BY ZACHARY STIEBER May 8, 2020 Updated: May 8, 2020
Outgoing President Barack Obama revealed in early 2017 that he knew details from phone calls incoming Trump administration National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made, surprising one of the Department of Justice’s top officials, according to newly released documents.
The department on Thursday moved to dismiss the criminal case against Flynn that rested on the phone calls.
Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general at the time, recalled meeting with Obama at the White House on Jan. 5, 2017, along with a number of other officials, including then-FBI Director James Comey.
After dismissing everyone but Yates, Comey, then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and then-Vice President Joe Biden, Obama told them he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and the lieutenant general’s discussion with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.ADVERTISING
Kislyak’s phone calls were being wiretapped by government officials, allowing them to hear what Flynn told him.
Obama told the trio he didn’t want additional information about the matter but wanted to know whether the White House should, in light of the information, treat Flynn differently.
Yates “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,” FBI agents who interviewed her wrote in a report about the interview.
Yates told the agents that she didn’t know what Obama was talking about but figured it out based on the conversation. She did not know who told Obama about the details. She recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, a centuries-old law that’s never been successfully prosecuted.
“We did not disseminate this [redacted] in any finished intelligence, although our people judged was appropriate, for reasons that I hope are obvious, to have Mr. Flynn’s name unmasked,” Comey said, according to a newly declassified transcript.
Unmasking is a term used by intelligence officials for revealing the name of a U.S. citizen.
The two documents were released on May 7 by the Justice Department as part of its motion to dismiss the case against Flynn.
The Department of Justice moved Thursday to dismiss the case, arguing the Jan. 24, 2017, interview of Flynn “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.”
The investigation itself was “no longer justifiably predicated,” said Timothy Shea, interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in the motion to dismiss. “The FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information,’” he added.