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The Flynn Calls: His Dismissal of Russian Interference and the Kremlin’s Savvy

  • June 02, 2020

The president and his allies now accuse the F.B.I. of framing Mr. Flynn. This is part of Mr. Trump’s larger campaign to paint the bureau’s Russia inquiry — later run by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — as a “witch hunt” devised to discredit the president’s 2016 election victory and hurt his chances of being re-elected.

Mr. Trump’s dismissal of Russia’s intervention in 2016 to help get him elected has been a leitmotif of his administration, even in the face of a mountain of evidence unearthed by American intelligence and law enforcement agencies of a campaign to hack and leak Democratic emails, spread false information on social media platforms and use cutouts to make contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Mr. Mueller began his report with a blunt statement of fact: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former head of European operations and Moscow station chief at the C.I.A., said it was important to think of the situation from the Russian perspective. “Flynn is the prospective national security adviser,” he said. “He has reached out, presumably with Trump’s blessing, to reassure Vladimir Putin personally that U.S.-Russian relations will be fundamentally different.”

Besides his passing mention of “the cyberstuff,” Mr. Flynn never brought up the Russian sabotage campaign with Mr. Kislyak, according to the transcripts. The United States and Russia were not enemies, he said, and both countries needed to focus on a common threat — terrorism.

“We have to take these enemies on that we have,” Mr. Flynn said. “And we definitely have a common enemy. You have a problem with it, we have a problem with it in this country and we definitely have a problem with it in the Middle East.”

In the future national security adviser, the Russian ambassador had found a sympathetic ear.

“General, I completely agree with you,” he said.

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