The Justice Department on Friday released a more complete transcript of a voice mail from Donald Trump’s attorney John Dowd to Rob Kelner, the lawyer for Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, where he sought information about Flynn’s discussions with the special counsel on the eve of his cooperation deal.
However, the Justice Department refused to turn over transcripts of Flynn’s calls with Russian officials, including then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, even though a federal judge had ordered prosecutors to file those publicly as well on Friday.
The release of the transcript – and lack of the other release of transcripts – came following Judge Emmet Sullivan’s unusual order last week seeking public disclosure of documents used in Flynn’s case as he heads toward sentencing Flynn for lying to investigators.
Overall, the voice mail highlights a call that special counsel Robert Mueller investigated as potential obstruction of justice by the President. Dowd had made the call on November 22, 2017, after Flynn’s team said it could no longer communicate with the White House, just before Flynn pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation.
In the voice mail transcript, most of which was previously documented in the Mueller report, Dowd said it “wouldn’t surprise me” if Flynn was about to make a deal, but if it “implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, or … some issue … not only for the President, but for the country.” He then asked for a “heads up,” according to the transcript. Dowd also wanted to remind Flynn about “the President and his feelings towards Flynn.”
The call “could have had the potential to affect Flynn’s decision to cooperate, as well as the extent of that cooperation,” Mueller wrote in his report on potential obstruction of justice by the President during the investigation. “We do not have evidence establishing whether the President knew about or was involved in his counsel’s communications with Flynn’s counsel.” Mueller credited Flynn for turning over the voice mail to investigators so they could investigate possible obstruction of the probe, according to a previous court filing.
Dowd pushed back Friday on interpreting the call as possible obstruction in any way.
“This is clearly a baseless, political document designed to smear and damage the reputation of counsel and innocent people,” he said in a statement. He said Trump’s lawyers had given Flynn “documents, advice and encouragement … as part of his effort to cooperate” with Mueller’s team. The Mueller team never questioned Trump’s lawyers about “the allegations,” Dowd added.
Flynn-Russia calls, Mueller report sections aren’t revealed
Regarding the Kislyak call, another key piece about Flynn in the Mueller report, prosecutors appear to say they don’t believe they need to hand over other recording transcripts they may have involving Flynn, because they were not used in his sentencing recommendation. But their explanation in the filing Friday isn’t extensive.
“The government further represents that it is not relying on any other recordings, of any person, for purposes of establishing the defendant’s guilt or determining his sentence, nor are there other recordings that are part of the sentencing record,” the Friday filing says, in the only sentence apparently addressing their response to Sullivan’s order for the Flynn transcripts of calls with Russians.
The Flynn-Kislyak calls were important because Flynn spoke to the then-ambassador during the Trump transition, and discussed Russia’s reaction to US sanctions and Russia’s position in a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. Flynn also spoke with other Trump transition officials about the calls, making them of even more interest to Mueller. Flynn lied to investigators in early 2017 about the calls, telling FBI agents who interviewed him in the White House that he had not spoken to Kislyak about those topics, which were of interest to the investigators.
Exact quotations from these calls haven’t been revealed, but prosecutors have summarized what Flynn and Kislyak spoke about in court documents and in the Mueller report.
Flynn had been set to be sentenced in December, but he asked the judge to postpone his sentencing while he cooperates with prosecutors in an ongoing case against his former lobbying partner. His sentencing has not yet been rescheduled. Prosecutors told the judge they supported him getting little to no time in prison because of how he helped them, and Flynn has asked to avoid a jail sentence.
Separately, the Justice Department hasn’t released any additional parts of the Mueller report that were previously confidential. The judge had told prosecutors they needed to make public redacted sections of the report that pertained to Flynn by today. Prosecutors said Friday that all of the information about Flynn or that Flynn gave to Mueller that made it into the report is already public.
Read the voicemail here:
Hey, Rob, uhm, this is John again. Uh, maybe, I-I-I’m-I’m sympathetic; I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t … state it in … starker terms. If you have … and it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with, and, uh, work with the government, uh … I understand that you can’t join the joint defense; so that’s one thing. If, on the other hand, we have, there’s information that. .. implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, or maybe a national security issue, I don’t know … some issue, we got to-we got to deal with, not only for the President, but for the country. So … uh … you know, then-then, you know, we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of … protecting all our interests, if we can, without you having to give up any … confidential information. So, uhm, and if it’s the former, then, you know, remember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains, but-Well, in any event, uhm, let me know, and, uh, I appreciate your listening and taking the time. Thanks, Pal.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Gloria Borger contributed to this report.