April 29, 2020
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch released 143 pages of new records today from the U.S. Department of Defense, showing extensive communications between the Pentagon’s Director of the Office of Net Assessment James Baker and Washington Post reporter David Ignatius.
Lawyers for Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn alleged in a November 1, 2019, court filing that Baker “is believed to be the person who illegally leaked” to Ignatius the transcripts of Flynn’s December 29, 2016, telephone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The Washington Post published Ignatius’ account of the calls on January 12, 2017, setting in motion a chain of events that lead to Flynn’s February 13, 2017, firing as National Security Advisor and subsequent prosecution for making false statements to the FBI about the calls. U.S. Attorney John Durham is reportedly investigating the leak of information targeting Flynn.
Citing “the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement,” in January 2020 Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, moved to withdraw Flynn’s 2017 guilty plea during the Mueller investigation. Flynn claims he felt forced to plead guilty “when his son was threatened with prosecution and he exhausted his financial resources.” Last week, prosecutors provided Flynn’s defense team with documentation of this threat, according to additional papers Flynn’s lawyers filed April 24, 2020, in support of the motion to withdraw.
Judicial Watch obtained the records in a November 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the DOD failed to respond to a September 2019 request (Judicial Watch v. Department of Defense (No. 1:19-cv-03564)). Judicial Watch seeks:
- All calendar entries of Director James Baker of the Office of Net Assessment.
- All records of communications between ONA Director James Baker and reporter David Ignatius.
The time frame for the requested records was May 2015 through September 25, 2019.
The records include an exchange on February 16, 2016, with the subject line “Ignatius,” in which Baker tells Pentagon colleague Zachary Mears, then-deputy chief of staff to Obama Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, that he has “a long history with David” and talks with him regularly.
In an email exchange on October 1, 2018, in a discussion about artificial intelligence, Baker tells Ignatius: “David, please, as always, our discussions are completely off the record. If any of my observations strike you as worthy of mixing or folding into your own thinking, that is as usual fine.” Ignatius replies, “Understood. Thanks for talking with me.”
Ignatius and Baker’s email exchanges per year are summarized below:
- In 2015, Ignatius and Baker had a total of seven email conversations to set up meetings or calls, two simply to compliment one another and one exchange where Ignatius invited Baker to speak at the Aspen Strategy Group conference.
- In 2016, Ignatius and Baker had a total of 10 email exchanges to set up meetings or calls and two to compliment each other.
- In 2017, Ignatius and Baker had a total of 10 email exchanges to set up meetings, one exchange where Ignatius forwarded one of his articles, and one exchange where Ignatius asks Baker for his thoughts on the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), because Baker wasn’t available on the phone.
- In 2018, Ignatius and Baker had a total of nine email exchanges to set up meetings, four where Ignatius forwarded articles and one where Ignatius asks Baker for tips on what to say at a quantum computing conference where he was speaking.
“These records confirm that Mr. Baker was an anonymous source for Mr. Ignatius,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Mr. Baker should be directly questioned about any and all leaks to his friend at the Washington Post.”
In a related case, in October 2018, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense seeking information about the September 2016 contract between the DOD and Stefan Halper, the Cambridge University professor identified as a secret FBI informant used by the Obama administration to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign. Halper also reportedly had high-level ties to both U.S. and British intelligence.
Government records show that the DOD’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) paid Halper a total of $1,058,161 for four contracts that lasted from May 30, 2012, to March 29, 2018. More than $400,000 of the payments came between July 2016 and September 2017, after Halper reportedly offered Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos work and a trip to London to entice him into disclosing information about alleged collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Flynn’s attorney told the court that Baker was Halper’s “handler” in the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon.