The problem for Flynn was that the FBI, spurred on by its then director James Comey, who was convinced that Russia had delivered the White House to Trump, was monitoring and recording Flynn and Kislyak’s interaction. Even then, it was not clear what exactly Flynn was doing wrong. Yes, he might have technically been violating the Logan Act of 1799, which prohibits private citizens from interfering in diplomatic relations between the US and a foreign power — an act so arcane no one has been successfully prosecuted under it. But Flynn wasn’t simply a private citizen – in a matter of days, he was to occupy one of the most important foreign-policy positions in the new administration.
Yet such was the political- and media-class animus towards Trump, such was the growing conviction that Russia was to blame for his victory, that the FBI felt empowered to pursue Flynn, no matter how dubious the rationale. So FBI officials called Flynn in for questioning, not over the Logan Act, but with the avowed intention it seems, as one official noted at the time, ‘to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired’. This they did by asking him what he said – even though they knew what he’d said because they had secretly recorded it – and checking for any discrepancy – the ‘lie’ – which they duly found. (Although even then, FBI operatives stated that ‘Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers’.)