President Obama talked with then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about former Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s infamous telephone calls with the Russian ambassador, according to a court filing Thursday.
Mr. Obama called the two aside during a Jan. 5, 2017, White House meeting, according to Ms. Yates’ interview with the FBI during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
At the time, the FBI was moving to drop its investigation of Flynn in the Russia election interference probe. But then-agent Peter Strzok stopped the process.
He went to the White House to interview Flynn on Jan. 24. Flynn subsequently admitted to lying when he denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“Obama started by saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions,” the FBI 302 report said. “Obama specified he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”
Ms. Yates recalled that Mr. Comey told the president about the Logan Act, a 1799 law that prohibits private citizens from opposing current foreign affairs policies. Other documents show the FBI wanted Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, to admit to violating the law.
Ms. Yates said she did not know about the Kislyak call or the Logan Act discussion within the FBI. She thought it might be a technical violation during the presidential transition, but the FBI “was more eager to pursue prosecution initially.”
Discussions began to “ramp up,” she said, after the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported on Jan. 12 a leak from the Obama Justice Department that Flynn had talked to Mr. Kislyak and may have violated the Logan Act.
The Justice Department filed the Yates 302 report with its motion to dismiss the Flynn case.
Ms. Yates said Mr. Comey agreed that if the Russia call happened under the Obama administration, he would notify the chief of staff. But, the 302 says, “The FBI said at some point that notification would mess up an ongoing investigation, but Yates said it was not always clear what exactly the FBI was doing to investigate Flynn.”
Ms. Yates said Mr. Comey telephoned and informed her he had sent two agents to the White House to interview Flynn.
“Yates was very frustrated in the call with Comey,” the 302 says. “She felt a decision to conduct an interview of Flynn should have been coordinated with [the Department of Justice].”
Ms. Yates told the FBI the interview was “problematic” because the White House counsel should have been notified.
During his book tour, Mr. Comey bragged that he was able to send the two agents without such notification because the White House was in the formative stage.