Michael Flynn’s resignation following the revelation that he allegedly lied to Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, may have ended his brief stint as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, but it had the potential to get much worse for him fast.
As we reported the other day, FBI agents had interviewed Michael Flynn when he was national security adviser in the first days of the Trump administration about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
While it is not clear what he said in his interview, the FBI now adds that investigators “believed that Mr. Flynn was not entirely forthcoming, the officials said.” That avenue raises the stakes of what so far has been a political scandal that cost Mr. Flynn his job, and which Sean Spicer explained today was merely a matter of Trump “losing trust” in his Security advisor, because if authorities conclude that Mr. Flynn knowingly lied to the F.B.I., “it could expose him to a felony charge”, even though some have questioned how an illegally obtained transcript of his phone conversation could be admissible as evidence in a court of law.
Of course, if Flynn were to be indicted for lying to the FBI (if he did indeed lie), it would expose a double standard, as there are a number of documented lies Hillary told the FBI when they were investigating her use of a private email server (for example, that she turned over all her emails, or never sent or received classified information).
But it looks like there will be no charges now regardless – because he didn’t lie.According to Breitbart, Law enforcement officials told CNN on Friday that, “barring new information that changes what they know,” charges will not be recommended against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over his telephone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Michael Flynn’s pre-inauguration calls to Kislyak became a controversy that ultimately resulted in his resignation, but even the final wave of media reports in the onslaught against him conceded that no illegal behavior occurred in the selected portions of his phone transcripts leaked to the media.
And here’s the REAL kicker: Flynn’s defenders suspected the full transcripts were not leaked because they would prove he did nothing illegal. That suspicion appears confirmed by CNN’s report.
The key issue that could have spelled serious legal jeopardy for Flynn was the sanctions imposed against Russia in the last weeks of the Obama administration. The Washington Postnoted on Thursday that Flynn denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak in an interview with FBI agents last month, which could have exposed him to felony charges of lying to the FBI.
However, the Post cited “several officials” who said it was “unclear whether procedures would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word ‘sanctions,’” and because he told the FBI he couldn’t recall everything said during his conversation with Kislyak.
Eli Lake’s influential story on the “political assassination” of Flynn at Bloomberg View cited a White House official who said Kislyak brought up sanctions during the conversation with Flynn. Flynn reportedly responded by saying that “the Trump team would be taking office in a few weeks and would review Russia policy and sanctions.”
As Lake pointed out, that would be “neither illegal nor improper.” It would also seem like the sort of detail Flynn might forget about when talking to the FBI — and perhaps to Vice President Mike Pence, the omission that seems to have cost him the National Security Adviser position.
The FBI is still conducting an “ongoing, broader review of Flynn and Russia-related dealings,” but thus far, the main concern appears to be nothing to worry about. If there is a scandal here, it may just be the hatchet job done on Flynn by Washington insiders and the media.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]