Thursday, May 21, 2020

DiGenova On The Flynn/Kislyak Call

Appearing on the Howie Carr show this week, Joe diGenova weighed in on the non-unmasking of Michael Flynn with regard to the famous Flynn/Kislyak call. DiGenova comes down on the side of those who say that the the monitoring of the call was not done by traditional FISA means as I've described them--picking Flynn up on the FISA for the Russian embassy. You can get a good link here, with the relevant portion near the end. Here's a word for word transcript of what Joe says:

I think it's going to become pretty clear that Michael Flynn was NOT unmasked but was rather the subject of a separate intelligence electronic surveillance by a foreign intelligence service at the request of John Brennan. Most likely the United Kingdom GCHQ, which is their NSA. When you look at the timeline in all the of the unmaskings of Flynn, those were done within a timeline that shows that the Kislyak conversation was not conducted in the United States. The Kislyak conversation was when Flynn was in the Dominican Republic and Kislyak was in Moscow for the Orthodox Christian Christmas, which is January 2nd. And so that means that in order for them to be wiretapped and have their calls intercepted that had to be done by a foreign power. And if you do that at the request of the United States, and you know that a US person is your target, and not Kislyak, that is a crime. That is a violation of federal law. You cannot wiretap an American citizen overseas under circumstances like that.

I want this on the record so that, if I turn out to be wrong, anyone who wants to rub my nose in it will have a good point of reference. Sitting here right now I see many problems with what Joe says.

First, what Joe has right--and I don't mean to sound flippant when I say that. He's right that to have targeted Flynn while he was overseas (in the Dominican Republic) in the absence of a FISA order on Flynn would have been illegal.

The problems start with the statement that "Kislyak was in Moscow for the Orthodox Christian Christmas, which is January 2nd." The Russian Orthodox Christmas is NOT on January 2nd. The Russian Orthodox Christmas is actually on January 7th--about nine days after the phone call, which was on December 29th.

If Kislyak had been in Moscow on December 29th, he would have left DC a day or two earlier at a minimum. I remain dubious that Kislyak would have left his important post at such an important time as the Presidential Transition. To have done so to arrive in Moscow no later, but probably at least a bit earlier, that December 29th would mean that he left DC a week and a half (at least) before Russian Christmas. And then he might stay for a few days afterward, what with free flowing vodka and all. That would mean an absence from DC during a Presidential Transition of no less than 2 weeks. I'm skeptical, but maybe some clever researcher can find Kislyak's schedule online.

Next, while I personally have not doubt at all that GCHQ did cooperate with the coup plotters before the US 2016 election, I'd be much more skeptical of the proposition that GCHQ agreed to specifically target the incoming US National Security Adviser during his overseas travels on behalf of the lame duck Obama CIA. IMO, GCHQ's Robert Hannigan would have long since--probably since early 2016--been aware that John Brennan and Admiral Mike Rogers at NSA were not exactly simpatico. Indeed, it appears that Hannigan did actually consult with Brennan during the summer of 2016 rather than with Rogers. Hannigan would have had to be concerned that at some point during the new Trump administration, between possible new people at CIA, Flynn as NSA, and Rogers at NSA, Trump might become aware of the shenanigans. Especially given the fact that Trump already knew about GCHQ's bad behavior before the election, for GCHQ to have continued after the election, shortly before the inauguration, would IMO have been far too big a risk for Hannigan to undertake on his own. Maybe the Brits are insane, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Then, too, there is the question of the FBI "tech cuts". The FBI insists that it wrote up the Flynn/Kislyak on a "tech cut" and sent it to James Clapper at ODNI. Yes, it would have been technically possible for GCHQ to collect the Flynn/Kislyak call on December 29th and rout it to the FBI the same day, and for the FBI then write it up the same day as a "tech cut." However, that would have involved some fairly fast footwork, probably prior coordination. More importantly, it would also have involved James Comey--who, unlike Brennan, had some prospects of continuing in place at the FBI--in unforgivable conduct. Beyond Comey, though, there would have been the entire Obama White House.

I think I can guarantee that Trump found out exactly how the collection of the call worked within hours of learning about it. Comey would have been fired shortly thereafter if he had had any involvement. Trump would not have spent most of the first half of 2017 wondering whether or not to fire Comey. He would have known. We know he spoke openly of having been "wiretapped" during the election campaign. Who thinks Trump would have been silent about Obama's administration targeting Flynn? Me neither. There would be no reason for Trump to remain silent about it and every reason to talk about it--loudly and often.

So, I'll stick with my account of how this worked.


  1. I'll just note that Robert Hannigan announced his resignation as head of GCHQ on Jan, 23, 2017, having assumed the title of Director General in Nov. 2014. He's in his mid-50s. His background is neither cyber nor intelligence. He's a bureaucrat. FWIW.

    1. I recently learned that a major factor in his resignation was protecting a paedophile.

    2. Protecting indiscretions are like keeping secrets. It doesn't happen. It's a compromise of integrity and honesty. The only way to prevent disclosure is to avoid the conduct. And when the shameless can't be shamed, integrity and honesty are losing out...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Tom Server, a commenter at Ace of Spades writes (Comment 134) astutely:


    ... Let's be blunt about what happened here. The President, Vice President, and their top advisors went to the CIA and FBI and told them to "get" Flynn. The CIA went to Stefan Halper in the UK to manufacture a scandal. He gave it his best shot, and instantly transmitted that to Christopher Steele, who he know personally from their previous intelligence together. Comey at the FBI already knew it was coming, but he allowed Steele to transmit the story to the FBI so they could claim it was a "Surprise" to them. (John McCain may even have been recruited to carry the documents, just to hook him into the scam) Then the FBI used this "surprise" info to start the Takedown on Flynn, which was meant to lead into the Takedown of Trump.

    Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, Mifsud was attempting to run the same kind of scam on Papadopoulos, for the same reasons, but that one fizzled when Papadop punked them on the $10,000 money laundering scam they tried to set him up for

    [end quote]

    These shenanigans happened largely in the United Kingdom, and British Intelligence was collaborating.

    Therefore it's quite plausible that British Intelligence intercepted the Flynn-Kislyak telephone conversation.

    1. I assume that GCHQ DID intecept the phone call--I just don't assume that they did it at the behest of the outgoing administration and risked any relations with the incoming one. GCHQ is probably a bigger collecter than even NSA, if you can imagine that. Fewer legal restrictions.

    2. Andrew McCarthy this morning (

      "Though I was right that Flynn was never masked in connection with the Kislyak call on December 29, 2016, I was off the mark in hypothesizing that the conversation may [have] been intercepted by an intelligence agency other than the FBI — perhaps the CIA or a foreign intelligence service.
      "According to the Post’s report this week, however, it was the FBI that intercepted the Flynn–Kislyak call. The Bureau decided not to mask Flynn before sharing the substance of the call with the Obama White House and other intelligence community components — including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Justice Department. The Post’s revelation matches up with the meticulous reporting of the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, who points out that, in both his memoir and congressional testimony, the FBI’s former deputy director, Andy McCabe, indicated that the Bureau had intercepted Flynn conversation and had not masked him."

      Maybe I should point Andy to MeaningInHistory -- so he can better keep up with things ;^>

    3. Thanks Brad. You think he didn't see the link? LOL.

      The bigger point is not to bother looking for prosecution from the collection itself. Any prosecution involving the call will derive from the use made of it.

  4. It's odd that Flynn decided to go to the Dominican Republic at that time. I wonder if he was manipulated into doing so.

    1. Coulda gone to Mar a Lago? It is odd. This is a time when he should be fully occupied getting his NSC team together, huge personnel challenges, etc.

    2. I still don't understand why Flynn pleaded guilty to misrepresenting to the FBI what he said on a phone call, the transcript of which purportedly exists but which he and his 'lawyers' never saw, based on original 302 notes of an interview he and his 'lawyers' never saw.

      Makes no sense.

    3. It was a combination of the threat to his son plus representations by his lawyers who were themselves being pressured by Team Trump:

      Undercover Huber
      Just a couple of months after Manafort's lawyer was turned against him,
      own attorneys Covington & Burling would cite this aggressive "Manafort treatment" in their own interviews with the SCO, likely fearing they'd get the same if they didn't get Flynn to plead guilty

    4. "themselves being pressured by Team Trump".
      Do you mean "themselves being pressured by Team Never-Trump"?
      Why would, and how could, Covington pressure Team Trump, to press Flynn to cop the plea?

    5. Yes, but Manafort had in fact committed crimes. Unrelated, but crimes none the less. The SCO had real leverage. (Fat lot of good it did them since Manafort never flipped.)

      Was the son actually vulnerable? To what provable accusation? Wasn't it another bogus FARA claim? He was never charged. Apparently he was never investigated.

      Flynn's lawyers were being pressured by Team Trump?

    6. Senior moment. I meant Team Mueller, of course. Tx. Can't edit comments, unfortunately.

    7. I meant Team Mueller. Manafort--exactly. The example of what happened to Manafort was before them. I highly recommend the entire UCHuber thread that I excerpted that from.


    Details on Marks comment on GCHQ spy chief resignation.

  6. Mark: have you seen this piece?

    1. Yes. There were many reasons for Obama hating Flynn, but all those cited by Lee Smith seem on point.

  7. sundance just posted on Grenell’s declassifying the call transcripts.
    Readers there are guessing, that other Intel services (e.g. Brit.) tapped the calls.
    Reader Hokkoda asks
    "And Wray perhaps can try to block that transcript’s release, by saying it is part of an ongoing investigation… the one announced today?"
    Any thoughts?

    1. I understand that everyone at CTH is looking for a gotcha moment here, one that will show that Barr has been helping the FBI cover up illegality. I still don't believe there is any such gotcha.

      Remember, my view is that Flynn was picked up on a FISA that was targeting an official of a foreign power--not targeting Flynn. That makes it legal, and collection of Flynn's calls is simply incidental to the legal FISA. And there's still no need to 'minimize' or 'mask' Flynn's name.

      If Kislyak was still in DC, everything is very simple. As per above.

      If Kislyak was outside the US, 702 allows the US to target his communications while he's outside the US. Obviously that wouldn't be done by the FBI--presumably by NSA. However, since his status at the time was Russian Ambassador to the US, stationed in DC, it would be logical for NSA to then provide that intercept to the FBI for CI purposes.

      I don't know how these things currently work, but there could be another possibility. I presume that by now--2020--Russians, too, rely heavily on smart phones that they carry with them wherever they go. I presume that any FISA order on Russian officials includes their cell phones as well as stationary phones. That would mean that under FISA the FBI could be monitoring those officials like Kislyak wherever they traveled. There could be complications to this that I'm not up on, but one way or another the US is able to legally collect Kislyak's calls wherever he is without recourse to the UK.

      The misconception your friends at CTH are laboring under is that Flynn was the target of illegal collection. He wasn't.

      If I'm wrong, feel free to sneer at me.