Federal prosecutors quietly closed an investigation into a leak of sensitive information regarding Michael Flynn’s phone calls with a Russian diplomat, according to The New York Times, which also reported that investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Obama administration officials.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Echo, centered on a leak to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who reported on Jan. 12, 2017 that Flynn spoke by phone to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The column set in motion a series of events that eventually led to Flynn pleading guilty in the special counsel’s investigation. Flynn admitted in a Dec. 1, 2017 plea deal that he lied to FBI agents in an interview on Jan. 24, 2017, regarding the substance of his phone calls with Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016.
Republicans called for investigations into who leaked potentially classified information. The FBI had intercepted the call between Flynn and Kislyak as part of its routine surveillance of Russian government officials.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last year, during his campaign for Alabama Senate, that the leak of details about the Flynn-Kislyak call was “an absolute crime” that “should be prosecuted vigorously.”
A transcript of the call was considered highly classified until John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, declassified it on May 29.
According to The New York Times, two sources familiar with the leak investigation said that the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. investigated the leaks. One of the sources said that the investigation has been closed after investigators found no wrongdoing.
“Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington investigated whether the disclosures came from former Obama administration officials who had access to sensitive information about the phone calls, according to two people familiar with the investigation,” the Times reported.
“The investigators ultimately found no wrongdoing, one of the people said.”
John Durham, a U.S. attorney appointed to investigate the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering activities against the Trump campaign, has asked witnesses about the leak of the Flynn phone call, The New York Times reported in April 2020.
After cooperating with the special counsel’s probe, Flynn moved to withdraw his plea deal. The Justice Department also tried to withdraw charges against Flynn on May 7, 2020, but the federal judge overseeing the case refused to toss out the case.
President Donald Trump pardoned Flynn on Nov. 25.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the Times report.