Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts
Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell revealed Friday he is working to declassify some of the transcripts and intelligence reports related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with a Russian diplomat.
Grenell tweeted that he intends to release records from the intelligence community (IC) that contain information on Flynn’s contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that raised concerns with the Obama administration.
“The IC doesn’t have all the transcripts/summaries….it wasn’t our product,” Grenell tweeted Friday. “But I already started the declassification for the few we received. They should be released in full, though. The public deserves to see it.”
Grenell also took aim at Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, suggesting that Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) and others were misleading the public.
“It’s very important for the public to see ALL of them. For too long the public has been misled. Just compare your committee’s transcripts to your public statements! #troubling!” Grenell tweeted in response to Swalwell, who accused Grenell of “burying evidence” to protect President Trump.
The move by Grenell comes shortly after Schiff pressed him in a letter Thursday to make the transcripts public, joining a bipartisan push to release the underlying intelligence.
Schiff asked Grenell to make the Flynn-Kislyak intelligence report and transcripts available and turn over intelligence reports from between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration related to the list of Obama administration officials who asked for documents that led to Flynn’s identity being “unmasked.”
Schiff argued that doing so is necessary “to ensure a transparent and complete public record free of political manipulation,” while blasting Grenell for attempting to weaponize this intelligence to help Trump ahead of an election year.
“It was a transparent political act—in an election year and during a pandemic, no less—in which you used the authorities of your position to insinuate wrongdoing by officials who acted appropriately in requesting the identity of masked U.S. persons to better understand foreign intelligence reports,” Schiff wrote.
“Selective declassification for political purposes is inappropriate, corrupt, and undermines public confidence in the IC as an apolitical pillar protecting the country regardless of the political affiliation of its Executive Branch customers,” he added.
Declassification of the Flynn documents is likely to be one of the last major actions taken by Grenell before he is replaced next week by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday.
Still, the declassification of documents related to the government’s early days of tracking Flynn’s contacts has sparked a political firestorm.
On Tuesday, Grenell sent a declassified copy of the email that former national security adviser Susan Rice sent to herself to detail a Jan. 5, 2017, meeting with President Obama, now-former FBI Director James Comey and other top officials.
During the meeting, Comey voiced concern about sharing classified information with the Trump transition team based on Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, describing the “level of communication” between the two as “unusual,” but he did not say whether the intelligence community should withhold information from Flynn. Obama, according to Rice’s email, instructed the intelligence community to “proceed as it normally would by the book.”
While some Republicans have seized on the email as further evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama administration, a spokeswoman for Rice argued that it showed “the Obama Administration did not change the way it briefed Michael Flynn.”
Rice; Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee; lawyers for Flynn and others have called on Grenell to release the unredacted transcripts of all Flynn-Kislyak calls, arguing the American people should be able to review the transcripts so they can judge Flynn’s conduct for themselves.
Flynn was fired less than a month after becoming Trump’s national security adviser for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with Kislyak.
The retired three star lieutenant general pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to federal agents about conversations he had with Kislyak about the Obama administration’s sanctions on the Kremlin. He has since sought to withdraw from the plea agreement.
Earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr made the rare and controversial move to drop the charges against Flynn. A federal judge will decide whether to grant the Justice Department’s motion or proceed with sentencing.