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Federal Judge Orders More Information Released On Russia Investigation


Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser, told the Mueller investigation that people linked to the Trump administration or Congress reached out to him about his cooperation with the Russia investigation. This is according to some court papers newly released. And now a federal judge is ordering the government to release more information about the Russia investigation, including revealing currently redacted portions of the Mueller report. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us now to talk through these developments.

Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what exactly are we learning here, and where's it coming from?

JOHNSON: Remember, David, that Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, was the first big insider connected to the Trump campaign in the Trump administration...

GREENE: Right.

JOHNSON: ...In the door to cooperate with this Russia investigation. And Michael Flynn expected, after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, to get kind of a light sentence. The judge was not so sure. The judge has given Flynn the option to delay his sentencing. And as a result, we're having some back-and-forth now in court papers about the nature of Flynn's cooperation, how exactly he helped authorities.

GREENE: OK. So that's what we're learning in theory, how he helped authorities and what he told authorities. And it sounds like this has led the judge to order parts of the Mueller report to be made public that have not been made public. So what exactly are we talking about? What parts of the report?

JOHNSON: Judge Emmet Flynn (ph) has ordered authorities to file in the court record and to him three categories of information. One is parts of the Mueller report related to Michael Flynn that are not yet public that have been redacted. Two is a voicemail that one of Donald Trump's lawyers apparently left for one of Michael Flynn's lawyers around the time that Flynn had decided to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation. The thinking is that this lawyer for President Trump wanted to know what exactly Flynn was telling the government and whether it would hurt Trump.

And finally, and maybe more most interestingly, transcripts of calls that Michael Flynn had with the then-Russian ambassador in December 2016 about Russian sanctions - David, this is what Michael Flynn lied about to the FBI when the FBI came to the White House to interview him in early 2017. We still don't know exactly why he lied and how authorities knew that he had been talking to the Russian ambassador, whether they had a wiretap up or what other intelligence method was used in that case.

GREENE: So we're dealing with a lot of questions here - I mean, some questions related to contact by someone who was in the administration like Michael Flynn and that he had with a Russian official and also questions about whether somebody at some point was trying to influence his involvement in the Mueller probe.

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And there's another new category of information or new detail that's come out overnight in these court filings. That is that Michael Flynn told authorities he apparently overheard or discussed with senior Trump campaign officials the idea of reaching out to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, remember, got their hands on emails damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in her campaign, and they were releasing that so-called dirt in damaging times in the course of 2016.

So Michael Flynn really did help authorities. We may be in a position in the public now to learn a little bit more about the nature of that help. One other detail that came up overnight was that multiple instances - Michael Flynn talked about multiple instances of people in the Trump administration or even possibly members of Congress or their staffs reaching out to him about his cooperation with authorities.

Now, we know the attorney general has determined that President Trump will not be charged with a crime for obstructing justice. It doesn't seem as if Trump's lawyer will be charged with any wrongdoing either. Legally, that question seems to have been answered when it comes to the Justice Department and the federal prosecutor team. But politically, this will certainly fuel more calls from Democrats to get more information out and to get that special counsel, Robert Mueller, on Capitol Hill to testify.

GREENE: On Capitol Hill, but also to - I mean, that they're going to - obviously Democrats are going to point and say, there's a judge saying that some redacted portions of the report should be made public. I mean, is the Department of Justice going to comply with that?

JOHNSON: You know, we haven't heard word overnight from what the Justice Department is going to do here. And when it comes to some of this information, some of it is considered to be owned by other intelligence agencies inside the U.S., maybe the CIA, the NSA or some other part of the government. They've been resistant in the past to coughing up some of that information to protect sources and methods, how they gather that information and other investigations. It's not clear to me right away that the Justice Department isn't going to put up a little bit of a fight based on these judge's orders. We're going to find out in the coming days.

GREENE: NPR's Carrie Johnson.

Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.