It’s been a day and a half since Judge Emmet Sullivan abruptly pulled back from his demand that the Department of Justice publicly release transcripts of Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. The judge still hasn’t offered an explanation, which means we’re unlikely to get one for awhile. None of us saw this coming. But there is a very logical explanation in plain sight for why Sullivan would reverse course in the manner that he did.
To be clear, there’s no reason to believe that Judge Sullivan simply lost his nerve after William Barr and the DOJ told him they didn’t feel like following his order. This is the same judge who angrily refused Robert Mueller’s request that Flynn be given no jail time, and then asked if Flynn’s actions met the definition of treason. This is not a judge who backs down without a good reason. Yet he did back down. So why?
There are only two reasons not to publicly release Michael Flynn’s phone calls with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. The first would be that doing so would expose the intel community sources and methods that were used to intercept the phone calls to begin with – though this seems unlikely, considering the media has been reporting for two years now that these phone calls were intercepted, so the Kremlin has already long known Kislyak was bugged. The second reason would be that it could harm an ongoing criminal case in the United States.
The most logical explanation would be that the DOJ privately briefed Judge Sullivan about one or more ongoing criminal cases or investigations that would be compromised if the Flynn-Russia transcripts are released at this time, and Sullivan found it to be legitimate. Keep in mind that if Barr is merely trying to conceal the phone transcripts because they’re bad for Donald Trump, by now Sullivan would be holding the DOJ in contempt of court. That didn’t happen, so there has to be more going on behind the scenes. Stay tuned.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report