Part VI: Back Channels
Previously on the report the f._b._i. As part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the russian. Government's efforts is to interfere in the two thousand sixteen presidential election trump announces with some fanfare his team. It includes george popadopoulos carter page which is that donald. Trump is brilliant and i said you think i'm going to disavow state but are you crazy. I went into a plea with my eyes closed. This is a crisis. This is from manafort. He's so over leveraged. I don't understand how four different occasions a warrant was issued against. An american citizen manafort ford has resigned from the trump. Campaign is stepping down. It's december twenty ninth twenty sixteen. The obama administration announces that it's imposing sanctions on russia as a punishment for election interference michael flynn has been tapped to become trump's national security advisor when the new administration asian takes office in january but it's still the transition period flynn is taking a few days vacation at the beach. When he sees the news he grabs his phone and text the transition team at mar-a-lago he writes quote titfortat with russia not good and he says that the russian ambassador sergei or get kislyak is reaching out to him today. Flynn calls kislyak and ask that russia not escalate in response to the sanctions apparently it it works. The next day in a surprise move putin says that russia won't retaliate trump tweets quote great move on delay away by the putin. I always knew he was very smart <music>. This is the report episode six back channels. The mother report spends more than one hundred pages detailing the trump teams contacts with various russians government government officials oligarchs agents and cutouts and those contacts don't stop when trump wins the election on november eighth twenty sixteen the previous two episodes covered russian approaches to the trump team leading up to and during the campaign the trump tower moscow projects the offer of dirt at trump tower new york and overtures to george popadopoulos carter page and paul manafort but muller also looks at a somewhat different form of contact as as well outreach from the russian government pushing policies favorable to the russian federation and now it wants to start talking about new policies with people. The russians think are prepared to be friendlier than typical u._s. politicians. The story of the russian efforts to reset relations with the new administration. Shen begins with a policy speech trump delivers at a hotel in washington d._c. Goes through a resort at a remote island in the indian ocean then the u._n. Security council and ends with the president's national security adviser resigning in disgrace before turning to the transition period head. It's worth mentioning two episodes from the campaign. That muller covers at length but ultimately concludes. There isn't anything especially nefarious going on one involves a d._c. Based think tank called the center for the national interest or c._n._n. I the other involves the republican national committee changing the party's platform platform in a men are favourable so the russians here's benjamin witness who as always is paraphrasing quoting the muller report itself members of the trump campaign interacted on several occasions with the center for the national interest principally through its president and chief executive officer dimitri simes c._n._i. Is a think tank with expertise in and connections to the russian government in april. Two thousand sixteen candidate trump delivered his first. I speech on foreign policy and national security at an event hosted by the national interest a publication affiliated with c._n._i. Then senator senator jeff sessions and russian ambassador sergei kislyak both attended the event and as a result it gained some attention in relation to sessions's confirmation confirmation hearings to become attorney. General sessions had various other contacts with c._n._i. During the campaign period on foreign policy matters including russia jared kushner also interacted with signs about russian issues during the campaign. The investigation did not identify evidence events that the campaign past or received any messages to or from the russian government through c._n._i. Or signs rosalind helderman alderman is an investigative reporter for the washington post. She's also an author of the introduction and commentary accompanying. The posts printed edition of the muller report report so dimitri simes is a russian emigre. He moved to the united states. I believe in the nineteen seventies and was a pretty outspoken anticommunist. I communist <hes> dissident living in the u._s. He founded this think tank the they believe that the united states should pursue foreign policy that was pragmatic pragmatic <hes> and <hes> <hes> not necessarily sort of <hes> looking for fights all over the world on behalf of the american ideology <hes> but to be realists and in the context of 2016 russia what that man was not antagonist bodyman putin the c._n._i. Affiliated publication the national interests hosts trump's foreign policy speech at the mayflower hotel signs agrees that c._n._i. Will provide behind the scenes input on the speech. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and thank you to the center sir for national interest for honoring me with this invitation. It truly is a great honor. It's time to shake the rust off america's foreign policy. It's it's time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold something we have to do. It was actually a little controversial at the time because this was very the star of the time period where people were really noticing. The donald trump was talking about russia in a way that was pretty out of step with the rest of the foreign policy establishment and people notice noticed that sergei kislyak the russian ambassador went to that speech he attended it and he sat in the front row watching candidate trump spoke which was unusual but later it becomes quite controversial because it's kind of the start of these moments where you can see these kind of flickers of interaction between between russia and the campaign the mayflower hotel event becomes a bigger deal later on when sessions is nominated to become the attorney general and it emerges that he shihan kislyak both attended during his confirmation hearings sessions had told the senate that he hadn't met with any russians when sessions was nominated needed to be attorney general he had confirmation hearings of course and in the course of those confirmation hearings he was ask questions about russia and the campaign and if there is any any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign. What will you do senator franken. I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two and that campaign and i didn't have not not have communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it and then it was very quickly reported by the washing pos actually that <hes> he had he met with kislyak at least twice during the republican national convention when kislyak had attended a speech <hes> that he gave <hes> and then again at this meeting his office in september number two thousand sixteen and in fact they had talked about you know at least fleetingly at least briefly they had talked about the campaigns attitude towards russia and russia's attitude towards the campaign and so this was a big problem for sessions and a few days after it emerged that his congressional testimony had not been accurate <hes> ah announced that he was recusing himself from <hes> investigation into either a campaign might arise whatever investigation that might have been which of course was the russia investigation the fact that kislyak had also been at the mayflower hotel speech adds to the many questions about whether sessions has been truthful about his encounters with kislyak but the mullahs report says nothing dramatic happened the office found no evidence that kislyak conversed with either there trump or sessions after the speech or would have had the opportunity to do so still signs in kushner remain in touch through the rest of the campaign a fact which becomes important immediately after the election but before that there's the republican national convention in july twenty sixteen gene. We're a decision to change r._n._c. Policy platform regarding ukraine generates controversy as well the story behind signed curious change in the republican party platform republican. Donald trump has promised to be a strong president. Get the party platform became less tough on russia in particular it reduced the level of support that would be promised to a government under pressure from russia kislyak also meets with campaign staff around the time of the g._o._p. Upi convention and then republican party platform changes to water down language supporting ukraine and its battle against russian forces in in eastern ukraine. The question is whether kislyak or maybe trump himself is involved in that decision. Why did she saw in the g._o._p. Platform on ukraine. I wasn't involved in honestly yeah. I was not involved in that. I'd like to <hes>. I'd have to take a look at it. I was not involved. You know what they did. They softened it. I heard but i was not involved. They took away the part of the platform calling provisions of lethal weapons to ukraine to defend themselves. So why is that a good idea. Look you know i have my own ideas but the mother report says there's nothing here either trump campaign officials met with russian ambassador editor sergei kislyak during the week of the republican national convention. The evidence indicates that those interactions were brief and non-substantive during platform committee meetings immediately before the convention jay dee gordon a senior campaign adviser on policy and national security diluted ended a proposed amendment to the republican party platform expressing support for providing quote lethal unquote assistance to ukraine in response wants to russian aggression gordon requested that platform committee personnel revise the proposed amendment to state that only quote appropriate unquote unquote assistance be provided to ukraine. Gordon says he sought change on his own because the new language is more consistent with trump's position on in ukraine and the mother report says there's no evidence trump is personally involved. Change still kislyak keeps in touch after the convention with sessions and with gordon when trump was elected president on november eighth twenty sixteen kislyak along with a lot of other russian government emissaries official and unofficial start more aggressive outreach beginning immediately after the election individuals connected to the russian government started contacting contacting officials on the trump campaign and transition team through multiple channels sometimes through russian ambassador kislyak and at other times through individuals vigils who sought reliable contacts through u._s. Persons not formally tied to the campaign or transition team the most senior in your levels of the russian government encouraged these efforts the investigation did not establish that these efforts reflected or constituted coordination between the trump campaign and russia in its election interference activities to fifty a._m. On election night trump takes the stage to clean victory. I've just received a call from secretary clinton within minutes. What's the russians are reaching out at approximately three a._m. On election night trump campaign press secretary hope hicks received received a telephone call on her personal cell phone from a person who sounded foreign but was calling from a number with the d._c. Area code although hick's wchs had a hard time understanding the person she could make out the words quote putin. Call unquote hicks told the caller to send her in email the next day hicks received an email from an official at the russian embassy with the subject line message from putin but hicks ex- isn't sure if the email is real or not here's ross helderman. There's this sort of historical moment. Were on the night of the election or early morning hours. After the election election hope it's gets a phone call on her cell phone from a russian accented man who she can't understand anything he says other than something about putin's call <hes> and she does like very understandably. I think all of us would do at like three in the morning with a strange man calls she says can you email me and so he does he emails <hes> <hes> her from his g mail account which is a little unusual and says that he works for the russian embassy and he'd like to help set up a call between vladimir putin and the incoming president united states and so she sends out the kushner and says like is this. Is this real like. I don't want to be duped but i also don't want to blow off putin. I actually think that was the direct quote from email email. I don't want to be duped but i don't wanna blow off putin and so- kushner sets out to figure out <hes> whether that guy really worked for the embassy and whether he was acting on behalf of the russian government and i guess he's not a reporter and doesn't know that much about google because the thing he does is he goes to dimitri simes and he asks him like what was the name of the russian in basseterre. I don't remember like i need to figure out if this guy works for the embassy. Kushner goes to symes to remind him of kislyak's name those campaign period contacts contacts are suddenly alive once again five days later trump and putin speak by phone this sort of direct outreach however is not the kremlin's game a number of russian individuals working in the private sector began their own efforts to make contact peter oven russian national who heads alpha-bank russia's largest commercial bank described to the office interactions with putin during this time period that might account for the flurry of russian activity of and told the office that he is one of approximately fifty wealthy russian businessman commonly referred to u._s. Oligarchs who regularly meet with putin in the kremlin according to oven although putin did not expressly direct him to reach out to the trump transition position team often understood that putin expected him to try to respond to the concerns he had raised in december two thousand sixteen at a meeting meeting between putin oven and other prominent russian businessmen. The main topic of discussion was the prospect of forthcoming u._s. Economic sanctions actions russia has behaved badly. The americans are angry and putin is worried about sanctions. He wants to begin a dialogue with the incoming administration to head off putting believes the trump administration will be friendlier to russia than any administration in recent u._s. history and he just interfered in an election to help trump. Here's franklin for a writer at the atlantic putin starts to get nervous about his relations with with the new government and he brings in oven. He assembles the rest of the oligarchs and he says i need you guys to do whatever ever you can to get in with the trump people and so they go out they all this to seek out meetings with jared kushner. They start to make enquiries. It's certainly suggestive of the ways in which oligarchs operate on behalf of vladimir putin where they're an extension attention of russian foreign policy. They're not independent entities when they're they're. They're asked to perform very very specific. Tasks asks that come from the top and the consequences of not coming through in those those tasks are such that they the oligarchs feel feel compelled to perform them oven isn't the only one chorale dmitriev heads russians sovereign wealth fund and he's close to putin to he also also develops a sudden interest in meeting with members of the incoming trump administration in the period after the election he recruits a business associate named george originator an american who works for the government of the united arab emirates to make introductions to trump transition officials and this leads to a wild taper of meeting in the seychelles islands nature has been keeping dmitriev abreast of his efforts to develop contacts with the trump campaign during the two thousand sixteen election shen after trump wins dmitriev tells nater he wants to meet with the key people in the trump transition to begin quote rebuilding the relationship in and whatever is a comfortable pace for them and quote those meetings do not develop immediately nater stated that dmitry of continued to press him to set up a meeting with transition officials and was particularly focused on kushner and trump junior here shane harris of the washington post so dmitry of starts using his relationship with this man george nader to try get in with people in the trump campaign nader also knows so he's kind of leaning on nater saying i want to meet with people i want to meet with kushner. I wanna meet with donald trump junior these the people he really wanted to get to to start having a conversation about how we make the relationship better which is the kind of conversations you expect to happen. During the presidential transition they're not conversations expect to be having between you know some wealthy financier manzir that the russian president does and a bunch of people who are not officially a part of the president's transition or just advising. There's no formality to this. It's all very backchannel. Channel neater eventually comes through suggesting a meeting between dmitriev an individual associated with the trump campaign named eric prince nater traveled to new york in early january two thousand seventeen and had lunchtime and dinner meetings with eric prints on january third two thousand seventeen seventeen nader and prince discussed dmitriev nater informed prince that the russians were looking to build a link with the incoming trump administration nation. He told prince that dmitriev had been pushing nater to introduce him to someone from the incoming administration nader suggested said in light of prince's relationship with transition team officials that prints and dmitriev meet to discuss issues of mutual concern. Prince has been many things he's probably most famous as an entrepreneur of sorts <hes> he was the founder and once ran a company called blackwater which is a private security company of some notoriety <hes> but he is <hes> a man of <hes> significant financial means was largely invested in private security with some would call mercenary forces. He is also the brother of the education secretary betsy devos and has a number of close personal relationships to people who worked on the trump campaign and we're close advisers to donald trump to notable. We'll places he shows up one is in the <hes> hunt for hillary clinton's emails by the republican operative peter smith which was the subject of a previous previous episode of the podcast he actually provided technical analysis of e-mails that peter smith was given to find out if they were actually hillary clinton's emails and and the second eh pops up is in interactions that he's having with people in the campaign <hes> and a man named george nader who is close to the royal family of the united arab emirates that leads up to a meeting that eric prince has with a man named curious dmitrov in the seychelles which which is a tiny island in the middle of the indian ocean prince did not have a formal role in the campaign although he offered to host a fundraiser for trump and sent unsolicited policy papers on issues such as foreign policy trade and russian election interference to bannon after the election in prince frequently visited transition offices at trump tower primarily to meet with bannon but on occasion to meet with michael flynn and others prince insist bannon would discuss among other things foreign policy issues and prince's recommendations regarding who should be appointed to fill key national security already positions although prince was not formally affiliated with the transition nader received assurances that the incoming administration considered prints a a trusted associate and thus the seychelles meeting is born prince booked a ticket to the seychelles on january very seven th two thousand seventeen the following day nater wrote to dmitry after he had a pleasant surprise unquote for him namely that that he arranged for dmitriev to meet a quote special guest unquote from the quote new team unquote referring to prince nader asked ask dmitriev if he could come to the seychelles for the meeting on january twelfth two thousand seventeen and dmitriev agreed so ultimately nater nater arranges for a meeting in the seychelles erik prince's going there <hes> and nato calls up dmitriev and says okay. I want you to meet with eric prince. You finally going to have your you know your meeting with the guy who's on the inside and dmitrievna initially a little bit skeptical kind of wondering is eric prince really high up enough in the campaign vein and the guy. I want to meet with nater wrote to dmitriev quote. This guy prints is designated by steve bannon to meet you. I know him and and he is very very well connected and trusted by the new team. His sister is now. A minister of education unquote dmitriev arrived with his wife in the seychelles on january eleventh two thousand seventeen and checked into the four seasons resort where crown prince mohammad and nater were staying prince arrived that same day prince and dmitriev met for the first time that afternoon in nader's villa with nature present. The initial meeting lasted approximately thirty to forty five minutes. It isn't clear exactly what happens at the meeting so do the meeting itself. It's gonna say we don't know a ton of out in the inter interactions between dmitriev in prints that are a detailed in the miller report or actually blacked out. We know a fair amount though about what led up to that meeting that i think sheds light on what was what was going on. This section of the report is heavily redacted but it tells us that the meeting was short and apparently at a fairly high altitude prince describes steve bannon as has effective. If unconventional the topic of russian election interference doesn't come up and prince says he will tell ban and about the meeting and bannon bannon or someone else on the team will follow up if interested in continuing the discussion. They have two meetings. <hes> one is <hes> not long after they arrive it lasts about thirty or forty five minutes much of what they discussed is redacted but i think we can largely infer that it was about a desire to improve relations but then things go south afterwards prince returned to his room where he learned that a russian aircraft carrier had sailed to libya which which led him to call nature and ask him to set up another meeting with dmitriev according to nader prince called and said he had checked with his associates back home and needed to convey to dmitriev that libya was quote off the table unquote when prince tells dmitriev that the u._s. could not accept russian involvement mm-hmm and libya because it will only make the situation worse dmitriev is insulted after the brief second meeting concluded dmitriev told nature that he was disappointed in his meetings with prince for two reasons first he believed the russians needed to be communicating with somebody who had more authority within the incoming administration than prince had second he had hoped to have a discussion of greater substance such as outlining a strategic roadmap would map for both countries to follow dmitri of seem kind of underwhelmed. He was hoping for somebody who had a bit more authority. Within the transition in the upcoming meghan ministration and nature says to him. No this guy is very tight with steve bannon. This is the guy who really wants him to get wants you to meet with him so he's trying to play prince office. Somebody who is more more important than dimitri. Thanks the russians are disappointed for his part prince's excited but back home bannon is unimpressed hours. After the second meeting print sent to text messages to ban from the seychelles. He also told nater that he would inform bannon about his discussion in with dmitry f._m. Would convey that someone within the russian power structure was interested in seeking better relations with the incoming administration prince said that he met bannon bannon's home after returning to the united states and briefed him about several topics including his meeting with dimitrios. According to prince bannon instructed prince not to follow up with dmitry f. and prince had the impression that the issue was not a priority for bannon prince related that bannon did not appear angry just relatively uninterested bannon for his part denies knowing or remembering anything saying about the seychelles beginning at all bannon told the office that he never discussed with prince anything regarding dmitriev or any meetings with russian individuals or people associated with putin bannon also stated that had prince mentioned such a meeting bannon would have remembered it and bannon would've objected to such a meeting having taken place. There are a lot of questions about the seychelles meeting. Starting with wyatt was held through a backchannel on an island in the indian ocean in the first place if the transition wants to open a line of communication with russia about a potential reset relations why not go through the u._s. State state department. What does prince think he's doing when he boards a plane to meet with an envoy to vladimir putin in a remote country i think he understood that at this was a meeting that he was being asked to undertake in his capacity as a transition adviser with a very prominent russian and that what was going on here at least from the point of view of the russians certainly <hes> is some kind of laying the groundwork for foreign policy right that is what transitions are supposed to do to start laying the groundwork work but none of this was happening through any kind of formal or established channel and by the way there was still a president in office who was in charge of russian us relations until january anyway twentieth of two thousand seventeen another question that one might ask is why exactly does a prominent wealthy russian close to putin need to go to a tiny island in the middle of the indian ocean to have a meeting with trump adviser like why can't you do that in a little more overt kind of open setting while the cloak and dagger in prince's prince's not entirely truthful about the episode either so wouldn't eric prints was initially questioned about this meeting so the washington post i back back in april of two thousand seventeen broke the fact at the meeting occurred. He interviewed by the house. Intelligence committee print says and essentially what he says is at this meeting was all just coincidental. Eric prince was in the seychelles <hes> he heard that there was this russian he should meet with they met mishal unplanned all spontaneous and they didn't discuss anything related to <hes> foreign policy or u._s. Strategic relations basically all of that's not true and we know that because prince tells a totally different story the one we've just laid out here about what happened <hes> in the seychelles to muller and his team and that is corroborated by other people who were there so the question becomes why did eric prince feel the need to mislead or not tell the full story or possibly lie about this meeting when he was meeting with house investigators. What was he trying to hide. Muller is also unable to resolve bannon and prince's conflicting accounts about about what bannon knew about the meeting the conflicting accounts provided by bannon and prince could not be independently clarified by reviewing their communications sion's because neither one was able to produce any of the messages they exchanged in the time period surrounding the seychelles meeting. There is meta data indicating that bannon and prince were exchanging text messages during this period but when the investigators to look at their phones the messages are gone so let a very curious signals that <hes> this was perhaps not the most transparent and overt of meetings that happen in the seychelles dmitriev isn't just relying on nature. He has other irons in the fire in late november. Remember the u._a._e. National security advisor introduces him to rick gerson a hedge fund manager in new york who's friends with jared jared kushner when dmitriev and gerson met they principally discussed potential joint ventures between gerson hedge fund and the russian investment fund and dmitriev was interested in improved economic cooperation between the united states and russia and asked gerson who he should meet with in in the incoming administration who would be helpful towards this goal gerson said he would ask kushner and michael flynn who the quote key person or people bull unquote were on the topics of reconciliation with russia joint security concerns and economic matters shortly before the inauguration occupation dmitriev writes a brief outline of ideas for a new russia u._s. relationship and gives it to garson gerson gives it to kushner kushner who gives it to bannon and to rex tillerson who's about to become the secretary of state. He actually ends up kind of giving gerson in this sort of road map for future relationships between the united states and russia and tells gerson that this is coming from putin. That's what putin wants and gerson passes along jared kushner. <hes> and there's you know there's sort of ample evidence. That dmitriev was at least claiming that this was coming from the very highest levels of the russian government. You know putin himself you know down to he at one point tells kushner or that he knows the putin and trump are gonna gonna be speaking and putin wants to know that his document has been red before they before they speak <hes> so jared kushner guest document and apparently there's evidence that he circulated it around <hes> you know he gives it to bannon and gives it to rex tillerson. Who's the incoming <hes> <hes> secretary of state there are other meetings things between trump associates and the russians during the transition as well jared kushner and michael flynn meet with kislyak trump tower new york on november thirtieth twenty sixteen ecksteen at the half hour meeting kushner says he wants to quote start afresh in u._s. Russia relations and he asks for a more direct line to putin <hes> the three men also discussed u._s. Policy toward syria and kislyak floated the idea of having russian generals briefed the transition team on the topic <unk> using secure communications line after flynn explained that there was no secure line in the transition team offices kushner asked kislyak xlii act if they could communicate using secure facilities at the russian embassy kislyak quickly rejected that idea the president-elect's president-elect son-in-law representing his presidential transition asks the ambassador of the russian federation if the transition might use russian communications commitment for briefings from russian generals so they're talking about syria. They're talking about the possibility of getting some kind of briefing from russian generals about what's going on in syria and <hes> i guess jared kushner or someone thinks this needs to be a secure conversation and they note that they don't have the ability to have secure communications <hes> in the transition frankly. That's probably not true. The state department probably could have helped them with that kind of thing if they were actually working with the state department comment <hes> but they weren't no one knows how you do such things and sew kushner makes this rather like extraordinary proposal that maybe they could use the russians secure communications. Maybe trump people could go. I guess to the russian embassy and use their communications devices to talk to the russian generals <hes> and apparently even kislyak was like <hes> no that does not sound like a good idea to me and that did not happen the president trump personally defending his senior senior adviser and son-in-law jared kushner. All the administration officials say that even have kushner did try to establish a secret back channel with the kremlin that it's not that big a deal. I mean it's an insane idea. You have like u._s. Officials who are about to be the most powerful officials in the american government like turning turning themselves over basically to adverse foreign power and you know it could be used against them in the future <hes> <hes> they manipulate the recording if they wanted to <hes> and it's also just like just not done. I mean imagine if it had come out that they like went into the russian embassy because they didn't trust american communications and they didn't know how to use american communications like there are even more meetings outreach pedder oven. The banker sought to connect with the transition through dimitri simes and a former u._s. Diplomat carter page has been fired by the trump campaign but following the election when he shows up in moscow intimating he speaks for the trump team and again communicates with the russian deputy prime minister jared kushner also meets sergei gorkov. The head of a russian government owned bank called v._p. The bank and kushner offer conflicting accounts of the purpose of that meeting the abi claims. It's a real estate business meeting. While kushner says it is for diplomatic purposes muller does not resolve the conflicting accounts but does snowed. There's only limited follow up that would be concerning if the russians were dangling some kind of investment to help jared kushner's business. I mean you know a put aside. The issue of the russians that's just ranked corruption right to you know basic bribery law basic quid pro quo to offer governmental official shaw a private investment in exchange for policy outcome. <hes> you want <hes>. That's gross no matter who does it. <hes> if it's russia doing it in particular for <hes> you know then you have the issue of like steering u._s. policy in favor of a adverse hostile foreign power for personal business reasons and it also creates a powerful compromise situation <hes> where jared kushner could potentially be blackmailed that he entertained this this corrupt bargain but again you know more apparently did not find evidence that that's what happened at that meeting so hopefully it's not the name is jared kushner. I am senior adviser to president donald j trump. Let me be very clear. I did not collude with russia shaw nor do i know of anyone else in the campaign who did so i had no improper contacts and i have been fully transparent in providing hiding all requested information. Donald trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won all of this brings us to michael flynn and his contacts with sergei kislyak in the final days of twenty me sixteen here shane harris again on how flynn came to be selected as trump's national security adviser michael flynn was regarded as i think still is regarded as one of the more brilliant tactical military intelligence officers of his generation russian. It was during the era of the conflict in iraq and when the conflict afganistan was going much hotter than it is now that flynn sort of became became known for this brilliance of being able to develop intelligence based plans key is appointed to be the director of the defense intelligence allegiance agency but then it turned out that his his kind of tactical brilliance on the field did not translate to strategic or managerial competence running a very very big multibillion dollar intelligence agency and he very famously flamed out as the director of the d._i._a. Ultimately pushed out by the president he he became a very prominent critic of the administration but along comes donald trump and donald trump after he announces for president in the summer of twenty t- fifteen continues. I think it's safe to say kind of a line of critique and attack that he's had on the obama administration of being weak on terror blind to the the threat of radical islam not even using the words radical islam. Mike flynn was totally simpatico with that incoming national security adviser michael google flynn was the transition team's primary conduit for communications with the russian ambassador and dealt with russia on too sensitive matters during the transition period united nations security council vote and the russian government's reaction to the united states is imposition of sanctions for russian interference in the two two thousand sixteen election. The first of these sensitive matters involve israel and settlement activity. Here's scott anderson of law fair and the brookings institution in mid to late. December word gets out that egypt has actually introduced a draft strictly and draft u._n. Security council resolution that that condemns israeli settlement activity and this is a pretty notable development <hes> in terms of these sorts of resolutions the u._n. Security council actually hadn't really enacted any sort of resolution addressing settlement activity since the nineteen eighties really because the united states had consistently vetoed them the security council which includes russia was scheduled to vote on the resolution the following day there was speculation in the media that the obama administration would not oppose the resolution lucien then the trump team gets involved according to flynn the transition team regarded the vote as a significant issue and wanted to support support israel by opposing the resolution on december twenty second two thousand sixteen multiple members of the transition team as well as president-elect trump trump communicated with foreign government officials to determine their views on the resolution and to rally support to delay the vote or defeat the resolution michael flynn the future national security advisor is responsible for reaching out to russia and reaches out to again his contacts kislyak of the russian ambassador bathroom the united states to say <hes> you know we urge you to try and find a way to delay this resolution. Don't bring it up for a vote. <hes> we breaking fairly clear that they oppose the the resolution from the perspective of the incoming trump administration and otherwise finding ways to prevent the security council resolution from actually reaching the floor and being forced forced into a vote separately. It's worth noting president. Trump reportedly reached out to the egyptian president sisi <hes> and who actually succeeded in persuading him to delay of vote on the resolution but a similar resolution was introduced by other states <hes> and that was the one that ultimately made it forward to the floor russia could veto the resolution as easily the united states good <hes> but russia's made clear to flynn and communication through kislyak later that they would not oppose the resolution if it were brought to the floor. Why does it matter if the trump transition is engaged with foreign leaders on a u._n. Security council vote because of the principle that the united states has only one government at a time trump has has been elected but he isn't president yet and his transition is actively undermining the policies of the u._s. Government that is still in power. It is strange <hes> to say the least <hes> you know there's been kind of a tradition about transition governments <hes> in the united states at least to say you know we recognize that the current government in place is the government for the united states and we're not going to step in and start reversing things until there is the official transition at the inauguration the obama administration in two thousand late two thousand eight early two thousand nine when transitioning with the bush administration was very notable about that they were very explicit saying while we have major foreign policy disagreements with the bush administration president bush is still the president until january twentieth until inauguration day <hes> so this is a departure from that sort of norm certainly about this conscious and proactive effort to kind of i've respond to or shape foreign relations and there's another problem as well when flynn is interviewed about all of this by the f._b._i. He lies to federal investigators. Flynn made false statements about the calls he had previously made to representatives of russia and other their countries regarding a resolution submitted by egypt to the united nations security council on december twenty first two thousand sixteen specifically flynn stated that he had only asked the country's position on how they would vote on the resolution and that he did not request that any of the countries take any particular action that statement was false in reality flynn has called kislyak has told him the trump transition opposes the resolution solution and as requested the russians voted against or delay the resolution but flynn engages in an even more faithful exchange with kislyak during the transition flint speaks to the russian ambassador later in december when the obama administration announces sanctions and other measures on russia on december twenty eighth with two thousand sixteen then president obama signed an executive order which took effect at twelve o one a._m. The next day and imposed sanctions on nine russian russian individuals and entities on december twenty ninth two thousand sixteen the obama administration also expelled thirty five russian government officials ios and close to russian government owned compounds in the united states. Ellen nakashima is a journalist with the washington post. So the there was a basket of of measures that the obama administration <hes> took on on december twenty ninth they announced announced economic sanctions on to russian intelligence agencies the g._r._u. and the f._s._p. The gre you being those military terry intelligence <hes> spicer virus and the f._s._b.'s the internal security service a successor agency to the k._g._b. As well as <hes> sanctions on four g._r._u. officers who were involved in the cyber her <hes> hacking and interference in the two thousand sixteen election the these actions were all part of a response to both these hacking interference appearance and the election and the pattern of harassment that russia had taken against u._s. Officials in the preceding year there had been a big debate during during the summer and into the fall over weather and how to respond to russia's provocations <hes> but they in fact did not take action until until after the election december twenty nine of twenty sixteen and the besides the economic sanctions they <hes> expelled thirty five russian intelligence operatives and they closed to russian compounds one on the eastern shore of maryland and went up in long island both of which were suspected did of of being used for surveillance purposes by the russians at the time the sanctions are announced trump and the leaders of his transition team mm-hmm including future deputy national security adviser k._t. Mcfarland are at mar-a-lago flynn is on vacation in the dominican republic but is in touch with mcfarland daily. The transition team and president-elect trump were concerned that these sanctions would harm the united states is relationship ship with russia. Although the details and timing of sanctions were unknown on december twenty eighth two thousand sixteen the media began reporting that retaliatory sorry measures from the obama administration against russia were forthcoming when asked about imposing sanctions on russia for its alleged interference in the two thousand sixteen presidential election president-elect trump told the media quote. I think we ought to get on with our lives. Unquote on december twenty ninth win the obama administration announced the sanctions they imposing against russia for its interference in the two thousand sixteen election that was something that <hes> kislyak wanted to talk to flint about in fact there had had been <hes> indications that the sanctions were coming when it became clear that the sanctions were pending kislyak texted or got untouched with flynn. Thank you wanted to talk to him. Russia initiated the outreach to the transition team on the evening of december twenty twenty eight. Th two thousand sixteen kislyak texted flynn quote. Can you kindly call me back at your convenience. Unquote flynn did not respond to the text message message that evening. Someone from the russian embassy also called flynn the next morning at ten thirty eight a._m. But they did not talk but then the obama administration actually announces the sanctions on the twenty ninth after the same day but after the sanctions had been announced flynn took a call from kislyak he was at the beach resort. He took a call from kislyak and these spoke at mar a lago. The transition team consults on what flynn should say to the russian ambassador mcfarland believed she told bannon that flynn was scheduled to talk to kislyak later that at night mcfarland also believed she may have discussed the sanctions with priebus and likewise told him that flynn was scheduled to talk to kislyak the act that night at three fourteen pm flynn texted a transition team member who was assisting mcfarland quote time for a call unquote he later texted tit for tat with russia not good russian ambro reaching out to me today unquote. It's also clear that they discussed the message edge to be sent to the russians mcfarland and flynn also discussed that transition team members in mar-a-lago did not want russia to escalate the situation and they both understood that flynn would relate a message to kislyak immediately after speaking with mcfarland flynn called and spoke with kislyak with respect affect the sanctions flynn requested that russia not escalate the situation knock get into a quote tit for tat unquote and only respond to the sanctions actions in a reciprocal manner. There's no doubt that the transition team knows that the time that flynn is talking to kislyak. It's less clear if trump himself knows what's going on but it seems more likely than not mcfarland emailed transition team members that flynn is quote talking to russian combat later this evening on quote less than an hour later mcfarland briefed president elect trump bannon priebus sean spicer and other transition team members were present mcfarland recalled that at the end of the meeting someone may have mentioned to president-elect trump that flynn flynn was speaking to the russian ambassador that evening flynn and speaks to kislyak and reports back after the briefing flynn and mcfarland spoke over the phone own flynn reported on the substance of his call with kislyak including their discussion of the sanctions according to mcfarland flynn mentioned that the russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming administration mcfarland also gave flynn a summary of her recent briefing with president-elect trump the day after the phone call on december thirtieth the russian foreign minister announces that russia will will respond to the sanctions but then the russians suddenly reverse course putin releases a statement that the russians won't be retaliating at all hours later president elect trump tweeted great move on delay by v putin on quote on december thirty i two thousand sixteen kislyak called flynn and told him the request had been received the highest levels and that russia had chosen not to retaliate to the sanctions in in response to the request two hours later flynn spoke with mcfarland and relayed his conversation with kislyak according to mcfarland flynn remarked that the russians wanted a better relationship and that the relationship was back on track flynn also told mcfarland that he believed. I believe his phone call had made the difference tonight. President-elect donald trump is out with new praise for vladimir putin applauding the russian president for withholding retaliatory sanctions on the u._s. The former director of national intelligence general james clapper clapper says in an interview that at the time he was puzzled by the lack of response well <hes> having watched <hes> the soviets and the russians for much of my professional life i i as others did found out <hes> strange that they didn't retaliate and when when when you heard about the intelligence that we had about the conversation between michael flynn general flynn and <hes> kislyak <hes> what did you take from that <hes> without going into the source of the information renew about everything but it would appear that would explain <hes> the non reaction shen on the part of the russians that response which incoming president president-elect trump <hes> praised on twitter. He said i always new putin was a smart man that response was red flag to to intelligence officials and they started to grueling some suspicious started start to analyze intercepts and reports cables that they had and that's when they turned up the call that that flynn and kislyak had had on the twenty ninth when the <hes> justice department f._b._i. Solve the content of that. They grew concerned -cerned that perhaps <hes> mike flynn in discussing the sanctions with kislyak might be in violation relation of <hes> of law called logan act. It's an it's actually a seventeen ninety nine law that has never been prosecuted <hes> and it bans u._s. Citizens from intervening in foreign disputes with other <hes> countries and by raising the issue of sanctions with kislyak in a way that might undermine the the policy of the obama administration insulation flynn might well be in violation of this of this law. The question of whether this actually poses the legal problem under the logan act isn't isn't clear. It's a complicated law and there's a reason it's been very rarely used in the past but legal problem or not this looks very bad for the trump transition in team which is carrying out independent foreign policy and working against the obama team which is trying to hold russia accountable for election interference and so when flynn's call becomes public the trump team wise the fact of the call became public in on on january twelfth of the new year twenty seventeen when david ignatius columnist for the washington post reported on that phone call and he he wondered he raised the question in his in his column about whether sanctions had been discussed on that call at all and whether or or not was there any discussion of it was there any undermining of the sanctions that prompted denials from the incoming administration sean spicer's knew there had been no discussion of sanctions whatsoever and so when the washington post reported on the kislyak conversation they deny it. Sean spicer denies it. I talked to general flynn about again last night. One call talks about four subjects. One was was the loss of life that occurred in the plane crash that took their military choir to was christmas and holiday greetings three was to facility or talk about a conference in syria and isis and four was to set up a to talk about after the inauguration setting up a call between president putin and president president trump. Mike pence denies it. They did not discuss anything having to do with <hes> the united states decision to expel diplomats. That's or or <hes> an impose a century against russia so did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day that they did not have a discussion contemporaneous <hes> <hes> with a u._s. action and in his interview with the f._b._i. Shortly after he takes office as national security adviser michael flynn denies it two flynn told agents that he did not ask kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the united states is imposition of sanctions. That statement was false. Flynn also falsely told the f._b._i. That he did not remember a follow up conversation in which kislyak stated that russia had had chosen to moderate its response to the u._s. Sanctions as a result of flynn's request sergei kislyak being a a foreign diplomat in the united states. <hes> has his calls routinely intercepted wiretapped units. It's well known diplomats know that their calls are are tapped apt and mike flynn as a former veteran intelligence officer a should have known likely did no you know the these calls were intercepted opted or tapped in any case <hes> they came up with the intelligence officers and agencies came up with the with the call they they knew you what the content was and <hes> the f._b._i. Pass this on to senior officials at the justice department something something really odd about michael flynn in all of this <hes> i think the the the investigators who interviewed him even noted it it <hes> they were struck by how in the interview with flynn he he just flat out denied that he had ever discussed sanctions when they knew he had they had seen the the transcripts of the of the conversation. These these are veteran f._b._i. Agents done many many interviews like this and they were really stunned by to the point where things they thought was. There's something something quite not right with him that he could bligh like that so plane so easily on february thirteenth twenty seventeen michael flynn resigns as national security adviser king news donald trump's national security adviser michael flynn has resigned tonight just one month into his tenure amid growing concerns about his contact with the russian ambassador and whether he misled vice president pence about whether sanctions against russia were discussed from the period before the convention and straight through trump's inauguration russian officials are reaching out trying to translate trump's friendly tone towards putin into advantageous official policy. She is the russians doing directly at public events and through back channels in remote places. They're doing it through russian oligarchs and businessmen <music> as well as the russian ambassador who seems to be everywhere and the russians are doing this knowing full well. They've just intervened in an election on trump's behalf and that trump and his people know at two and trump is reciprocating. It takes two after all to meet it takes two to to set up backchannel altogether. It's quite a picture social media manipulation hacking and dumping the apparent targetting of campaign connected figures for engagement efforts to engage the campaign and the transition itself in hopes of resetting u._s. russia relations and then and there are the great many lies about at all but which parts of any of this actually violate the law. That's next time on the report and thank you for listening to part six of the report. This podcast is the main possible by the generous support of the william and flora hewlett foundation and the democracy fund and by listeners like you to support this project. Please go to a law fair blog dot com. The report is a production of law fair and goat rodeo in washington d._c. In enwright is the executive producer the law fair team. The project is led by executive editor. Susan hennessy editor in chief is benjamin witness interviews conducted by managing editor quinta jurassic rustic recording by michaela focal and jacob shorts additional assistance biannual law street and happy baker special thanks to franklin and four shane harris rosalind helderman scott anderson ellen nakashima and you the listening audience to support this show. Please share this podcast wherever you can and while you're at it please subscribe and review the podcast on apple podcasts spotify or wherever you listen until next time i'm.