fact leaked to CNN, they ran with the story and insinuated that Trump had been blackmailed by the Russians.
Around this time period, Flynn had invited Adam Lovinger of the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment to serve as Senior Director of Trump’s national security council. In 2016, Lovinger became concerned about the ONA’s use of outside contractors citing a revolving door and “cronyism.” One person noted by Lovinger in an October 2016 memo was Stephan Halper who he described as a “moral hazard.”
That same day, James H. Baker of the Defense Department filed four charges against Lovinger accusing him of leaking information to the media and he eventually lost his security clearance. However, he was later exonerated.
These charges of leaking information to the media on the part of Lovinger are rich considering the leaks emanating from the Obama administration regarding Flynn. On the day of the December 29th phone call between Flynn and Kislyak, someone leaked the content of that call to Adam Entous of the Washington Post. Entous did not believe this was news and nothing unusual about it. Getting nowhere with Entous, the call was leaked to David Ignatius, also of the Washington Post. This time it worked with James Clapper allegedly placing pressure on Ignatius to publish the story and he did so on January 12, 2017. To quote Ignatius:
According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Kislyak several times on December 29th, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?
In intelligence parlance, this is known as “bloodying the waters.” As a result of the “bombshell” report, the Trump-Russia narrative took on new life.
To their benefit, the outgoing Obama administration caught a break when Flynn made an unforced error. Days after the story broke, Vice President Pence made a round of news talk shows and stated Flynn assured him personally that sanctions were not discussed. That was a possible misunderstanding between Pence and Flynn that put Pence in a difficult situation.
Flynn did discuss sanctions in a general sense assuring Kislyak that “everything” would be under review although the purpose of the calls was about the expulsion of the 35 Russians specifically. This discrepancy gave Comey and McCabe- knowing that sanctions were generally discussed in the call as opposed to Pence’s statements- a chance to perk up their investigative ears believing that Flynn had deliberately lied to Pence; hence, he had something to hide. On February 9th, Entous published portions of the call between Kislyak and Flynn buttressed by analysis of nine Obama holdovers that they had discussed sanctions on Russia.
On January 24, the FBI decided to move and scheduled an interview with Flynn in the White House Situation Room. The day before Lisa Page and Strozk shared a series of text messages expressing trepidation about the upcoming interview. Page felt “stressed” believing the interview had the potential to “go off the rails.” Strozk replies that he talked with someone named John (unknown), Andy (McCabe) and Bill (Priestap) about the interview. What would they be stressed about? The answer is that they were in the works of leveraging the phone contents against Pence’s statements. The interview had the potential to pit Flynn against Pence.
The actual interview was complete with malfeasance on so many levels as concerns the FBI. It starts with a memo from Priestap in advance of the interview where he states: “What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
The two agents who interviewed Flynn on January 24 were Peter Strozk and Joe Pientka with the protocol being one asks questions and the other takes notes. In this case, Strozk asked the questions. After completing an interview, it is memorialized on a FD-302 form. This is supposed to be done within five days of the interview. At that point, it becomes an official document that could be used as evidence in a potential criminal prosecution.
It took the FBI 21 days to complete the FD-302 which they erroneously labeled a “draft” with the finalized FD-302 being submitted three months later. So why the delay and what happened in those three weeks between the interview and the “draft” FD-302?
We know from the Page-Strozk text messages because on February 10, Strozk notes Page is heavily editing Pientka’s FD-302. Other messages indicate that Page, who was not present at the interview, was making editing suggestions. There are obvious problems since Strozk is not supposed to materially alter a FD-302, even though he was Pientka’s supervisor. People not present at an interview are definitely not allowed to suggest changes or edits. Strozk should have never even let Page see the document. To make matters worse, when Mueller took over Crossfire Hurricane, he interviewed Strozk about his recollections about the interview and never relied on the original FD-302 or its alterations. Also odd was the silence of Pientka. The FBI would not allow him to testify before Congress because he was, at the time, swallowed up by the Mueller team.
The day after the interview, Mary McCord at the national security division of the DOJ received a readout of the interview, likely from Strozk, who then relayed the information to Sally Yates. The following morning, Yates called White House lawyer Don McGahn to schedule a meeting.
During the meeting, Yates and McCord laid out the media accounts, what they knew, and the contradictions between the “evidence” and Pence’s public statements. The following day, they met again. McGahn asked her whether Flynn was subject to prosecution and why was the DOJ concerned about a disagreement between two administration officials? She claimed she stated, “It is more than that” and again laid out the “evidence.”
McGahn realized that Flynn was being placed in an impossible situation. McGahn tried to wriggle out of the situation by saying that any action against Flynn would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation, but Yates assures him against that line of thinking. He then asks to see the underlying evidence against Flynn that had been compiled by the FBI and Yates suggests a meeting the following Monday.
That evening, Trump had dinner with Comey when he asked the FBI director whether he was personally under investigation. Comey lied, he later claimed, to keep confidential the still ongoing Crossfire Hurricane investigation. With the pressure mounting against Flynn, spurred on by the FBI, specifically Strozk and McCabe, and at the DOJ by Yates and McCord, Flynn was eventually let go on February 13, 2017 as national security adviser to President Trump for misleading the Vice President- not for lying to the FBI or alleged cooperation or collusion with Russians.
It came to light that others were interested in the Flynn communications having nothing to do with Russia. For example, one Treasury Department official- Patrick Conlon of the office of intelligence and analysis- was interested in an December 15, 2016 meeting between Flynn, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the UAE. It was an intelligence free-for-all when it came to Flynn. National security adviser Susan Rice was also interested in the meeting because she was irked that the UAE official had not notified the Obama administration before the meeting. One thing became obvious, however- the outgoing administration was concerned how the incoming administration was going to handle the Iran nuclear accords which helps explain why they were interested in targeting Flynn’s conversations with Arab leaders, although the purported reason for the surveillance was Russian influence.
Next: Charges, malfeasance and a legal nightmare