Politically, the ouster of Michael Flynn as national security adviser has been a bombshell in Washington DC and the Trump administration. Legally, it’s turning out to be a dud — at least so far. NPR’s source within the intelligence community says nothing in the transcript of the December call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that violated any laws, nor did it show that Flynn had any particular direction to conduct the conversation (via PJ Media’s Patrick Poole):
A current U.S. intelligence official tells NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly that there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the transcripts of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, although the official noted that doesn’t rule out the possibility of illegal actions.
The official also says that there are recordings as well as transcripts of the calls, and that the transcripts don’t suggest Flynn was acting under orders in his conversations. …
The intelligence official who has personally seen the transcripts told Mary Louise they contained “no evidence” of criminal wrongdoing, although the official said it can’t be definitively ruled out.
The official also said there was “absolutely nothing” in the transcripts that suggests Flynn was acting under instructions “or that the trail leads higher.” …
“I don’t think [Flynn] knew he was doing anything wrong,” the official said. “Flynn talked about sanctions, but no specific promises were made. Flynn was speaking more in general ‘maybe we’ll take a look at this going forward’ terms.”
There is some small irony in this information coming from yet another leak within the intelligence community. Trump has excoriated leaks from within the IC, claiming that they have waged a war from inside the government against his administration. This leak from yesterday afternoon might suggest that the IC isn’t as monolithically opposed to the Trump administration as first thought.
Earlier yesterday, NBC’s Pete Williams heard that the FBI hasn’t seen any evidence of deception from Flynn, either:
NBC’s Pete Williams: Flynn unlikely to face legal jeopardy
Per NBC’s Pete Williams, the FBI interviewed Flynn shortly after he took office about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, but this was part of the FBI’s bigger investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. And Williams adds, according to two sources, the FBI doesn’t believe Flynn will face legal jeopardy. One possible problem for Flynn is if he lied to FBI agents. But the people Williams spoke with don’t believe this will be a problem.
So what did Flynn discuss with Kislyak? According to Flynn’s account to the Daily Caller just before his resignation, mostly the status of 35 Russians declared persona non grata by Barack Obama and booted out of the US:
Flynn insisted that he crossed no lines in his telephone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed.”
Flynn said there was a brief discussion of the 35 Russian diplomats who were being expelled by Obama in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 campaign.
“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”
Flynn has had his clearance suspended pending the full review of the incident. That matters if Flynn wants to use his expertise as a nat-sec consultant, so his resignation hasn’t entirely rendered that moot. The question comes down to the accuracy of the leaks and what the transcripts actually show. If NPR’s source is incorrect, we should have seen more action than just a clearance revocation at this point, almost two months after the call in question. If, however, NPR’s source is correct, then the whole Flynn “scandal” has been way overblown, as Trump has repeatedly said. But that also prompts the question Allahpundit has asked a number of times: why did Trump push Flynn out if this was a molehill being made into a mountain?