By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's former adviser Michael Flynn asked Russia's ambassador to help avoid an escalation in diplomatic sanctions during a call between Trump's election and inauguration, a transcript released on Friday showed.
Trump's newly confirmed spy chief, John Ratcliffe, declassified the transcript of the conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak and released them to Congress in one of his first official actions in his new role.
The move comes amid a legal fight over the fate of Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI about the conversation. The Justice Department in a bombshell early this month moved to dismiss the charge Flynn had already pleaded guilty to, following public urging by Trump and his allies.
The transcript shows a key discussion item between Flynn and Kislyak was a move by the administration of President Barack Obama to penalize Russia in response to findings by U.S. spy agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through hacking and propaganda operations.
"I know you have to have some sort of action - to, to only make it reciprocal. Make it reciprocal," Flynn said, according to the transcript.
"Don't - don't make it - don't go any further than you have to," Flynn added. "Because I don't want us to get into something that has to escalate, on a, you know, on a tit for tat. You follow me, Ambassador?"
The transcript is dated Dec. 29, 2016 - the day the Obama administration announced it was expelling 35 alleged Russian intelligence operatives from the United States.
Trump has long bristled at U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)