Russia claims that former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s revelations about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak are “completely absurd.”
Flynn pleaded guilty to repeatedly lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak Friday and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
According to court documents, Flynn admitted that he was directed to call Kislyak and urge Russia not to retaliate against sanctions levied by the Obama administration in response to their election interference.
Flynn was captured contacting the ambassador in December 2016 by routine eavesdropping targeting Kislyak.
But Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed to CNN that Russia’s decision to not retaliate against the sanctions had nothing to do with Flynn.
“It was his (Putin’s) decision and it couldn’t be taken because of any requests or recommendations,” Peskov told CNN.
Asked whether Kislyak discussed the call from Flynn with Putin, Peskov said, “The information which Putin gets from ambassadors is nobody’s business.”
“The President takes decisions absolutely independently and, as he has said more than once, exclusively guided by Russia’s national interests,” he added. “Flynn could never ask Sergey Kislyak for anything, and furthermore these requests could never be passed on to the President of Russia, this is completely absurd.”
But Russia’s claims are undercut by Flynn’s guilty plea, and the fact that he was caught contacting Kislyak the same day that Obama announced the new sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the United States.
Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about the conversation about the sanctions, as well as another call in which he urged Kislyak to delay a United Nations vote condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
According to the charging documents unsealed Friday, Flynn admitting to lying that he did not ask Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and Flynn did not recall the Russian ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”
The day after the call, Putin announced he would not retaliate against the sanctions after responding tit-for-tat to previous sanctions imposed by Obama.
Trump tweeted that same day, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
“When Flynn’s calls were first revealed in press reports earlier this year, White House officials insisted the conversations did not include sanctions — including denials that Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus later repeated on national television,” CNN reports.
“Flynn resigned on February 13 after reports that he and Kislyak had spoken about sanctions and the Justice Department had warned the White House that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians,” wrote CNN’s Emma Burrows.