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The FBI coordinated very closely with the Obama White House on the investigation of Michael Flynn, while the Obama Justice Department was asleep at the switch.
That is among the most revealing takeaways from Thursday’s decision by Attorney General Bill Barr to pull the plug on the prosecution of Flynn, who fleetingly served as President Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn had been seeking to withdraw his guilty plea to a false-statements charge brought in late 2017 by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
While working on the Trump transition team in December 2016, Flynn spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in conversations that were intercepted by our government (because Russian-government operatives, such as Kislyak, are routinely monitored by the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies). Among the topics Flynn and Kislyak discussed was the imposition of sanctions against Russia, which President Obama had just announced.
That these conversations took place has been known for over three years — ever since a still-unidentified government official leaked that classified information to the Washington Post. For almost as long, it has been known that the FBI became aware of the Flynn–Kislyak discussions very shortly after they happened.
What was not known until last week was that then–acting Attorney General Sally Yates was out of the loop. She found out about the discussions nearly a week afterward — from Obama, of all people.
This was at a White House pow-wow on Jan. 5, 2017. That was the day when the chiefs of key intelligence agencies briefed top Obama White House officials on their assessment of Russia’s meddling in the campaign.
After the main briefing, the president asked Yates and FBI director James Comey to stick around to meet with him, along with Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Yates was taken aback when Obama explained that he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Kislyak. She was startled because, she later told investigators, she “had no idea what the president was talking about.”