The Washington Post and the New York Times published stories last night with more information about Michael Flynn’s phonecalls to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Not long ago, it appeared that those phonecalls might have been no problem.
The phonecalls came after President Obama expelled members of the Russian embassy to the United States in retaliation for Russian hacking of the US election. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement indicating that there would be a reciprocal expulsion of Americans; this is standard diplomatic practice in such situations. But within a day, and after the phonecalls, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would suspend that standard, not expelling any Americans.
Now nine “current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls,” have said that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak did indeed have to do with the sanctions. These are not clerks who handled recordings or transcriptions; they are acquainted with the bigger picture. That quote is from the Washington Post article; the timing of the New York Times article suggests that it was rushed out in response. The Times article does not quote the Post article, which suggests that its sources are independent of what the Post published. The Times quotes “current and former American officials,” with no number given. It would not be surprising if the same people had talked to both newspapers. If the sources are not the same, then more than nine apparently reliable people have confirmed the story.
Flynn may have broken an ancient law that has never been tested, but that is the least of the questions raised by his actions. The biggest is
Why is the Trump administration so solicitous of Russia?
A few others:
Who are the leakers and what is their motivation?
Didn’t Flynn, the former head of the DIA, realize that the Russian embassy phones are monitored?
Did Flynn lie to Pence, or Pence to the rest of us, or some other tangled skein of lies?
Photo of Michael Flynn from Washington Post.