Last month a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over transcripts of former Trump National Security Adviser (and convicted felon) Michael Flynn's wiretaps involving his dealings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
The Justice Department said no and directly refused a judge's order.
Federal prosecutors rebuffed a judge’s order to release by Friday highly classified transcripts of discussions that Michael T. Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, had with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.
The transcripts between Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, formerly Russia’s top diplomat in the United States, were expected to show that they talked in December 2016 about sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia. Mr. Flynn initially denied those exchanges about sanctions both to Trump administration officials and the F.B.I. in the weeks after the discussions.
The conversations prompted concerns among senior Obama administration officials about whether the Trump transition team was flouting norms about holding off on making policy until after taking office. The phone calls were also at the center of the scandal that eventually prompted Mr. Flynn’s ouster just weeks into President Trump’s term.
The order this month from the judge, Emmet G. Sullivan of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, was unusual. The transcripts came from a secret F.B.I. wiretap of Mr. Kislyak, and their release would have provided an extraordinarily rare look at the fruits of the government’s eavesdropping. Agents routinely listen to wiretaps of foreign officials, but they remain among the government’s most closely held secrets.
The calls between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak were referenced repeatedly in court documents and the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference but never released, and prosecutors have not acknowledged the existence of the wiretap. Judge Sullivan, who is overseeing Mr. Flynn’s case, ordered that audio recordings of his conversations with Mr. Kislyak be made public along with a voice mail message made by the president’s lawyer.
The Justice Department’s refusal to comply with the judge’s ordermade clear that prosecutors had no interest in confirming the wiretap, which was approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“This would be a rare step to make public” such intelligence collection, said Joshua Geltzer, a former Justice Department official. “What you see in today’s filing is the government trying to avoid disclosing that material.”
Instead, prosecutors asserted that they did not need to provide the transcripts because they were, in the end, not vital to the prosecution of Mr. Flynn. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the F.B.I. after agents interviewed him about what was said on those calls.
“The government further represents that it is not relying on any other recordings, of any person, for purposes of establishing the defendant’s guilt or determining his sentence, nor are there any other recordings that are part of the sentencing record,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing responding to Judge Sullivan’s order.
Please spare me the "Obama administration defied federal judges too!" stuff as well. Yes, the Obama administration was at best 50-50 when it came to losing federal cases before the courts, and it defied judicial orders (or dragged their feet on compliance for years) when it came to immigration and climate change.
But not when it came to obstructing justice in an investigation into itself.