Here’s the lede from The Washington Post in a Thursday article accusing National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (USA Lt Gen, Ret) of discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador before President Donald Trump’s inauguration (and before Flynn’s installation as Advisor):
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed US sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former US officials said.
Notice that. Current and former US officials—carefully unidentified by the Post persons. There’s more [emphasis added, as it is in the subsequent quotes]:
Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior US officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal….
Officials said this week that the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Several officials emphasized that while sanctions were discussed….
the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from US intelligence and law enforcement agencies….
Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity….
All of those officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact…making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
Shades of ex-President Barack Obama’s (D) assurances to “Vladimir” of greater flexibility. There’s still more from the Post:
“Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said a former official.
A third official put it more bluntly, saying that either Flynn had misled Pence or that Pence misspoke.
The nature of Flynn’s pre-inauguration message to Kislyak triggered debate…according to officials familiar with that debate.
Current and former US officials said that assertion [of no sanctions discussion] was not true.
Then there’s this bit of misdirection by the Post:
The spokesman [Flynn’s spokesman] said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
The subject coming up isn’t the same as the subject being discussed. The Post knows this.
Did Flynn overstep his bounds? It’s impossible to tell from this article; there are no verifiable sources cited; although there are a dozen carefully anonymous—and so unverifiable—sources claimed. As you read through the piece, though, you’ll notice that in the discussion of whether Flynn’s alleged-by-the-Post actions would be prosecutable, the newspaper did explicitly identify sources; it clearly had no problem naming names where that was convenient to it.