What Barr Doesn’t Want You to Remember About Michael Flynn

Why did he try to shield Russia from Obama’s sanctions over election interference—and then lie about it?

On October 7, 2016, the intelligence community issued a statement confirming that it was the Russian government that “directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Then, on January 6, 2017, they released an assessment of both Russian activities and intentions in their efforts to interfere the 2016 election. Here is their key finding:

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

Upon completion of that assessment, two issues remained: (1) the question of whether the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russian government and (2) how to respond to an adversary’s attempt to interfere in an election. The first question was eventually assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller and, on the second, President Obama ordered sanctions on individuals and entities involved in the interference efforts, shut down two Russian compounds in the U.S., and expelled more than 30 Russian intelligence operatives.

Meanwhile, Michael Flynn, along with Jared Kushner and Erik Prince, was working with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to set up a backchannel for Trump and his staff to be able to communicate with the Russian government in a way that would bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy. Flynn’s interest was focused on his plan for the U.S. and Russia to cooperate militarily, particularly in Syria.

In light of all of that, it was on the day that Obama announced the actions he was taking against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election that Flynn called the Russian ambassador and—in his own words—”requested that Russia not escalate the situation.” On the day he resigned as Trump’s national security advisor, Flynn said that the call “was about the 35 guys who were thrown out. . . . It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’” So, on the day that Obama retaliated for Russia’s attack on our democracy, Flynn basically told them, “Don’t sweat it, we’ll take care of all of this once Trump is in office.” He then lied to the FBI about what was discussed on that call.

David Ignatius, the reporter who broke the story about Flynn’s call to Kislyak, identified the critical issue.

There was always a deeper problem, one that still isn’t resolved. Why was the Trump administration so eager to blunt the punishment Obama gave to Russia for what we now know was gross interference in our presidential election? In his Dec. 29 expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, Obama was trying to impose costs on an adversary. The evidence shows that Flynn wanted to reassure this same adversary and to avoid confrontation.

None of what I have just written was included in the DOJ court filing submitted on Thursday to exonerate Michael Flynn. That’s because Attorney General Barr wants to completely re-write the history of what happened. The grin that breaks out when, at the end of this clip, Barr says that “history is written by the winners” is not only a tell but seriously disturbing.

Once again, Barr is demonstrating that he is nothing more than a political hack who is willing to corrupt the entire Department of Justice to exonerate Trump and his associates. The politicization of the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush was a major scandal. But it pales in comparison to what is happening right now.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.