Thursday, May 21, 2020

Flynn Update Update

Via Reddit.

Re the White House meeting of 5 January 2017 following the intelligence community briefing on Russian election interference and what we now know as the Steele dossier, yesterday I wrote:
And it was also three days after the intelligence community first learned of the Flynn-Kislyak calls of 29-30 December, so that was also part of the discussion (though not apparently part of the discussion in Trump Tower).
Which is pretty interesting in itself, because in the Grenell list of unmasking requests there are no requests between 28 December and 5 January—IC seems to have learned about those calls by some other means. Or as I suspected Flynn's identity may have been obvious, to Clapper in particular. But chief of staff Denis McDonough did make an unmasking request the same day as the IC briefing.
Looks like I was onto something!

Ellen Nakashima/Washington Post explains,
It was the FBI, not the NSA, that wiretapped Kislyak’s calls and created the summary and transcript,... former officials said.
“When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because it was essential to understanding its significance, said a former senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence. “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.”
Because it wasn't masked in the first place. Emily Litella Award for the week goes to Lindsey Graham.

All those requests were for calls relating to other skullduggery Flynn was involved in, the majority of them (30 out of 48 requests) being on something we may have not heard of at all yet, clustered around 14-16 December and invoked by a ton of NATO personnel, the ambassador to Russia, the Department of Energy, the Treasury department, and something called the Syria Group as well as CIA and FBI.

Emptywheel guessed most of this long before Nakashima reported it, and wrote it up a week ago (shame on me for missing it). She considers, but doubts, the hypothesis that the remarkable flurry was over Flynn's nutty scheme for building nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East—and a hypothesis that interests me more, that it could have concerned Flynn's and Kushner's early December Trump Tower meeting with Kislyak, the proposal for a back channel of communications with the Kremlin, Syria cooperation, and sanctions (administered by Treasury), plus Kushner's follow-up meeting 13 December with Sergey Gorkov of Vnesheconombank (VEB), but it's not clear what the Energy department would have had to do with it (but the department does have responsibilities in administering sanctions related to nuclear materials, like those the Obama administration slapped on the state-owned Rosoboronexport firm in 2015 over exports to Iran or Syria).

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