In a newly declassified email that Susan Rice sent to herself on January 20, 2017, the former national-security adviser said that former FBI director James Comey had “no indication” that Michael Flynn had passed along classified information to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but stipulated that Comey was nevertheless wary about sharing sensitive information with Flynn because of the frequency of his contact with Kislyak.
The document, reportedly declassified by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, says that Comey said he was “proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement,” and that he had “concerns” that Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, was “speaking frequently” with Kislyak.
Flynn and Kislyak spoke five times in December 2016 after President Obama signed an executive order that announced sanctions against Russia for trying to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In the calls, which were monitored by the FBI, Flynn told the Russian ambassador not to escalate tensions, which Russia agreed to.
“President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially,’” the email reads. “He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’”
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) May 19, 2020
Flynn was interviewed by the FBI on January 24, 2017, about his calls with Kislyak, and subsequently pleaded guilty to “materially false statements and omissions” stemming from the questioning. In 2018, Comey admitted that he “sent” the agents to interview Flynn in the White House, adding that it was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more organized administration.” Comey also told Fox News’s Bret Baier in a 2018 interview that he “didn’t believe” and “didn’t say” that the agents who interviewed Flynn found him to be truthful — contradicting multiple accounts of his 2017 briefing to lawmakers about the interview.
The Justice Department, which earlier this month moved to drop its case against Flynn after a review, explained in its filing that Flynn’s interview was not “conducted with a legitimate investigative basis” and was immaterial “even if untrue.” Recently released documents showed that the FBI moved to close its investigation of Flynn on January 4, 2017 — a day before the Oval Office meeting discussed in the Rice email — after finding “no derogatory information” with respect to Flynn’s Russian contacts. But FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened to request that the case be kept open, revealing that the “7th floor,” a FBI euphemism for senior leadership, was “involved.”
Rice’s email was sent to herself 15 days after the Oval Office meeting. Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates testified that she was “so surprised” to hear Obama asking about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak in the meeting, because she had not been aware of the calls herself.