Top administration officials involved in a key Jan. 5, 2017, discussion with outgoing President Barack Obama about incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn provided contrasting accounts of what transpired, according to recently declassified records.
By all accounts, Obama and top officials discussed phone calls between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting in the final days of the Obama administration. But the details about the conversation—including who brought up Flynn and when—differ from account to account, suggesting there is more to learn about what transpired at the Oval Office.
The exact details of the conversation in the Oval Office are significant in light of the recent motion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to dismiss the charges against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in late 2017. The DOJ filed the motion together with a batch of records which show that the FBI had no basis to conduct the interview during which he allegedly lied. The day before the Jan. 5 White House meeting, the FBI approved the closing of Flynn's case after finding no evidence to support the allegation that he was colluding with Russia. The formal paperwork was never filed after FBI management intervened to keep the case open.
Rice previously indicated that she wrote her Jan. 20 memo “upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office.” Rice’s attorney told the Senate in a letter that Rice wrote the memo two weeks after the meeting “because that was the first opportunity she had to do so, given the particularly intense responsibilities of the National Security Advisor during the remaining days of the Administration and transition.”
The discrepancies between the account provided by Rice and those by Comey and Yates suggests that the White House counsel may have sought to cast Obama’s involvement as reactive rather than proactive. President Donald Trump has recently spotlighted Obama's potential involvement in the investigation of the Trump campaign by calling the operation "OBAMAGATE."
As part of the investigation, the FBI obtained a spy warrant to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The warrant was based in part on an opposition research dossier on Trump paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.