Transcripts of phone conversations between then-incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016 were released Friday.
The transcripts have long been sought by lawmakers because they reveal the contents of the phone calls between Flynn and Kislyak during the 2016 presidential transition period. Flynn pleaded guilty for making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak, a plea he later sought to withdraw.
Here’s what’s in the transcripts:
Flynn made it clear that the “strategic goal” of the U.S.-Russia relationship was stability in the Middle East
Flynn, in the series of phone calls, made it clear that Russia and the U.S. had a common interest in working toward peace in the Middle East.
“You know the strategic goal is stability in the Middle East … between you and I, and we know this, and you know… and between Moscow and Washington, we will not achieve stability in the Middle East without working with each other against this radical Islamist crowd,” Flynn said in the Dec. 22, 2016, phone call.
Kislyak later tells Flynn in a Dec. 29 phone call that Russia has “significant reservations” about the U.S. policy in the Middle East.
“We wanted to convey to you and through you to the president elect that we had significant reservations about the idea of adopting now the principles for the Middle East that our American colleagues are pushing for. So we are not going to support it -- in the quartet or in the security council. And we have conveyed to our American colleagues. So in the spirit of full transparency I was asked to inform you as well,” Kislyak told Flynn.
“I appreciate very much the, uh, reservations about the current administration’s position in the Middle East. That does not do anybody any good right now, with, I mean you know, ambassador, the situation with Hamas, and the Palestinian situation, I mean, we’ll come up with a solution that’s good for everybody,” Flynn later told Kislyak
Flynn distanced the upcoming Trump administration from Obama
Flynn appeared to try to distance the upcoming Trump administration from impending sanctions against Russia imposed by the outgoing Obama administration.
“Do not allow this administration to box us in right now!” Flynn told Kislyak.
“Depending on what actions they take over this current issue of the cyber stuff, you know, what they’re looking like they’re gonna, they’re gonna dismiss some number of Russians out of the country, I understand all that and I understand that, but what I would ask Russia to do is to not- if anything - because I know you have to have some sort of action - to only make it reciprocal. Make it reciprocal. Don’t make it -- don’t go any further than you have to. Because I don’t want us to get into something that has to escalate, you know, on a tit-for-tat. You follow me, Ambassador?” said Flynn.
Kislyak says he understands what Flynn is saying but Flynn might appreciate the sentiments that are raging now in Moscow.
Flynn said: "I very much appreciate it! But I really do not want us to get into the situation where we everybody going back and forth and everybody had to be a tough guy here. We don't need that right now. We need cool heads to prevail. And we need to be very steady about what we are going to do because we have absolutely a common threat in the Middle East."
Flynn repeatedly urged Russia only to react to Obama sanctions on a “reciprocal” basis, no more
Kislyak expressed anger to Flynn about sanctions over certain Russian cyber actors for interference in the 2016 election. “Does it mean the United States isn’t willing to work on terrorist threats?” the Russian ambassador asked Flynn.
“Yeah, Yeah.” said the former national security adviser.
“Because that’s the people who are exactly fighting the terrorists,” said Kislyak.
Flynn repeatedly told the Russian ambassador that reciprocal action against the sanctions was a good message.
“That is a good message and we’ll understand that message. And then, we know that we’re not going to escalate this thing where we, because if we put out, if we send out 30 guys and you send out 60, you know, or you shut down every embassy … let’s keep this at a level that is uh even-keeled, okay?” said Flynn.