I think the whole question as to how much Obama knew and when he knew it, is about to be answered in spectacular, bombshell-esque fashion.
By Chris Jewers For Mailonline and Andrew Court and Geoff Earle, Deputy U.s. Political Editor For Dailymail.com | 09:52 08 May 2020, updated 10:58 08 May 2020
- House Intelligence Committee has released declassified transcripts from 57 interviews conducted during Trump-Russia probe
- Documents show Obama knew about Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador
- Obama was ‘not a fan’ of Flynn and warned Trump administration about him
- The President told Sally Yates and James Comey about his knowledge of calls in an Oval Office meeting following a wider national security briefing
- Top Obama officials including Susan Rice and Lorette Lynch could not point to any specific evidence that showed Trump campaign had colluded with Russia
- The probe began when the committee was under Republican control, but is now chaired by Democratic Senator Adam Schiff who released the documents
- There are additional transcripts from Donald Trump Jr., Hope Hicks, Rob Goldstone and Steve Bannon
President Obama knew details of Michael Flynn’s 2016 wiretapped phone calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and raised the issue following an Oval Office meeting about Russian interferance is U.S. elections, it has been revealed in declassified documents released on Thursday.
The documents, that have been used as exhibits in the government’s motion to dismiss the case against Flynn, who at the time was due to become the U.S. National Security Advisor under the incoming Trump administration, show that Obama’s knowledge of the call surprised then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
According to Fox News, on January 5 2017, fifteen days before Donald Trump assumed office, Sally Yates attended a meeting in the Oval Office with President Obama along other notable national security figures, according to the newly declassified documents, which include a ‘FD-302 FBI’ report, a document used to detail interviews the bureau conducts.
The other attendees were then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-directors of the FBI and CIA, James Comey and John Brennan respectively, and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The meeting was held to discuss Russian election interference, and also involved Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor who Flynn soon replaced, and other national security officials.
Following the meeting, the President asked Yates and Comey to ‘stay behind’ in the Oval Office, saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and the phone conversations about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
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,’ according to the documents, which showed at this point ‘Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation.’
In a separate memo from Susan Rice about the meeting, Joe Biden also stayed behind after the briefing.
Obama’s knowledge of the phone calls, which at the time the FBI said were not criminal in nature, is notable due to his own history with Michael Flynn.
High-ranking FBI officials had secretly discussed whether their objective was to ultimately get the advisor fired when they interviewed Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017.
Furthermore, in 2014, President Obama had fired Flynn as his head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and had warned the incoming Trump administration against hiring him as National Security Advisor, making it clear that he was ‘not a fan’, according to multiple sources.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the Russia probe.
He also admitted to failing to register as a foreign agent due to his lucrative work for the Turkish government while serving as a campaign advisor to the Trump campaign.
Attorney General Bill Barr insists he is NOT doing Trump’s bidding by dropping charges against Michael Flynn
Attorney General Bill Barr defended the decision not to pursue charges against fired Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Thursday, who had pleaded guilty in court to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador during the Trump transition.
Barr said he doesn’t know how history will judge him because ‘history is written by the winners’ hours after the Justice Department said it would be dropping its criminal case against Flynn.
The attorney general told CBS News that while Flynn did lie, the false statement was not ‘material to a legitimate investigation.’
‘It’s on the question of materiality that we feel really that a crime cannot be established here because there was not, in our view, a legitimate investigation going on,’ Barr said.
‘They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition.’
The attorney general said that FBI investigators ‘essentially’ entrapped Flynn so that he would lie.
The stunning turnaround drew immediate praise from Trump, who has long claimed Flynn was railroaded and had kept alive the possibility of a presidential pardon while attacking prosecutors he said were on a ‘witch hunt.’
Flynn celebrated by tweeting a picture of his toddler grandson Travis reciting the pledge of allegiance with the words ‘justice for all.’
The Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the charges with U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has presided over the case and has a reputation for fierce independence.
Judges generally grant such motions, but Sullivan could demand answers from the department about its reversal or even deny the motion and sentence Flynn, a less likely scenario.
Sullivan at a 2018 hearing expressed ‘disgust’ and ‘disdain’ toward Flynn’s criminal offense, saying: ‘Arguably, you sold your country out.’
Donald Trump reacted in the Oval Office by saying Flynn ‘was an innocent man.’
‘Now in my book he’s an even greater warrior,’ the president said. Trump said he would reach out to Flynn at the ‘appropriate’ time.
‘I think he’s a hero. It’s a scam. It was a scam and a hoax. I think he’s a hero, the general,’ Trump said.
Democrats however slammed the move.
‘President Trump doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about your health. He doesn’t care about your family. He doesn’t care about testing. He just cares that his cronies are taken care of,’ Chuck Schumer tweeted.
Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment of Donald Trump, said that Flynn was not exonerated by the move and added: ‘But it does incriminate Bill Barr. In the worst politicization of the Justice Department in its history.’
Other newly declassified transcripts released Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee revealed that top Obama administration officials had no concrete evidence that the Trump campaigned colluded with Russia in the 2016 Election.
The transcripts come from 57 witnesses who were interviewed by the committee during the Trump Russia probe. Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch were among those who gave their testimony.
In her interview with the House Intelligence Committee, conducted on September 8, 2017, Rice admitted there ‘wasn’t anything smoking’ that showed the Trump campaign had helped with Russia’s election meddling.
‘I don’t recall intelligence that I would consider evidence to that effect… prior to my departure,’ she stated.
Meanwhile, former AG Loretta Lynch similarly stated that she ‘could not say’ whether evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy existed when she gave her interview on October 20, 2017.
Other officials who worked in the Obama Administration were also asked about whether or not there was any concrete evidence they had seen.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated: ‘I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.
‘That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence. … But I do not recall any instance where I had direct evidence.’
Samantha Power, who was appointed by Obama to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations, was also among the 57 interviewees probed by the House Intelligence Committee.
‘I am not in possession of anything—I am not in possession and didn’t read or absorb information that came from out of the intelligence community,’ Power stated, according to the newly released transcripts.
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Also interviewed were people critical of the probe, and who worked closely with Trump on the 2016 campaign trail.
Donald Trump Jr., Hope Hicks, and Steve Bannon were among them.
The release of the transcripts come after a tussle on whether or not they should have been declassified.
The House panel voted in 2018 to release the documents, but it wasn’t until this week that acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell told the committee they were ready for release following a lengthy interagency classification review.
During the intervening period, the impeachment of President Trump and his trial has come and gone, the Mueller report has been released, and Trump has waged a long campaign against FBI agents and other key figures in investigations.
Panel chair Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who is a regular target of Trump’s, complained in a release about the delay in the review, as his panel put out the information for all to see.
‘These transcripts should have been released long before now, but the White House held up their release to the public by refusing to allow the Intelligence Community to make redactions on the basis of classified information, rather than White House political interests,’ Schiff vented, despite the fact former Obama officials were unable to provide concrete evidence about collusion.
OTHER REVELATIONS FROM THE NEWLY DECLASSIFIED TRANSCRIPTS
– Trump’s security head Keith Schiller revealed he provided security services for Melania Trump when she took vacations. Asked by Rep. Jackie Speier if the future first lady took vacations separate from her husband, Schiller replied: ‘Yes m’am.’
– Longtime assistant Rhona Graff got quizzed on an invitation, conveyed by Emin Agalarov, for a Moscow visit that dangled a meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was conveyed by British PR Rob Goldstone, though after Trump turned down a birthday visit for his father, a wealthy Moscow developer. ”I totally understand re Moscow — unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up,’ he wrote.
– Schiff quizzed Don Jr. on his receipt of an email from Goldstone before the Trump Tower meeting. ‘Was this the first communication you received from Mr. Goldstone where he indicated that the Russian Government wanted to provide assistance to the campaign?’ ‘Yes,’ he responded. Asked if he ever discussed with his father an email offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, Don Jr. responded: ‘No, not that I recall.’