• May 31, 2020

ROMANO: Time for Trump, Barr to declassify spygate, Flynn - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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ROMANO: Time for Trump, Barr to declassify spygate, Flynn

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Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020 4:00 am

The Justice Department has dismissed all charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, after spying on his Dec. 22, 2016 conversation he had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, leaking it to the Washington Post on Jan. 12, 2017, sending the FBI to ask about it on Jan. 24, 2017—all resulting in Flynn’s firing, prosecution and guilty plea, that he has since motioned to withdraw.

According to Justice Department’s motion, “Mr. Flynn, himself a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, stated that he readily expected that the FBI already knew the contents of his conversations with the ambassador, stating: ‘you listen to everything they say.’”

As a result, and given other internal statements by the FBI that it was unsure if Flynn had even lied at the time, the government has folded the case, stating there was not even linked to a legitimate investigation, saying, “After a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information appended to the defendant’s supplemental pleadings… the Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn—a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.’”

Additionally, that there was no basis for the interview in the first place: “The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue. Moreover, we do not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The investigation started first by targeting George Papadopoulos via foreign agency efforts beginning in mid-2016, and then the FISA warrant applications, on Carter Page beginning in Oct. 2016, fueled by the DNC-Steele dossier falsely accusing President Donald Trump, Page and Paul Manafort of being Russian agents, that was renewed after the election. Then, they went after Flynn during the transition.

Since 2017, the Justice Department ultimately concluded, via Special Counsel Robert Mueller that there was no conspiracy between Trump, his campaign and Russia. Mueller found in his report that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” and “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”

A Jan. 20, 2017 email that former National Security Advisor Susan Rice sent to herself on the day Trump was inaugurated revealed a Jan. 5, 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, in which Rice wrote, “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

This was the Russian interference into the 2016 election briefing given a day before then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued the joint intelligence assessment on the same, but the version that was given to former President Barack Obama and then-President-Elect Trump on Jan. 5, 2017 also reportedly included some of the allegations leveled by former British spy Christopher Steele in his infamous dossier, paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that Trump was a Russian agent.

According to Rice, former President Barack Obama supposedly, laughably wanted to make certain that the investigation, which was about to be carried over to the Trump administration, would be done “by the book.” Per Rice’s email to herself, “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book’. The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book. From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”

The email continued, “The President asked [then-FBI Director James] Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.”

The email was uncovered from the National Archives by then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the current Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Feb. 12, 2018, who wrote a letter to Rice with very pointed questions.

Rice actually responded, via her attorney, Kathryn Ruemmler, in a letter on Feb. 23, 2018, denying that the meeting covered the Steele dossier allegations at all, or even knowing there as an active FBI investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 or that there were ongoing FISA warrants and surveillance into the Trump campaign and then transition. Rice claimed to have only found out about it all via Comey’s Congressional testimony and press reports later.

Those denials stand at the heart of what role former President Barack Obama knew, and when he knew it. If Rice knew, he knew. Obamagate? Maybe. This is why everything must be declassified immediately.

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