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Intel chief Ratcliffe declassifies transcripts of Flynn calls

Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeWisconsin GOP says hackers stole .3M Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day MORE on Friday announced that he has declassified the transcripts related to Michael Flynn’s conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition.

Ratcliffe, who was sworn in Tuesday, said it was his decision to declassify the documents relating to the former national security adviser in an effort to provide "transparency" while protecting sources and methods.

“As I stated throughout the confirmation process, transparency is vital to allowing the American people to have confidence in the Intelligence Community. As the Director of National Intelligence, it is my obligation to review declassification requests with the overarching priority of protecting sources and methods, while also providing transparency whenever possible," Ratcliffe said in a statement.

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“Accordingly, today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified transcripts concerning Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn,” he added.

The move comes amid a bipartisan push to release the transcripts between Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. at the time, in which the retired three star lieutenant general discussed Obama administration sanctions shortly before President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE took office.

Trump and his allies have argued that Obama administration officials abused their powers to target Flynn and hurt the incoming administration. Democrats counter that the White House is seeking to put misplaced blame on government institutions ahead of the 2020 election while protecting a Trump ally.

Flynn was fired by Trump less than a month into the new administration for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with Kislyak. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to federal agents about the conversations he had with the Russian diplomat about the Obama administration's sanctions on Moscow. He later sought to withdraw that plea.

The legal battle took an unexpected turn late last month when the government released field notes from the Flynn investigation in which one FBI agent asked in a handwritten note whether it was their goal to get Flynn "to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."

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Trump allies and Flynn's legal team argue the notes show Flynn was a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, and they have sought to cast blame on the Obama administration.

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump administration pressured federal prosecutors to settle investigation into Turkish bank: report DOJ shifts, will allow local police to wear body cameras during operations with federal agents Police accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters MORE later made the controversial move to drop the case again Flynn, sparking outrage from Democrats, former federal prosecutors and other critics of the Trump administration.

Updated at 4:33 p.m.