Michael Flynn asked Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to respond to U.S. sanctions on Russia on a “reciprocal basis,” according to transcripts of conversations between the two men released on Friday.
The conversations between Kislyak and the incoming Trump national-security adviser in late 2016 were cited by the FBI in its investigation into alleged collusion between Russian operatives and Trump administration officials. At the time, the Obama administration had imposed sanctions on Russia over its attempted interference in the U.S. general election.
“What I would ask Russia to do . . . because I know you have to make some sort of action [in response to the sanctions] — to only make it reciprocal,” Flynn told Kislyak on December 29, 2016, adding that he didn’t want the Russia’s response to “escalate” the situation into a “tit for tat” conflict.
“I understand what you’re saying, but you know, you might appreciate the sentiments that are raging in Moscow,” Kislyak responded.
“I know, I — believe me, I do appreciate it, I very much appreciate it,” Flynn replied. “But I really don’t want us to get into a situation where we’re going, you know, where we do this and then you do something bigger, and then you know, everybody’s got to go back and forth and everybody’s got to be the tough guy here. You know?”
After surveilling several conversations between Flynn and Kislyak, the FBI moved to drop its investigation into Flynn on January 4, 2017. The FBI had concluded that the conversations contained “no derogatory information” that would implicate Flynn in collusion. But that same day FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened to keep the case open.
Flynn later pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI during the course of the investigation, before reversing his plea early this year. The Justice Department dropped the case on May 7.