Declassified Transcripts of General Flynn's Calls With Russian Ambassador Kislyak Released
How do you feel about the contents of the calls?
What’s the story?
- Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Friday declassified summaries and transcripts from several intercepted calls between Lt. General Mike Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Ratcliffe offered the following statement about the declassification:
“As I stated throughout the confirmation process, transparency is vital to allowing the American people to have confidence in the Intelligence Community. As the Director of National Intelligence, it is my obligation to review declassification requests with the overarching priority of protecting sources and methods, while also providing transparency whenever possible.”
- The calls occurred during weeks leading up to President Donald Trump’s inauguration when Flynn was reaching out to foreign governments as the incoming National Security Adviser. Most of the transcripts contain few, if any, redactions, and only one call remains mostly redacted.
- The substance of the calls were used in part as the basis for the investigation of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Special Counsel Robert Mueller ultimately found no evidence of collusion, but his team charged Flynn with lying to the FBI about whether he discussed sanctions during his conversations with Kislyak after he told FBI agents he had no memory of discussing sanctions.
- Flynn pleaded guilty after accruing millions of dollars of legal bills and to shield his son from prosecution as part of his plea agreement. After the Dept. of Justice investigated the origins of the Flynn charges, the agency determined that the FBI’s investigation of Flynn was illegitimate and asked for the charges to be dropped.
What’s in the call transcripts & summaries?
- December 22, 2016: The summary of this call is entirely redacted.
- December 23, 2016: Kislyak phones Flynn and tells him that he reported their previous call to the highest levels of the Russian government, and that they’re planning to continue consultations in New York to work out a less controversial alternative. Kislyak adds that the Egyptians aren’t pressing for a United Nations Security Council vote on Israeli settlements but that others may be. Flynn says that the U.S. and Russia share a strategic goal of stability in the Middle East, and that it won’t be achieved unless they work together against radical Islamists. (Russia ultimately voted in favor of the resolution condemning Israeli settlements on December 23rd, while the U.S. abstained.)
- December 29, 2016: A Russian diplomatic aide to Kislyak leaves Flynn a voicemail that the ambassador would like to talk.
- December 29, 2016: Flynn returns Kislyak’s call, and the Russian ambassador informs him that Russia isn’t going to support the Obama administration’s principles for the Middle East in the Security Council. Kislyak adds that Russia would like to work with the Trump administration on a peace conference for Syria in Kazakhstan after Trump’s inauguration, and tries to arrange a secure video call between Trump and Vladimir Putin after the inauguration. Flynn & Kislyak then discuss the Obama administration’s decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats over the 2016 election interference, and Flynn urges Kislyak to respond reciprocally rather than escalate in a way that begets further retaliation by the U.S. early in the new administration:
“Kislyak: I understand what you’re saying, but you know, you might appreciate the sentiments that are raging now in Moscow.
Flynn: I know, I ― believe me, I do appreciate it, I very much appreciate it. But I really don’t want us to get into a situation where we’re going, you know, where we do this and then you do something bigger, and then you know, everybody’s got to go back and forth and everybody’s got to be the tough guy here, you know? We don’t need to, we don’t need that right now, we need to ― we need cool heads to prevail, and uh, and we need to be very steady about what we’re going to do because we have absolutely a common uh, threat in the Middle East right now.
Kislyak: We agree.
Flynn: We have to eliminate this common threat.
Kislyak: We agree. One of the problems among the measures that have been announced today is that now FSB and GRU are sanctions, are sanctioned, and I ask myself, uh, does it mean that the United States isn’t willing to work on terrorist threats?
Flynn: Yeah, yeah.
Kislyak: Because that the people who are exactly, uh, fighting the terrorists.”
Flynn: Yeah, yeah, yep.
Kislyak: So that’s something that we have to deal with. But I’ve heard what you say, and I certainly will try ―
Kislyak: ― to get the people in Moscow to understand it.
Flynn: And please make sure that it’s uh ― the idea is, be ― if you, if you have to do something, do something on a reciprocal basis, meaning you know, on a sort of an even basis. Then that, then that is a good message and we’ll understand that message. And, and then, we know that we’re not going to escalate this thing, where we, where because if we put out out ― if we send out 30 guys and you send out 60, you know, or you shut down every Embassy, I mean we have to get this to a ― let’s, let’s keep this at a level that uh is, is even-keeled, okay? Is even-keeled. And then what we can do is, when we come in, we can have a better conversation about where, where we’re gonna go, uh, regarding uh, regarding our relationship. And also, basically we have to take these, these enemies on that we have. And we definitely have a common enemy. You have a problem with it, we have a problem with it in this country, and we definitely have a problem with it in the Middle East.”
- December 31, 2016: Kislyak calls Flynn to tell him that their conversation was taken into account by Moscow as it responded to the Obama administration’s sanctions, and that they believe those actions aimed to target not only Russia but President-elect Trump’s incoming administration. Flynn said he thinks it was a wise response by Russia. They follow up about earlier matters, as Flynn indicates a delegation will go to the Syria peace conferences and that he hasn’t gotten confirmation about a post-inauguration secure video conference.
- January 5, 2017: Flynn called Kislyak to express his condolences about the death of GRU Director Igor Sergun, who died unexpectedly that day from unknown causes.
- January 12, 2017: After a failed attempt to connect, Flynn and Kislyak discuss the Syria peace conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, as Flynn is still assembling the delegation and Kislyak is sending information about it. They also express that they will try to arrange a lunch or dinner when they’re D.C. at the same time.
- January 19, 2017: Kislyak leaves Flynn a voicemail to follow-up about whether he’s received a response about a secure video call between Trump and Putin after the inauguration.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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