Here's some drafting for the airport novel version. Superscript notes identify material that's exclusive to the Mueller Report. Material on Flynn in the previous sketch is not yet known to these characters, although I guess it will be. Sorry I can't seem to get rid of the links and blockquotes.
|Justice League of America #1, October 1960, art by Murphy Anderson, via Wikipedia.|
Sally Yates, the slender blonde with the soft Southern accent who'd become the acting attorney general three days earlier, as the new president was being inaugurated, swept her hair back with an impatient hand. "I'm really freaked out about it," [M II:30 fn 134] she told Andy McCabe, the FBI nerd, contemplating her from the other side of the desk, as Mary McCord, DOJ national security specialist, shook her head from side to side next to him.
"This" was General Mike Flynn, fired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the previous administration and now the new chief of the National Security Council. A craggy-faced fanatic from the paranoid wing of his Republican party, he'd become indispensable to his candidate, Donald J. Trump, a pudgy, pasty hotel-keeper and television schmoozer, lending him an air of austerity and toughness, one of the men the candidate called "my generals", but he'd been turning out to have more in his past than just his enmity with the outgoing president.
For one thing, according to one of Yates's crack prosecutors, Brandon van Grack, he'd been moonlighting throughout the campaign as an illegally unregistered lobbyist for the Turkish government, for hundreds of thousands of dollars; van Grack wasn't yet sure for what, and the case wasn't ready to divulge to the public, but Trump's unexpected accession to the presidency was making it a bigger thing than it otherwise might have been, since now Flynn was in a position to put his client's pitch, whatever it might be, directly into the president's ear.
Then, another of Flynn's foreign connections was more anxiety-inducing still: the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, whose forces had been mounting cyber attacks on the American presidential elections in 2015-16, in what looked like an all-out war on the Democrats, as the CIA had concluded by December 2016. Flynn had been brought to Moscow as a guest of the state-owned English-language news broadcaster RT at the beginning of this period, getting paid $45,000, and invited to sit at Putin's table at a gala dinner. In the campaign itself, it was Trump who'd seemed Putin-haunted, talking endlessly about what a great relationship he expected to have with the Russian president, but Director Comey had opened an FBI investigation into Flynn's Russia connection, [M II:26 fn 105] and it had come roaring back into the team's awareness in the past few weeks.
It was Mary McCord who'd been the first to see it, in the course of the drama around the new sanctions the Obama administration had laid on the Russians over the election interference: on December 28, the day before the sanctions were announced, the Russian foreign ministry had angrily promised retaliation—"To be honest, we are tired of lie about the 'Russian hackers,' which is being poured down in the United States from the very top," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said—and on the 30th, after the sanctions had been announced, foreign minister Lavrov himself issued a statement that 31 US diplomats would be expelled from Russia in retaliation, and the US dacha (recreation facility) in Serebryanny Bor and the US Embassy warehouse on Dorozhnaya Street shut down.
But just two hours later a declaration from Putin appeared that, far from expelling American diplomats, he was inviting their kids to the Kremlin for a Christmas–New Year party and otherwise leaving everybody as they were. "Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible 'kitchen' diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration." And wishing everybody, Obama and Trump and the American people, a happy New Year.
"That's surprising," [M II:26 fn 103] McCord said to herself, and began rummaging through the Russia sigint for the last days of December.
It was in recordings made by US intelligence from the Russian Embassy, made under a standing 702 order (section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applying since the embassy is regarded as sovereign Russian territory), that she found what she was looking for: a series of five phone calls between Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and a "US person" advising him that the Kremlin should hold off, not escalate the situation, and not get into a "tit for tat" [M I:171] with the Obama administration, with what sounded like the authority of the Trump transition team, and Kislyak agreeing; and when she'd had the name of the US person in the transcript unmasked, it turned out to be that of General Flynn.[M II:26 fn 104]
So there they were, with the incoming national security director apparently breaking a law (the Logan Act) that nobody had ever been charged under since President Adams signed it in 1799, and that wasn't all, because over the next couple of weeks a Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, learned about it from a government source, and wondered in print:
According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.
The incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, explained to The Times on the 13th that Flynn had merely been taking Ambassador Kislyak's call of December 28 following up on a Christmas Day text message, and never mentioned sanctions at all. Vice president–elect Pence went on Face the Nation on the 15th to tell the people that the conversation had been a "coincidence": Flynn "had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place [the crash of a Russian Defense Ministry jet into the Black Sea, which killed 92 people, including 64 members of the Armed Forces' choir, the Aleksandrov Ensemble]. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."
And also on the 15th Reince Priebus informed Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that "The tick tock on this is that, on Christmas, the two of them texted each other "Merry Christmas." A couple days later, this ambassador texted General Flynn that he wanted to talk. And then the next day, they had a conversation, which did happen to be that same day. But I have talked to General Flynn. None of that came up. The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama did not come up in the conversation. In fact, it was the sports team that was in an unfortunate plane accident [Narrator: It wasn't a sports team]. They talked about setting up a phone call after inauguration. And they also talked about a conference in Syria, or a conference in regard to ISIS in Syria. So those were the only subjects that came up. But there's no controversy in General Flynn talking to his counterparts around the world." And McCord, and McCabe, and Yates knew they were all lying. That was the tick tock.
And after the inauguration, in the same January 23 press conference where Spicer astounded the world by his claim that the inaugural audience was "the total largest audience witnessed in person and around the globe" and less famously denied that the audience for the president's visit to CIA headquarters was stuffed with Trump campaign workers to disguise the chilly reception ("There were some people that had to be off camera for obvious reasons, but I think when you look at the number of people that were there, the audio alone tells -- tell -- you know, speaks volumes to what had happened"), he told the press the lie about the phone calls one more time:
So there's been one call. I talked to General Flynn about this again last night. One call, talked about four subjects. One was the loss of life that occurred in the plane crash that took their military choir, two was Christmas and holiday greetings, three was to -- to talk about a conference in Syria on ISIS and four was to set up a -- to talk about after the inauguration setting up a call between President Putin and President Trump. That -- I don't believe that that has been set up yet because the call was to say -- they did follow up, I'm sorry, two days ago about how to facilitate that call once again. So there have been a total of two calls with the ambassador and General Flynn. And the second call came -- I think it's now three days ago -- that was to say once he gets into office, can we set up that call?
"So I'm concerned about this," said Yates. "If he's lying to his colleagues, if they're unwittingly repeating lies all over the media, the Russian government knows he's lying, and they can prove it. They've got tapes of their own. They could—I don't know, blackmail him."
"Lordy," said McCabe, mimicking his boss. "And to us in the Bureau, it looks like he really did violate the Logan Act, and it really is connected to the big Russia investigation on the election." [M II:30 fn 136]
"So you're going to have to interview him," finished Yates. "Who's your best Russia guy? Strzok? Send him, please."
"It'll be done tomorrow. Get some rest, General."
"You look like the real thing to me."