It’s understandable that this is getting buried a bit given all the other breaking news, but it could have pretty big long-term consequences if verified further: Mother Jones is reporting, per a source close to Michael Flynn, that Flynn says he proposed a deal involving sanctions relief to Russian U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the 2016 election. (Flynn was an adviser to the Trump campaign and often appeared in public on its behalf.) From MoJo’s report:
Flynn has informed friends and colleagues that prior to Election Day he spoke with Kislyak about how Trump could work productively with Russia if he won the presidency.
One of these Flynn associates, who each asked not to be identified, notes that Flynn said he discussed with Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. The other Flynn associate says Flynn said he had been talking to Kislyak about Syria, Iran, and other foreign policy matters that Russia and the United States could tackle together were Trump to be elected.
Rolling back U.S. sanctions that restrict the movement of Russian money through the international financial system has long been a goal of Vladimir Putin’s government; a number of the regime-connected Russian nationals who infamously met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 are involved in the effort to lobby against such sanctions. Sanctions were also the subject of the post-election, pre-inauguration conversation between Flynn and Kislyak that he later lied about to the FBI. Since agreeing to a plea deal related to that lie with Robert Mueller’s special counsel office, Flynn has met with prosecutors 19 times, so presumably he has shared his recollections about pre-election sanctions conversations with Mueller’s team.
Of course, the crucial context for all of this is that Russia began its hack-and-leak operation against Hillary Clinton’s campaign in March 2016, and a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser learned in April 2016 (apparently via an intermediary for the Russian government) that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton. If high-level Trump campaign officials knew about Russia’s sabotage operation against Clinton and approved Flynn’s efforts to float a sanctions deal to Russia at the same time, they could be on the hook for participation in a criminal conspiracy. (As could Flynn himself, but presumably he’s gotten himself off said hook by cooperating. You know, the ol’ hook-jump.) Hmm!