The Russian government stated through a spokesman that their ambassador did not discuss sanctions with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn prior to Trump taking office. But United States intelligence officials have confirmed they did.
A bombshell report from the Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump's National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, had multiple phone calls with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, prior to the inauguration.
According to the Post, Flynn and the ambassador allegedly discussed the possible removal of sanctions against the Kremlin in correspondences before Trump took office, and even possibly before the election itself.
If true, Flynn would be guilty of violating U.S. diplomatic law and national security protocols, as well as lying to the public, about both the number of calls Flynn had with the ambassador and the nature of what was discussed.
And now the Russian government has weighed in: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov flatly denied that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions, saying: "We have already said that there have not been any such talks."
But U.S. intelligence officials have proof they did discuss sanctions. Calls with foreign ambassadors are recorded and transcribed. And while these transcripts are classified, multiple intelligence officials with access to the records have disclosed that sanctions were discussed. In one example, officials stated that Flynn told the ambassador to hold his government off on retaliating against the sanctions expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the United States, because Obama's order doing so could be undone by Trump.
The Kremlin's lie is a clear attempt to muddy the waters ahead of Trump's joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where he is expected to face questioning about Flynn. Trump has a history of promoting Russian propaganda uncritically, so it will be crucial to see whether Russia's transparently false denial will color Trump's response to the scandal.
The American people deserve answers on this story, and it is imperative not to let misinformation sponsored by foreign actors distort the established facts.