While discussing the calls made between incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, then President Obama ordered FBI Director James Comey to “make sure you look into things and have the right people on it.” This is according to the recently released handwritten notes of FBI agent Peter Strzok. Strzok’s note refers to either a January 4th or 5th meeting that included Obama, Comey, Biden, Sally Yates, and Susan Rice. These remarks suggest that it was at the directive of President Obama, not James Comey, that the Flynn investigation remain open.
After all, the intelligence community was just about to close the case on Flynn. According to the testimony of James Clapper “it was known that Mike Flynn was talking to Kislyak before the 29th of December” (see pg. 54). In fact, James Comey testified that, “…we had an open counterintelligence investigation on Mr. Flynn, and it had been open since the summertime, and we were very close to closing it.” Comey was even aware of the Dec. 29th conversation between Flynn and Kislyak and was still unconcerned.
But, on the afternoon of Jan. 4th, FBI agent Peter Strzok sent word to keep the case open at the directive of the “7th floor”, meaning at the request of James Comey. Further, Strzok’s note indicates that Comey told Obama that the Flynn/Kislyak calls “appear legit”. The point is that Comey was not at all troubled that Flynn had done anything wrong. The call in question was on December 29th, so why would Comey wait several more days to request the Flynn investigation remain open?
This means that Comey had not officially decided to keep the Flynn case open until after Obama had requested to meet with him on Jan. 4th. The simplest explanation is that Obama, along with his NSC and White House staff, had requested that Comey keep the investigation open. This, then, further raises the question as to why so many people on Obama’s National Security Council and within his administration were making unmasking requests for Flynn.
After Trump won the election the first known contact that Flynn has with Kislyak was on November 30, 2016, when Jared Kushner invites him to join a meeting with he and Kislyak (see Mueller report pg. 168). Coincidentally, this is the same date of the first unmasking request of Flynn, initiated by Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
What seems to have gone unnoticed is that Samantha Power was serving a dual role as both Ambassador and member of Obama’s National Security Council. Power further revealed in her testimony to Congress that her specific role on the NSC involved investigating Russian cybersecurity.
While it has been reported that Power testified that she has “no recollection” of making anywhere near the total number of unmasking requests, it actually appears that she eventually admits that it was probably her own staff making many of those requests on her behalf due to her “awesome responsibility” to serve the President and others on the NSC (see pg. 101-104). Thus, at least one individual of Obama’s inner security circle was keeping tabs on Flynn’s post-election contact with Sergey Kislyak.
After this meeting, Jared Kushner testified that he, Flynn, and Bannon met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates in “mid-December” and that the Obama administration was informed and aware that a meeting was taking place (see pg. 8-11). Interestingly, on Dec. 14, 2016, there are at least 10 separate requests from high ranking Obama officials to unmask Flynn. Additionally, there are another 17 requests to unmask Flynn on the very next day of Dec. 15th, and five more requests on Dec. 16th. Was this the meeting that prompted so many to unmask Flynn in mid-December?
It would be especially important to the Obama administration, considering that the UAE was one of the most significant critics of Obama’s “weak” Middle East policy. Further, the UAE was actively petitioning the Trump administration immediately after his election in November to change this policy. It was no secret that UAE was opposed to Obama’s Iran deal, which was considered the centerpiece of his legacy. And certainly Obama would not forget that Flynn had openly opposed many of his policies regarding the Middle East, especially criticizing the administration’s position on Iran.
Recall that Obama attempted to convince Trump to part ways with Flynn. As Lee Smith rightly points out, “Of all the important things Obama could have discussed with him, the outgoing commander in chief wanted to talk about Michael Flynn.”
Flynn had also pushed for the more innovative software program, Palantir, for collecting intelligence. This program is “capable of building comprehensive models of activity to detect suspicious anomalies” and is “the combination of every analytical tool you could ever dream of.” Would this mean that such a system could also discover “anomalies” with unmasking requests and other abuses under Obama? If so, that’s a serious “uh-oh” for the whole administration, which has regularly been accused of abusing intelligence data.
If Obama had any concern for both his reputation and the advancement of his policies, these conversations would be of top priority. Hence, this is why so many people inside the Obama White House unmasked Flynn in the middle of December: They needed a plan to get rid of Flynn.
But the FBI’s investigation into Flynn hadn’t discovered any wrongdoing. Strike One. And Trump was not going to heed Obama’s warning to drop Flynn. Strike Two. Occam’s Razor would suggest that the reason why so many people on Obama’s NSC and in top positions within his administration were unmasking Flynn is not, in spite of, but because of Obama’s directive.
This brings everything back to the Dec. 29th sanctions imposed by Obama, in which he announced that the U.S. Government is sanctioning “nine entities and individuals”, shutting down two Russian compounds located in the U.S., and expelling 35 Russian intelligence operatives.
Note that just 16 days before this, Obama had downplayed the extent to which Russia interfered in the presidential election during an interview with Trevor Noah on Dec. 13th, 2016:
None of this should be a big surprise…Russia trying to influence our elections dates back to the Soviet Union. What they did here…is not a particularly fancy brand of espionage or propaganda…We were frankly more concerned…to the possibilities of…tampering, which we did not see evidence of…The truth of the matter is that it was fairly routine stuff.
The sudden change of heart about Russian interference, then, suspiciously appears to have been a scheme to attempt to entrap Michael Flynn. Due to the open FBI investigation into Flynn and the multiple unmasking requests, Obama knew that Flynn was in regular contact with Kislyak. Thus, Obama would have been confident that Kislyak would call Flynn after he announced the Russian sanctions and expulsions. And, so, exactly one day after Obama announced the sanctions, he tasks the intelligence community to find out why Russia was not retaliating.
Yet, Comey too would have been aware of all of this and was still willing to close the Flynn case until Obama ordered him to keep it open. This is further corroborated by the fact that text messages between Peter Stzrok and Lisa Page on January 3rd indicate that Strzok and Bill Priestap were actually concerned that the FBI and intelligence communities were “over sharing” information with the White House, calling it “all political” and suggesting that they had “partisan axes to grind”. Ironically, the hyper-partisan Strzok considered Obama to be too partisan for his liking.
Comey’s statement to Obama that the calls between Flynn and Kislyak “appear legit” further proves that Obama was aware that Flynn had done nothing wrong. Take into account that the only charge leveled against Flynn during this call is that he requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond in a “reciprocal” manner. And this discussion only involved the expulsions, not the sanctions. How, in any scenario, this could be conceived as anything other than a sensible request is beyond explanation.
The question, then, is whether the mastermind behind the Flynn setup was stationed at the White House rather than the FBI or any other intelligence community. After all, it is mostly Obama’s inner circle doing all of the unmasking. At the very least, it appears that Obama had much more to lose from Flynn becoming the National Security Advisor than anyone else.
Lee Smith summarizes it well:
Russiagate was not a hoax…Rather, it was a purposeful extension of the Obama administration’s Iran Deal…and…Obama’s efforts to realign American interests with those of a terror state…It’s not hard to see why the previous president went after Flynn: The retired general’s determination to undo the Iran Deal…But why Obama would choose the Islamic Republic as a partner and encourage tactics typically employed by third-world police states remain a mystery.