Outgoing President Barack Obama revealed in early 2017 that he knew details from phone calls incoming Trump administration National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made, surprising one of the Department of Justices top officials, according to newly released documents.
The department on Thursday moved to dismiss the criminal case against Flynn that rested on the phone calls.
Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general at the time, recalled meeting with Obama at the White House on Jan. 5, 2017, along with a number of other officials, including then-FBI Director James Comey.
After dismissing everyone but Yates, Comey, then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and then-Vice President Joe Biden, Obama told them he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and the lieutenant generals discussion with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Kislyaks phone calls were being wiretapped by government officials, allowing them to hear what Flynn told him.
Obama told the trio he didnt want additional information about the matter but wanted to know whether the White House should, in light of the information, treat Flynn differently.
Yates “was so surprised by the information she was hearing that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time,” FBI agents who interviewed her wrote in a report about the interview.
Yates told the agents that she didnt know what Obama was talking about but figured it out based on the conversation. She did not know who told Obama about the details. She recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, a centuries-old law thats never been successfully prosecuted.
Flynn was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. The president fired him for alleged insubordination.
Comey told members of Congress in March 2017 that he briefed then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the wiretapped phone calls in late December 2016 or early January 2017.
Clapper briefed Obama, Biden, and Obamas senior team about the calls and other related matters, Comey said.
“We did not disseminate this [redacted] in any finished intelligence, although our people judged was appropriate, for reasons that I hope are obvious, to have Mr. Flynns name unmasked,” Comey said, according to a newly declassified transcript.
Unmasking is a term used by intelligence officials for revealing the name of a U.S. citizen.
The two documents were released on May 7 by the Justice Department as part of its motion to dismiss the case against Flynn.