Newly released notes confirm President Barack Obama’s key role in surveillance and leak operation against Michael Flynn, the incoming Trump administration national security adviser. The handwritten notes, which were first disclosed in a federal court filing made by the Department of Justice on Tuesday, show President Obama himself personally directed former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to investigate Flynn for having routine phone calls with a Russian counterpart. He also suggests they withhold information from President Trump and his key national security figures.
The handwritten notes from fired former FBI agent Peter Strzok appear to describe a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting between Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Comey, Yates, and then-national security adviser Susan Rice. The meeting and its substance were confirmed in a bizarre Inauguration Day email Rice wrote to herself.
It was at this meeting, which was confirmed by testimony from Comey and Yates, that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration.
Yates told the special counsel that Obama broke the news of Flynn’s phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to her during the Jan. 5 meeting. Rice detailed further involvement from Obama. “President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,” she wrote in her email.
The new notes, which record Comey’s accounting to Strzok of the meeting’s substance, constitute definitive evidence that Obama himself was personally directing significant aspects of a criminal investigation into his political enemy’s top foreign policy adviser. An image of the notes is reproduced below. This is a rough transcript of the unredacted portion of the notes:
NSA-D-DAG = [Flynn cuts?]. Other countries
D-DAG: lean forward on [unclass?]
VP: “Logan Act”
P: These are unusual times
VP: I’ve been on the intel cmte for ten years and I never
P: Make sure you look at things + have the right people on it
P: Is there anything I shouldn’t be telling transition team?
D: Flynn –> Kislyak calls but appear legit
[illegible] Happy New Year. Yeah right
“Make sure you look at things and have the right people on it,” Obama is quoted as saying.
Comey’s description that the Flynn-Kislyak phone calls appear “legit,” shorthand for “legitimate,” is also in the notes. Until this week, this exculpatory information was withheld from Flynn and his defense team, multiple congressional committees, and the American public. A lengthy campaign to illegally leak selectively edited defamatory information through media accessories damaged the Trump administration and spurred the appointment of a special counsel to investigate anyone associated with the Trump campaign.
According to Strzok’s notes, Biden explicitly referenced the Logan Act, an 18th-century law that forbids certain political speech from private citizens. The law, even if it were constitutional, would not apply to a national security adviser for the newly elected president of the United States. Biden had previously denied that he knew anything about the investigation into Flynn.
“I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” Biden said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when George Stephanopoulos asked what he knew of the FBI’s operations in early 2017. He later admitted that statement was false.
The meeting to strategize against the Trump administration included just a few key law enforcement principals. Their testimony about what transpired is sometimes in conflict. Yates claimed Comey brought up the Logan Act while Comey claims Biden cited it. Rice claimed Obama directed that the anti-Trump operation be run “by the book,” but Comey claimed Obama even directed which personnel to use.
All parties agree, however, on the main substance of the meeting, which was a discussion of how to target Flynn for his “legit” phone calls and withhold vital national security information from the newly elected presidential administration.
Attorney General William Barr has directed an investigation into the spying and leaking operation, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham. Durham, whose investigation is ongoing, has not yet issued any indictments or any reports of his findings thus far. Barr has repeatedly stated that if Durham finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing that can be proved in a court beyond a reasonable doubt, then those responsible for the criminal acts will be held to account.
The handwritten notes from Strzok, which were included in a court filing from the Justice Department, were filed under seal by order of Emmett Sullivan, the judge overseeing Flynn’s criminal trial. The judge has ordered the documents to be hidden and has given no indication that he will ever allow all of the evidence filed by the DOJ to be publicly disclosed. When the DOJ moved to dismiss charges against Flynn, Sullivan refused to grant their request and instead appointed a shadow prosecutor to target Flynn on Sullivan’s behalf.
Following an appeal by Flynn, the top federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday ordered the judge to dismiss all charges against Flynn. That court also vacated his appointment of a shadow prosecutor to target Flynn.
This article has been corrected since publication.