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Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

The Latest Example of Disinformation
at The New York Times

May 19, 2020 --

A May 15 New York Times news article, by Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti, sought to portray former Trump National Security Adviser as having lied, contrary to law, about the  December 29, 2016 conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, seeking to get Russia not to retaliate for anti-Russian sanctions imposed by President Obama, just after midnight, December 29, 2016. 

This conversation led to a guilty plea by Flynn that he had lied.  Thereafter Flynn sought to withdraw his guilty plea and recently Attorney General Barr agreed to withdrawal of the guilty plea as appropriate under the circumstances, in that the relevant statute calls for  lying to be about matters of materiality.   

LPR understands that whatever lies Flynn stated during a January 24, 2017 "interview," Goldman and Mazzett first called it in their May 15 piece, could not have been material to the subject matter that had been of interest to the FBI: Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

That January 24, 2014 interview (Goldman and Mazzettoi did not give the date in their story) concerned a matter, Russia's response to sanctions,  that came up weeks after the election.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates learned about the Flynn-Kislyak phone conversation from President Obama at a White House meeting January 5.  Information about the Flynn-Kislyak December 29 conversation was then leaked to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius who raised questions about the conversation in his January 12, 2017 column.  Last week, we learned that Vice President Biden, who was also at the January 5, 2017 White House meeting, unmasked Flynn to columnist Ignatius, January 12.    Nothing about Yates and Biden appear in the May 15 Times article. 

(Yates is mentioned in The Mueller Report as the person who told White House Counsel Donald  McGahn that Vice President Pence was wrong to deny that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions.  And The Mueller Report also suggests that once the issue became a topic of discussion among Trump officials, things led downhill, quickly enough for Flynn, who was asked to resign February 13, 2017.)

The Times piece does report that Vice President Pence, appearing on "Face the Nation" January 15, 2017, was asked about the Flynn-Kislyak December 29 conversation.

The Times quotes Pence saying on the program: "'[Flynn and Kislyak] did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,' the vice president said."  Arguably, this Pence statement leaves room to contend that Flynn-Kislyak discussion was of a different order on sanctions than the anti-Flynn forces would have it.

In any event, by ignoring the matter of materiality, and raising the level of the FBI-Flynn meeting as an "interrogation," the Times has departed from honest journalism.

LPR has understood, from reading The Mueller Report that Flynn (and the Trump Transition Team) did not want Russia to escalate tensions with Washington, and Flynn asked Kislyak to pass along a request that Moscow not retaliate.

The Times article accurately reported that Russia President Putin agreed not to retaliate and Goldman and Mazzetti added that President Obama "was perplexed" that Russia did not escalate matters.

(This  leaves one to wonder if President Obama wanted tensions heightening between Washington and Moscow as President Trump was preparing to take office.)

Goldman and Mazzetti mentioned the FBI meeting with Flynn as an "interview," two more times, and then had Trump administration attorneys wondering "whether Mr. Flynn might have committed a felony by making false statements during the interrogation."   

LPR has no doubt that for the media, every confrontation with members of the Trump Administration should be an "interrogation" giving rise to allegations of lying.

This, after all, is what disinformation is all about.