The Report: Part VI: Back Channels
August 27, 2019 7:45 AM - Subscribe

It's December 29, 2016. The Obama administration announces that it's imposing sanctions on Russia, as punishment for election interference. Michael Flynn has been tapped to become Trump's national security advisor when the new administration takes office in January, but it's still the transition period. Flynn is taking a few days vacation at the beach, when he sees the news. He grabs his phone and texts the transition team at Mar a Lago. He writes "Tit for tat with Russia not good" and says that the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak is reaching out to him today. Flynn calls Kislyak and asks that Russia not escalate in response to the sanctions. Apparently, it works. The next day, in a surprise move, Putin says that Russia won't retaliate. Trump tweets, "Great move on delay (by V. Putin). I always knew he was very smart."

In the sixth episode, we tell the stories of Russian policy outreach to the Trump campaign, a story that begins during the campaign and accelerates after Trump unexpectedly wins the presidency in November 2016. The story of the Russian efforts to reset relations with the incoming administration begins with a policy speech Trump delivers at a hotel in Washington D.C.; it runs through a resort at a remote island in the Indian Ocean; it runs through the U.N. Security Council, Mar a Lago and the Dominican Republic, and it ends with the president’s national security adviser resigning in disgrace.
posted by General Malaise (1 comment total)
This week's episode is made up of mostly already-reported facts, but with a lot of added context from the Report. How two U.S. administrations were simultaneously working against each other: the Obama administration imposing sanctions, the Trump transition team (well, unofficial for the most part) trying to promise they'd be easier on Russia if they don't retaliate. Guys like Michael Flynn and Erik Prince for some reason being all a part of this. This is probably the least surprising episode, if for only because we already knew most of this stuff, but in the context of the tradition of having only one government at a time, it's deeply alarming—about as alarming as the fact that it happened and we've mostly forgotten about it.
posted by General Malaise at 7:48 AM on August 27, 2019

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