Why Was Michel Flynn Talking to the Russian Ambassador?

David Ignatius has an interesting tidbit in his column about the Trump/Russian connections.

According to a senior U.S. government official, [Retired Lt. Gen. Michael] Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

What we have is a president-elect’s national security advisor talking on the phone to the Russian Ambassador several times on the day the current president announced retaliation against Russia for hacking and releasing information about the president-elect’s opponent during the election.

We also know that Flynn has strong ties to Russia via his regular appearances on Russia Today (suggesting that it’s just like CNN). In the dossier released by BuzzFeed, Flynn is listed as one of four members of the Trump campaign who were in contact with Russia during the election (in addition to Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Cohen).

Of course we don’t know the content of those conversations. But remember the days when the “appearance of corruption” was enough to send the entire media into fits about the Clinton Foundation? Perhaps these phone calls will turn out to be as easily dismissed as those allegations were after a thorough investigation. Let’s find out!

There are a couple of other things that can be takeaways from this little tidbit. First of all, “a senior U.S. government official” leaked this information to Ignatius. That is important to keep in mind. It indicates that there are people within the government who want to keep this story alive.

But it also reminded me of this from Julian Borger a few days ago:

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.

It is very likely that the four members of Trump’s team that are referred to include Flynn, Manafort, Page and Cohen. Given that a U.S. official knows that Flynn had telephone contact with the Russian ambassador on Dec. 29th, it appears that the FBI got the warrant approved and has been surveilling these four men as recently as two weeks ago. That indicates that an investigation into the allegations made in the dossier is very much alive and ongoing. What happens to it after January 20th remains to be seen.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.