In defiance of a judge's court order, federal prosecutors refused to release public transcripts of recorded conversations between the Russian ambassador and Michael Flynn, The Washington Post reports. Flynn, who briefly served as President Donald Trump's national security advisor, is currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn was charged in the context of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. As a result of being caught lying to the FBI, Flynn became the shortest-serving national security advisor in U.S. history, with just 24 days on the job.
In a court filing released on Friday, the Justice Department claimed that it did not rely on the recordings to establish Flynn's guilt or to make a sentencing recommendation, and therefore would not release the materials. They also chose not to release unreacted portions of Mueller's report related to Flynn, which had also been ordered to be made public.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered that the DOJ release several materials related to the case in response to a motion filed by The Washington Post. Federal prosecutors did provide one item that was requested, a transcript of a voicemail left for Trump, most of which was already included in the Mueller report without redaction. Sullivan gave the department until Friday, May 31, to comply. The judge's response to the refusal is so far unclear.As for the voicemail which was released, the transcript reflected a message that John Dowd, an attorney for Trump, left for Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, in November of 2017. The message was left shortly after Flynn had begun to cooperate with Mueller's team in their pursuit of the Russia investigation, and it was looked into by the special counsel's office as part of their attempt to determine whether or not the president had attempted to obstruct justice with respect to that investigation.
"I understand your situation, but let me see if I can't state it in starker terms," Dowd said on behalf of Trump, adding that if "there's information that implicates the President, then we've got a national security issue."
The message continues.
"So you know, we need some kind of heads up," he said. "Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can, without you having to give up any...confidential information....remember what we've always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains."
Dowd maintains that there was nothing improper about the message.