DOJ Documents: Rosenstein Expanded Russia Probe Beyond Scope, Obama and Biden Knew Details From Flynn’s Wire-Tapped Calls
This is a big deal.
The Department of Justice dropped its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Thursday due to new information.
The DOJ also released documents in its motion. These documents showed President Barack Obama knew details from Flynn’s wire-tapped calls, and then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expanded the Russia-Trump collusion probe beyond its primary scope.
Obama knew the details from the wire-tapped call between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, which surprised then-Deputy Attorney Sally Yates.
It shocked Yates due to Obama’s “own history with Flynn.” He fired Flynn “as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014” due to insubordination. Flynn claimed Obama fired him over “his aggressive stance on combating Islamic extremism.”
Obama even encouraged incoming President Donald Trump not to hire Flynn.
From Fox News:
On January 5, 2017, Yates attended an Oval Office meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to the newly declassified documents, including an FD-302 FBI witness report. They were discussing Russian election interference, along with national security adviser Susan Rice and other members of the national security council.
After the briefing, Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind,” and said he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Russia’s ambassador about sanctions. Obama “specified that he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”
A previous memo from Rice stated that Biden also stayed behind after the main briefing had ended.
At that point, the documents showed, “Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation. Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, but can’t recall if he specified there was an ‘investigation.’ Comey did not talk about prosecution in the meeting.”
The exhibit continues: “It was not clear to Yates from where the President first received the information. Yates did not recall Comey’s response to the President’s question about how to treat Flynn. She was so surprised by the information she was hearing that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.” Yates would later say that she was concerned Flynn would be vulnerable to blackmail because of his interactions with Russia.
Another portion revealed why the FBI began an investigation into Flynn in August 2016:
The FBI offered only three reasons: that Flynn was “cited as an adviser to the Trump team on foreign policy issues February 2016; he has ties to various state-affiliated entities of the Russian Federation, as reported by open-source information; and he traveled to Russia in December 2015, as reported by open-source information.”
The “state-affiliated entities” line was an apparent reference to Flynn’s paid appearance at a Moscow gala for Russian state TV network RT in 2015. Flynn also reportedly received thousands more in expenses covered by the network and in speech fees from other Russian firms, including some payments that he initially didn’t disclose on ethics forms. The payments raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, although Republicans pointed out that many other prominent officials, including Bill Clinton, have traveled to Russia for highly paid speaking engagements.
Disgraced former FBI agent Peter Strzok used those reasons to open the investigation, “even though Flynn’s speaking engagements in Russia were public knowledge.” The FBI can only “open such counterintelligence probes only when there is a reasonable and articulable basis to believe that criminal activity has occurred or that a threat to national security may exist.”
Documents last week showed the FBI closed its case against Flynn because agents could not find anything to hold against him. But Strzok pressured the agency to keep the investigation open in January 2017. The papers also looked like the FBI wanted to set-up Flynn.
Trump-Russia Collusion Probe
In mid-May 2017, Robert Mueller became special counsel for a probe into possible collusion between then-candidate Trump’s campaign and Russia.
But the DOJ documents showed Rosenstein expanded the probe beyond its original scope. A memo from August 2017 outlined Rosenstein’s requests, but some of it remained redacted until now:
Previously, it had been revealed that in May 2017, Rosenstein authorized Mueller to probe “i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; [and] iii) any other matters within the scope of [obstruction of justice laws].”
But, Rosenstein’s later August 2017 scope memo had remained largely redacted. The newly released version of the document makes clear that Rosenstein didn’t hesitate to explicitly authorize a deep-dive criminal probe into the Trump team that extended well beyond Russian interference efforts. (A third scope memo was also drafted.)
For example, let’s look at “low-level former Trump foreign policy aide” George Papadopoulos:
In the case of George Papadopoulos, a low-level former Trump foreign policy aide, Mueller was authorized to probe whether there had been a “crime or crimes” committed when he allegedly acted “as an unregistered agent of the government of Israel,” the new, lesser-redacted scope memo states. Papadopoulos has previously told Fox News that federal authorities tried to entrap him to secure a conviction under the Foreign Agents Registration Act [FARA], and that money in a safe in Greece might shed light on the purported scheme.
FARA is a little-known statute which, from 1966 to 2015, had been utilized only seven times. But, FARA prosecutions have picked up dramatically in recent years, and prosecutor Brandon L. Van Grack was appointed to head up the new FARA unit at the DOJ in 2019.
Note: Van Grack appeared in those documents on Flynn released last week. He apparently “failed to provide evidence to Flynn’s attorneys that anti-Trump former FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened to instruct the FBI case manager handling the Flynn investigation to keep the probe open, even after the Washington field office of the FBI wanted to close the case for lack of evidence. ”
Rosenstein’s memo also mentioned Flynn:
The newly released version of the 2017 scope memo further makes clear that Mueller could look into whether Flynn “committed a crime or crimes by engaging in conversations with Russian government officials during the period of the Trump transition.”
That was an apparent reference to the Logan Act, which has never been used in a modern criminal prosecution and had a questionable constitutional status; it was enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones and was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad. Republicans and constitutional law experts have questioned the Logan Act’s role in a modern prosecution; law professor Jonathan Turley said it was “chilling” that the FBI apparently was trying to premise a case on the Logan Act.
Rosenstein also allowed FARA to look “into Flynn’s dealings with Turkey.
Then there’s Carter Page and Paul Manafort. Along with Papadopoulos, Rosenstein instructed Mueller to “specifically” investigate if those men and other officials “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States.”
Collusion is not considered a crime, which means Mueller had the ability to “investigate any foreign involvement by these officials in search of some criminal activity.”
However, the memo told Mueller that “Manafort was under a probe for possible collusion and criminal activity.”DONATE
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