Why It Mattered (and Still Matters) that Flynn Continued to Hide His True Relationship with Turkey
The guy who managed the first steps of the process that led to Trump announcing a withdrawal of troops from Syria yesterday was hiding secret ties to both Russia and Turkey when that process started. That’s one of the reasons why it matters that Mike Flynn lied about his relationship with Turkey for so long. It means that both Russia and Turkey have always known Flynn and Trump were vulnerable because they were hiding lies about their ties with those countries.
In this post, I noted that while the work Flynn did as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey reportedly ended not long after election day (though WSJ reported that he and his spawn met with representatives of Turkey in mid-December to speak further about Fethullah Gulen), that relationship with Turkey would remain unregistered — that is, Flynn would continue to lie about the true nature of it — all the way through his guilty plea on December 1, 2017. For some reason, virtually everyone reporting on Flynn is getting this wrong, claiming that his March 7, 2017 registration — the one he has pled guilty to lying on — constitutes full disclosure about his ties to Turkey. It did not, because it hid that he was working, knowingly, for Turkey.
That’s important because, as I described in a post on what the redactions in the published version of the 302 (“302” is what the FBI calls their interview reports) memorializing Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview with the FBI hide, he explained away the conversations by claiming that he and Sergei Kislyak discussed the Trump Administration’s plans on working with Russia and Turkey.
The redactions in Flynn’s 302 included two passages on Flynn’s December 29, 2016 phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak. In the first, Flynn offered up that he and Kislyak had discussed two things: a phone call with Vladimir Putin that would take place on January 28, and whether the US would send an observer to Syrian peace talks Turkey and Russia were holding in Kazakhstan the next month.
Later in Flynn’s FBI interview, as Agents were quoting bits of the transcript back to Flynn, he again denied he and Kislyak had discussed expulsions of Russia’s diplomats. He appears to have, again, claimed they talked about sending representatives to Astana.
For some reason, the government considers the specific description Flynn used with the FBI to remain too sensitive to publicly release, either because they don’t want co-conspirators to know precisely what Flynn said, and/or they don’t want the Russians and Turks to know.
The claim that those Kislyak phone calls discussed a later call with Putin and the Astana conference is the same one the Transition would offer to the WaPo the day after David Ignatius made clear that the FBI had recordings of the call. Mueller’s reply to Flynn’s sentencing memo describes that Flynn asked a subordinate to feed this information to the WaPo.
The defendant asked a subordinate member of the Presidential Transition Team to contact the Post on the morning of January 13 and convey false information about the defendant’s communications with the Russian ambassador. The “UPDATE” included at the end of the Post story later reported that two members of the Presidential Transition Team stated that the defendant “didn’t cover” sanctions in his conversation with the Russian ambassador.
As Mueller laid out, after Flynn told this cover story about his calls publicly, he continued to double down on it, such that by the time the FBI came to his office on January 24, he had to stick to that story.
Over the next two weeks, the defendant repeated the same false statements to multiple members of the Presidential Transition Team, including Vice President-Elect Michael Pence, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Those officials then repeated the defendant’s false statements on national television. See, e.g., Face the Nation transcript January 15, 2017: Pence, Manchin, Gingrich, CBS NEWS (Jan. 15, 2017) (Vice President Pence recounting that defendant told him he did not discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador); Meet The Press 01/15/17, NBC NEWS (Jan. 15, 2017) (Priebus recounting that he had talked to the defendant and “[t]he subject matter of Case 1:17-cr-00232-EGS Document 56 Filed 12/14/18 Page 2 of 7 -3- sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama [sic] did not come up in the conversation [with the Russian ambassador.]”); White House Briefing by Sean Spicer – Full Transcript, Jan. 23, 2017, CBS NEWS (Jan. 24, 2017) (Spicer recounting that he had spoken with the defendant the day before, who again stated that he (the defendant) had not spoken to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions). Thus, by the time of the FBI interview, the defendant was committed to his false story.
Flynn’s lies to cover the discussion about sanctions and expulsions were not entirely invented; he’s a better liar than that. The Transition really was struggling over its decision of whether to join in a Syrian peace plan that would follow Russia (and Turkey’s lead) rather than the path the Obama Administration had pursued in the previous year. As he noted to the FBI, the Trump Administration had only decided not to send a senior delegation to Astana earlier that week. It was announced on January 21.
These lies compromised Flynn in two ways. As Sally Yates noted when she described the problem with Flynn’s lies to Don McGahn two days after his interview, because Flynn was saying something publicly that Russia knew to be false, Russia could hold that over him (and the Administration).
But by staking his lies on the Astana conference — and the Trump Administration’s willingness to join a Syrian effort that deviated from existing US policy — Flynn also raised the stakes of his past paid relationship with Turkey. It became far more damaging that Flynn had still been on the Turkish government payroll through the early transition, when Trump directed him to conduct early outreach on Syria. So even while DOJ was repeatedly telling Flynn he had to come clean on his Turkish lobbying ties, he lied about that, thereby hiding that the early days of Trump Administration outreach had been conducted by a guy still working for Turkey.
Since that time, both Flynn and Trump were stuck, because they had told lies to the US government that Russia and Turkey knew were lies.
Indeed, Trump may have started telling his own lies right away. Three days after Flynn’s FBI interview, in a conversation with Jim Comey after he had already learned of Sally Yates’ conversation with Don McGahn telling him of DOJ’s concerns about the FBI interview, Trump offered what was probably a bullshit cover story about Flynn’s communications with Russia, possibly bullshit invented to hide what Trump knew about ongoing discussions with Russia. [Here’s version of this story fed to the NYT.]
He then want on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [Vladimir Putin] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she ad been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [Putin] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [Putin’s] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment of after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [president] of a country like [Russia].
Since his first days as President, Trump (and Mike Flynn, until he pled guilty) has been trying to hide the true substance of the relationship he had with both Russia and Turkey.
As it happens, it appears that Turkey was the country that ultimately exploited that leverage. While Trump did little more than greet Putin at the G20 in Argentina as more details of his negotiations with Russia over a Trump Tower have become clear, he did meet with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And he spoke with Erdogan by phone
yesterday last Friday before he unexpectedly announced that American troops were withdrawing from Syria.
In the wake of yesterday’s decision, Nancy Pelosi (who as a Gang of Eight member, may know non-public information about all this) tied Trump’s announcement to the Flynn sentencing hearing and his work for Turkey; she suggested Trump had made the decision to serve his own personal or political objectives.
It is premature for the President to declare a sweeping victory against ISIS when, just a few weeks ago, our military led more than 250 coalition-conducted airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria. All Americans should be concerned that this hasty announcement was made on the day after sentencing in criminal proceedings began against the President’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who admitted that he was a registered foreign agent for a country with clear interests in the Syrian conflict.
“When we take the gavel, our Democratic Majority will uphold the Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibilities to ensure that the President’s decisions advance our national security interests, not his personal or political objectives.
I don’t know whether Pelosi is correct (and I actually hope that we do get out of Syria, though perhaps congressional oversight can force Trump to do this in a way that doesn’t result in genocide for our longtime Kurdish allies).
But I know that when Trump ordered a guy who was still on Turkey’s payroll to initiate the negotiations that resulted in yesterday’s announcement, then tried to sustain lies those negotiations, he effectively ceded a lot of control over how negotiations would proceed to the countries that shared his and Flynn’s secrets.
And, of course, Trump’s Treasury Department also announced yesterday that it was reversing sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s company (though not Deripaska himself, and restrictions on his ownership are quite significant).
Update: Corrected date of call with Erdogan. See this story for significance of that call.
November 8, 2016: “Flynn’s” Fethullah Gulen op-ed
November 18: Elijah Cummings writes Mike Pence with concerns about conflicts in Flynn’s lobbying business
November 30: NSD contacts Flynn about registering under FARA
December 1: Flynn ends contract with Inovo
Mid-December: Reported meeting at 21 Club in NYC to discuss rendering Fethullah Gulen
December 29: Flynn discusses attending Syrian peace talks hosted by Turkey and Russia with Sergei Kislyak
January 10: Flynn asks Susan Rice to hold off on assault on Raqqa
January 11, 2017: Flynn tells DOJ he’ll “probably” be registering under FARA
January 12: David Ignatius column makes it clear FBI had intercepted Sergei Kislyak conversation discussing peace process
January 13: Based in part on White House cover story for Flynn-Kislyak call, WaPo reports discussions about participation in Astana conference
After inauguration: Flynn tells Trump Administration he will definitely register
January 21: State Department announces US Ambassador to Kazakhstan, not Flynn, will attend Russian-Turkish peace talks
January 23: Astana conference starts
January 24: Flynn interviews with FBI, and explains away the December 29 call, in part, by saying they discussed an observer to Astana
January 27: Trump tells Comey he questions Flynn’s judgment because he took six days to return a call to Vladimir Putin (he references a Putin call, the first call of congratulations from a foreign leader, but it’s not clear whether it came on January 22, 23, or 24)
January 28: Conference call with Vladimir Putin allegedly discussed on December 29
March 7: Flynn submits FARA filing that still hides true relationship with government of Turkey
December 1: Flynn pleads guilty, in part, to lying in that FARA filing
December 18, 2018: Flynn sentencing hearing
As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.
wow, nice work
I’m wondering what Saudi Arabia has to do with this, although I think I know
Do tell. It would be irresponsible not to speculate.
Where in the world does “it would be irresponsible not to speculate” gain any traction?
The first Wildean moment I’ve had on here.
What worries me is that Trump is being led to leave Syria in order to cudgel him with outcries that reverberate to keep us in Afghanistan.
President* Playdough…played and splayed, daily.
Also, we’re about to find out what side Whitaker is on
I’m dubious of the public reports of Whitaker’s supposed ‘clearance’.
Who, after all, is issuing them? And why now?
Oh, I’m highly doubtful that anyone who sees everything mueller knows is going to protect trump
I don’t know about Whitaker’s clearance (it ought to be dubious, but who knows?), but I don’t find today’s news to be much in the way of news. Frankly, I had assumed Whitaker was involved and being briefed. The line still naturally goes through Rosenstein as DAG though. So far, as far as any of us know, the line of propriety still holds currently.
Am I the only person who thinks its weird that at a press conference announcing indictments against persons linked with the Chinese government, we had the DAG, FBI chief, USA for SDNY, and the head of the National Security Division but not the Acting Attorney General??
Nice catch. In the big picture, I guess I’m not surprised that the fraud AG isn’t actually doing anything.
Good work, Marcy.
Not directly related to Flynn, but still astonishing that Trump fired Comey and the following day he invites Lavrov and Kislyak to the oval office, the US press is barred, but Russian press is allowed, where he informs them that he fired Comey because he was a nutjob. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off, he said. He also shared intelligence about Syria.
He licks his masters’ toes.
EW, do you have a sense of when Trump would have recognized how damaging this was? I recall that Flynn told McGahn at some point during the transition that he would probably have to register as a foreign agent, but do we know a/ when that was and b/ whether that made it all the way to Trump?
I ask because I continue to be curious about who, exactly, within the incoming administration Flynn was lying to, and what about. Thanks to the McFarland emails, a fair number of people (but not Pence, at least) seemed to have known the true nature of the Kislyak calls in real-time. But your post here makes me wonder if any of them knew just how exposed Flynn was on the Turkish front–which, as you point out, compounded the damage considerably. If none of them knew, or very few, I wonder if that pushes us closer to answering the question of how Priebus et al finally convinced Trump to fire Flynn.
I still remain amazed that we got KT McFarland’s email as early as we did, and in fact got it at all. I guess that was from GSA servers for the transition team? What a not smart thing for McFarland to put in email…..
Thanks for the update. This site has become a “must-read” for me daily. I wish there was (and there may be) a unitary time line on the whole Mike Flynn story and the link from that story to his relationship to lies (or not) to VP Pence.
I have trouble keeping that one straight. Is there a source where I can see this relationship laid out so I can track it?
Pence sure is a mystery. What always occurs to me is that Mr. Pence is not acting like a man who is the VP of a very weakened president. Rather he seems resigned that he will go down with the ship. Or, perhaps he is just a really good actor.
Really? He seems to me to be doing exactly what you’d expect, which is stay quite and smile and nod noncommittally as much as he can get away with.
This is a nice write up, and that timeline at the end is particularly appreciated (turns out I don’t have a steel-trap memory, and don’t immerse in this story, important though it is).
Ya know, that photo up top is likely to bring a whole bunch of renewed questions & objections about why you aren’t writing about Mueller going after Pence. I assume you’ve developed a reflex response script for that by now.
Eek, sorry about the block-quote formatting glitch; I was afraid that might happen. I think the text intended to be block-quoted will be clear from the context, so I’m not gonna try to repeat it.
I know the T charge is NOT in play for Flynn and companions, but the more you dig this stuff out the more I side with and admire Judge Emmet Sullivan for what he said an did in Flynn’s hearing the other day.
And the more upset I get that the SCO charged just the one count and Flynn got a sweetheart sentencing recommendation. I cannot imagine the SCO does not know what you have figured out, but if they don’t/didn’t they should now due to your incredible skills.
Perhaps there needs to be a “sold your country out” law on the books…Flynn cannot “simply” walk.
IMHO IANAL IAMPISSEDOFF
What Sullivan did in that regard was completely fucking outrageous. And I honestly do not care what secret facts he may be privy to or how good it makes people feel. It was completely fucking outrageous, and improper by any measure applicable. Federal trial court sentencing proceeding are NOT a blog comment section. Cheering Sullivan’s impropriety is absolutely bizarre from people that usually cheer the independence and PROPRIETY of the federal judiciary. Count me out from such nonsense.
You need to cut some slack for the good judge. We all make mistakes when we are emotional.
No. I really do not. Having done this for a living for decades, what Sullivan did was inexcusable. Full stop. And people that think it was cute or appropriate do not have a clue about criminal courtrooms and the appropriate boundaries, even for judges, in them.
I think what he did was a wake-up call. I didn’t think it cute, but it was appropriate, in my view. Stop. You are being arrogant. Look, I know you know more about the law than I can come close to…. but your arrogance gives lawyers a bad name. People have different opinions
Sorry if actual experience bothers you. You don’t know squat, and are more than willing to run by emotion than law. No, sorry, I will not stop pushing back against total bullshit.
I respect your experience and understand the importance or “rules” and protocol.
I suppose what gets me the most is that the “SCO”, the defense attorneys and Flynn, and Sullivan have access to the redacted documents we do not.
But unless I am totally misreading Marcy’s posts on the tangential subject(s), it certainly seems that Flynn is a lot dirtier that the plea deal he copped to and the resulting sentencing recommendation from the SCO. I do understand that Sullivan does not have to follow the sentencing recommendations.
Do you feel that Flynn is dirtier that he has copped to? You may not and I respect that too. But, if you do, how do you think making sure he faces full accountability and justice for all of his actions should proceed from here?
Because such are the vagaries of cooperation plea agreements. It is almost hilarious how the public wants the benefit of those, but still wants to fuck the people the government is cultivating to get there. It is extremely short sighted. If people want to do that, fine. But. please, come spend a lot of time in criminal courts and see a lot of criminal juries. Life in those places does not exist in the narrow view by people on the internet. Sorry if that is harsh, but that is what I know.
While my initial reaction to what Sullivan did was to compare him with Sirica, I am now convinced he was out of line. I think if a judge has reason to believe that someone before him has committed a crime (usually it’s perjury while testifying) the proper procedure is a referral to the appropriate prosecutor for investigation. I don’t know whether a referral is in order if a judge thinks that someone before him has committed a crime not before him, but elsewhere. As odious as Flynn is, he should not be sentenced as if he committed treason, a crime not part of this case. (OJ Simpson, another odious being, was sentenced in Nevada for robbery based on a murder he committed but was acquitted for. Not a noble day for the judiciary.) The problem now is that any sentence Sullivan imposes will be suspect as either unfairly harsh, or too lenient because it will be a result of the judge making up for his treason comment. Sullivan ought to recuse himself from this case, especially since flynn’s lawyers are probably too toady to make that application or they are gambling that the judge’s mistake will work to Flynn’s benefit. I doubt that whatever sentence Flynn gets is going to affect him one way or another. It’s easy to forget that revenge is not a legitimate object of enlightened penology.
Yes. And this is a real problem. For all the opprobrium as to Kelner, were I Kelner, I would be seriously considering a motion to DQ Sullivan as a judge for intractable and inappropriate bias. I don’t “think” would pull that trigger, but it HAS to be a large discussion point with the client and defense team at this point.
And that possibility is not lost on the SCO office either. They too are askew because of Sullivan’s idiocy.
It does seem like an odd game to play on the judge’s part.
It was definitely a wholly odd hearing. Non lawyers (like me) only hear about the unusual hearings, not the routine hearings that happen thousands of times every day.
Verbally slapping around a defendant during the sentencing seems like a fairly routine thing but this sounded over the top.
How inappropiate it was is not a thing I can judge. I did like it, though, and I know it may complicate the next hearing down the line.
Oh, it was extremely odd on a lot of fronts. Some of which were entirely predictable, i.e the attempt to undermine the very basis of the plea and allocution, some well beyond that like Sullivan’s voyage into treason and a couple of other things.
Conventional wisdom professes that the rule of law is the foundation of our Democracy, and as such, all are treated equally by the lady wearing the blindfold. You either know that the law is not applied equally to all and want to pretend that it is, or you are deluded.
Does jumping on lay people expressing their reactions when one of the players in a legal charade goes off script assuage the transgressions you must have witnessed in your long career as a paid participant in the largest and most profitable business in history?
Flynn made the decision to break the laws and disgrace himself while he was working for the man who was moving into the Oval Office. Judge Sullivan had access to facts hidden from the public; facts that were used to force Flynn’s cooperation, he wasn’t there as a friend or officer of the court doing his solemn duty. If the judge was so disgusted that he felt compelled to inform the insolent defendant, or possibly his smug lawyers, that the actions of the defendant deserve punishment, not reward, even if he misused the term treason, who are you to second guess his decisions?
Like the commenters here who are incensed at Flynn’s behavior, and reacted in favor of the judge’s comments and attitude, earning your ire in the process, you do not know what the judge knows.
Consider this, if the masses realize that there really are two sets of laws, one set accessible only to the rich and powerful, and one set for everyone else, how long do you think there will be a need for lawyers?
I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but would you describe how the sentencing hearing should have gone based on your experience?
I think it’s a testament to the fine job done by Marcy, bmaz, Rayne, and all the non-IANALs on this site and in the comments that when I read about Sullivan’s “spilling the T” (so to speak), I reacted as if I had heard fingernails scrape across a chalkboard. And then, “I can’t even tell you what the elements of treason are.” Gut punch.
It’s imperative that the justice system and all of its cogs do everything by the book here. What is the use of Mueller doing things by the book if the judge is going to ruin the optics by mouthing off like that?
The other thing is that Sullivan came back later and corrected his earlier outburst, apologizing. I’m wondering what happened to make that happen. Did he talk with someone else from the time he left the court room after the initial outbursts and then returned? Just have a talk with himself? It’s an odd happening that no one expected, including possibly Sullivan himself? It smacks of someone who has heard or seen something in the previous 24 hours leading up to the sentence hearing that has clearly upset that someone greatly. It’s not clear what that might be but it certainly seems that Judge Sullivan was shaken by something that caused him to really go on the attack in a very public way.
This story has never seemed plausible to me. Trump certainly says all manner of boastful and flattering things when he hosts leaders, and Flynn must have observed that before. We are to believe that Trump was toasting May and Flynn interrupted to correct the record? That would have embarassed both Flynn’s boss and the guest over a point (who called first) that is completely trivial. I don’t buy it.
Maybe there’s something around that call that we don’t know just yet?
Trump and his NSA being pawned by the Russians at the start of their administration is not the sort of secret they could keep for long. It left them vulnerable to Russia and Turkey for life, two important actors regarding global and ME peace, not to mention normal commercial relations. The arrangement amounted to an open invitation to anyone else with enough money and business at their disposal to pawn them as well.
Among the congressional responses to this train of events should be a requirement for full disclosure of presidential nominee tax returns and financial statements, including wholly-owned and controlled entitites, and annual updating of those disclosures.
Divestment of material investments, placing them in legitimate blind trusts, etc., needs to be mandatory. (Small price to pay to run such a large government.) The emoluments clause needs supporting legislation, expanding and clarifying the commercial relations it prohibits, with accompanying disclosure requirements for both sides of a transaction.
Lastly, an enforceable no nepotism rule. No children, siblings, parents or in-laws acting in any executive capacity or as formal WH employees (regardless whether it’s paid or not).
Laura Rozen’s thread from Tuesday is valuable from her perspective as a Middle East for-pol reporter who was covering the US approach to the Syrian negotiations from the outgoing and incoming administrations at the time.
The thing I missed when connecting some of the dots about the 302 was Ignatius’s Jan 12 piece, which put the cat amongst the pigeons.
I looked at the pseudonymous in nc Rozen link, where it seems to play out that Flynn was more in control of the plot than Trump (at least in my estimation, based on that thread).
But on her site, there’s also this:
Emma LoopVerified account @LoopEmma
Russian Agents Sought Secret US Treasury Records On Clinton Backers During 2016 Campaign
Highlighting from Mueller’s response to Flynn’s sentencing memo:
So Flynn’s current story, the story he has given to the SCO, is that he told a subordinate transition official on January 13th to push back on the Jan 12th WaPo story. He did not coordinate this with Pence since it was not until January 14, according to the NYT timeline, Flynn tells Pence:
Also on the 13th somehow Spicer has the cover story before Flynn talks to Pence:
So, according to the official timeline we are left with the question, did Flynn act unilaterally on the 13th, or did he get his marching orders from someone else? Trump?
Did Flynn even really talk to the subordinate transition official on Jan 13? Or was it Trump?
Did Flynn even really talk to Pence on Jan 14?
Both Pence and Priebus are on TV with denials starting Jan 15, but it is not until a week later that we have an actual second hand contemporaneous account of Flynn himself actually speaking with anyone. According to the Atlantic timeline:
It is not until Feb 8 that Flynn himself actually denies discussing sanctions with Kislyak.
Is it possible that the currently accepted timeline is still a lie, and that Flynn did not initiate the cover-up on Jan 13, but rather got pulled into it?
If this is the case he is still lying (aka not cooperating).
It may be down to the in-coming House to investigate what happened here. Plenty of red investigative meat in the period from Trump’s election and Comey’s firing with regard to all the GOP transition players. Or maybe the Congress will just get distracted by Trump’s tax returns…
One thing is certain—there’s plenty of areas here that may need laws added to the books; Congress has plenty of reason to look into what happened here and how to rewrite laws so that they are better enforced, etc. (So, surprising myself, I’m still optimistic about the possibility that the Congress will wake up?)
When thinking about the strategic issues in this part of Asia it seems that modernity has dismissed some of history.
The issue for Russia may be as simple as warm-water ports. With the break-up of the old Soviet Union, the Russian Federation was separated from Ukraine and consequently Crimea and lost access to the historic naval base at Sevastopol. Sevastopol has been a thorn in the side of Europe for an age, and control of it was one of the objectives of the British/Russian Crimean War in the 1850’s. Turkey at that time was the decadent Ottoman Empire.
Russia has always needed Sevastopol, because of it’s location on the Black Sea – and then the problem of the Dardanelles must also be resolved. Access to those two gives the Russian nuclear submarines warm-water access because the northern ports are closed for much of the year. Soci, as a military port has little to offer.
Syria remains an important client state of Russia and Russia will maintain the Assad regime. One of the issues is the Russian naval base at Tartus on the Mediterranean. This is the vital warm-water port, if the Dardanelles is blocked.
As much as sanctions is important, I think this issue of Russian Sub access has not been discussed in the MSM. My background leads me to speculate that Putin wants this issue resolved and Trump is trying to help him. At worst Trump might have been instructed, at best Trump has no clue about the very complex reasons why Russia needs a relationship with both Turkey (Dardanelles) and Syria (Tartus).
This regional conflict has got FA to do with the interests of Turkomen, Kurds, Armenians, Syrians or even ISIS who are temporarily causing a nuisance in the region. Its about Russia’s geo-political interests.
Ultimately it is just about nuclear missiles. Trump has no clue, bettcha Mad Dog does – just my five bobs worth!
Wow! That triggered a memory cascade: Pat Frank’s nuclear war novel Alas, Babylon , published in the late ’50s, was required reading in college poly sci and high school civics classes throughout the sixties and seventies. The fictional war was triggered by an accidental attack on the only warm-water Russian naval base, located in the Gulf of Iskander in Latakia, Syria. Because the base was deemed essential to the USSR, they went to defcon 1 and launched a surprise attack. The book caused me to sleep in the basement during the 1962 missile crisis, and gave me nightmares until 1991. Are you suggesting we re-read it?
@r helder, https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/12/20/why-it-mattered-and-still-matters-that-flynn-continued-to-hide-his-true-relationship-with-turkey/#comment-764581
Iskander? Now that’s a funny coincidence. Sounds like a Russian missile.
@new-radical, good comment. There are other interests in Syria. Another one of Putin’s chef’s entrepreneurial activities, aside from his mercenary brigade, is controlling and gaining bank on the Syrian oil. And, of course, in general, Putin’s desire for imperialism and world power rivals the US.
@Trip, of course. My interest is in strategy set in a complex systems paradigm, so I have reduced the complex system (CAS) of this region/conflict and extracted the fundamental architecture that I seem to think is the core structure of the problem. But Complexity Theory informs me that I am probably wrong, Ha Ha!
I’m ambivalent about what Judge Sullivan said, for two reasons:
1. He reviewed material I haven’t seen.
2. When I read the actual transcript (as opposed to the media reports), it didn’t sound that bad, because the judge just seemed to be asking questions to explore the limits of the case, not give his opinions:
COURT: All right. I really don’t know the answer to this question, but given the fact that the then-President of the United States imposed sanctions against Russia for interfering with federal elections in this country, is there an opinion about the conduct of the defendant the following days that rises to the level of treasonous activity on his part?
THE COURT: All right. Hypothetically, could he have been charged with treason?
THE COURT: All right. I also asked about — and this is very important — I also asked about the Special Counsel’s Office. I also asked questions about the Special Counsel and the — and other potential offenses for the purpose of understanding the benefit, if any, that Mr. Flynn has received in the plea deal. I wasn’t suggesting he’s committed treason. I wasn’t suggesting he committed violations. I was just curious as to whether or not he could have been charged, and I gave a few examples.
THE COURT: And I said early on, Don’t read too much into the questions I ask. But I’m not suggesting he committed treason. I just asked a legitimate question.
So here’s my question that I still don’t understand–what do you believe was so bad about the judge’s conduct? Can you cite for us specific statements in the transcript? Also, what specifically did the judge say that would give any evidence of bias (the grounds for which you said Flynn might be able to ask him to disqualify) given the entirety of the proceedings, including the judge’s qualifiers and corrections, not just a snippet without context?
P.S., the prosecutor answered “no” to the treason question, but what if he had answered “yes”? Isn’t that something the judge should want to know when considering whether to accept the plea and if so, the appropriate sentence?
No. Hell no. Everything about that was so wrong I want to puke even having to continue to discuss how wrong it is.
No, it is exactly that bad. And note that, Ryan, who I like a lot and consider a friend, specifically noted, citing another friend to all here, Steve Vladeck, that “treason” does not apply and was absurd.
It matters not what Sullivan had reviewed, if you cannot put it on the record, a judge simply cannot blithely inject that crap. Just cannot. It was outrageous, and I do not care what angle anybody in the gallery is trying to ply. It was wrong, and was wrong by a light year. I don’t think defense motions to DQ Sullivan will be forthcoming, that is a tactical decision, but they VERY easily could be.
Do you think SCO would’ve had legitimate claim to try to DQ Ellis in Manafort’s EDVA case?
No. Ellis was the original judge on the case (Sullivan is not), and as cantankerous as he has been, and Ellis has been, he did not cross, in an angry fashion, the bridges too far that Sullivan did. Fed judges are, by nature, intemperate. But this was simply asinine and unacceptable by Sullivan.
It really was outrageous. You can’t become a jury for crimes that aren’t charged if you are the sentencing judge. That’s not how our legal system is supposed to work.
One thing that might have set Sullivan off is that he may have had the prosecution submit some sort of evidence of other crimes, even indirectly yet pointedly, that then got him questioning the veracity of the plea deal of itself. That certainly seems to be the case with regard to the Turkish agents involved with Flynn who are now in deep doo-doo. Much of Sullivan’s questioning seemed to follow that line. Even the prosecution seemed to get worried about some of the questions so maybe the prosecution submitted things to the judge that went too far in some way?
FYI, I’m just reading this now…
from Ryan Goodman, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016).
“Flynn’s Work as Turkey’s Agent While a Transition Official: Judge Sullivan Was at Least Half Right”
FYI, the final sentence is a link to emptywheel.net
I respect your education/learning as a lawyer. You knew there was a “but” coming?
Yes. You live in a legal bubble. Look at the big picture. Trump is compromised and what they did is “treasonous”. Step aside for a moment and think deeply, not lawyerly.
Trump and his henchmen gave away our country, for forty pieces of Trump Tower…
They don’t call him Kaiser Quisling for nothing!
I don’t want to argue for anyone else, but I think here you need to reexamine that Sullivan doesn’t just live in a legal bubble as well, he wields considerable power inside that bubble and must follow the rules and norms within such lest that authority be called into question.
With Trump demonstrating the alternative, and the effects clearly visible, now is a time when institutional and societal norms, traditions, & protocols, as well as the rule of law, need to be upheld and abided by scrupulously by those in power.
Every deviation gives Trumpist forces another opportunity to pry a plank from the hull of the ship of state.
I agree with you Diviz.
Which is not to say that I don’t find emotional gratification in things like Sullivan’s mis-speaking. But that I recognize the far greater importance of propriety.
@Bay State Librul
Then there’s the FinCEN people who were apparently compromised by someone in Eastern Europe – one of them was fired because of inappropriate activities, including claiming to have a clearance they didn’t have (because of the connections they already had).
I see a marble statue, attributes are a blindfold, a balance, and a sword. Since she is made of stone she may not open her mouth…
Judge Sullivan corrected two things after the break:
1. Flynn acted as a foreign agent while in the White House; and
2. Treasonous activity.
Isn’t it more likely this was based upon his realization that this was information only revealed in the redacted information, especially considering his immediate correction following the break?
Ryan and McConnell
Along with individual 1
Greatest felons of all time
Transition to fascism
Trump accelerates the decline of civilization in ways not foreseen
There is no hope now
i protest! nihilism is never acceptable; akin to suicide
Something that has gotten completely run over by other issues in Ukraine:
There was a treaty signed by Russia, Britain and the United States concerning Crimea.
In this treaty, Russia agreed to recognize Ukraine as a separate sovereign country. Recall that Ukraine and Russia had been parts of one country (USSR).
As part of this treaty, all nuclear weapons in Ukraine were relocated to Russia, and Crimea was recognized as part of Ukraine AND all three signatories agreed that Russia had perpetual national security interests in Crimea (specifically, the port in Sevestapol hosting the Black Sea fleet). The port was leased by Russia.
In addition, all three signatories agreed not to interfere in the internal political system in Ukraine.
Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, Russia DID NOT initiate the political meddling in Ukraine. Instead, the Western powers and specifically the neocons inside the US military bureaucracy initiated the political meddling in Ukraine (due to an insatiable desire to expand NATO all the way to Russia’s border, and despite past promises by the West to refrain from doing that)
In 2004, Victoria Nuland was given a 5 billion dollar portfolio to do exactly what the above named treaty said the US would NOT do: meddle in Ukraine’s internal political system.
Thus came the “Orange Revolution” and the rise of nationalists and actual Nazis, the descendants of Nazi collaborators who were for so long fifth column spies and agitators inside the USSR.
Led by Yulia Tymoshenko.
Was the Russian mafia at work in Ukraine prior to this? Undoubtedly.
Indeed, Russia and its organized crime network and its oligarchs fought back and thus began the period in Ukraine characterized by the corruption of the likes of Yanukovich and his cronies.
Victoria Nuland also fought back, leading to the Maiden and the overthrow of Yanukovich.
It was after this second direct meddling in Ukraine’s political system by Western powers AND a large faction of actual Nazis, that Putin orchestrated the annexation of Crimea and the insurgency in the Donbass.
The violation of the original treaty by the Western powers and the irrational greed of the NATO powers were the origin of the state of affairs that led to the sanctions for the annexation of Crimea.
Putin is a ruthless dictator who suppresses populations, aggressively grabs land with military force and operates an international crime syndicate.
However, the circumstances that led to Putin’s rise to power (another story of Western meddling) and subsequently his actions in Crimea, are rooted in the lust for power by the US and NATO, and a broken treaty.
Despite the horrible Putin regime’s excesses, the annexation of the Crimea was arguably justified.
I do not make this argument as an apology for Putin’s regime.
All I’m saying is that the annexation of Crimea by the Russian State was justified because it is and was a matter of national security for the Russian State to secure their port for their fleet.
Read the history of Crimea for more reinforcement of this argument.
The nuclear disarmament of the Ukraine was done with a “letter of understanding” that was co-signed by the US and Russia. It was not a formal treaty. The Russian’s reneged on that letter-of-understanding when they seized the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Where Russia has broken international law is by seizing the Crimea without any sort of legal basis to do so. (The fact that Russia has a seat on the UN Security Council means that the UN can not act to stop Russia.) Thus, this is more about Russia’s words and deeds than it is about the breaking of a formal treaty.
One can argue about whether or not NATO powers meddling in Ukraine was wise but certainly it had a lot to do with Russia not respecting Ukrainian suzerainty in Crimea…and elsewhere. There’s a pipeline that Russia also seeks to fully control involved in the Ukrainian conflict too; this conflict is not just about Crimea…
Finally, the reason we must hold Russians responsible to their word is because we disarmed the only nuclear power ever to voluntarily do so trusting the Russians to honor their word. If we did not at least impose sanctions on Russia— a softer approach than, say, sending troops to Ukraine and/or fully mobilizing— if we did less or nothing, then how good would all the other letters-of-understandings the US has with other countries regarding their security and integrity be?
Sure, fine, ok. “Because I can,” is always a good rationale for the use of military force.
Your rationale sounds a lot like the Monroe Doctrine, which unilaterally claimed the entire western hemisphere to be America’s backyard and only the US could play in it. I don’t think Smedley Butler would agree with your argument any more than I or most people here would.
Re the date of Putin’s (and May’s) call: I think it’s got to be either on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, or Saturday morning the 21st, for both of them. There are a lot of articles that describe May’s contacts with Trump before the inauguration, and the plans for her visit at the end of his first week, but none that I can find specify the date of her call.
But this LA Times piece does specify the date of Peña Nieto’s call: Saturday morning, the 21st:
“Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke to President Trump by phone Saturday morning to congratulate him on his inauguration and set the tone for upcoming bilateral talks between the two countries.”
So given Trump’s intended compliment to May, and Flynn’s assertion, the Putin and May calls would have to have come before the Mexican president’s.
I agree that it is improper for Sullivan to inject crap that is not on the record into his sentencing consideration.
I struggle to come to a position on just what a judge should or can do in the sui generis circumstance when a sitting president is arguably running a sustained effort to undermine public confidence in his court (as well as the judiciary in general/sco/fbi/doj/etc) with a demonstrably false public narrative of unfair treatment of Flynn by the FBI: just another innocent hero who got unfairly tricked into a slip up and then coerced into lying so they could improperly get to his boss.
Our justice system would be severely compromised if the public lost trust that it seeks to be evenhanded and tends towards fairness. I want judges and everyone else involved in the criminal justice system to stay in their lanes and run the system according to the rules. However, if a sitting president is willing to disregard any and all boundaries of propriety that underpin our justice system it seems appropriate to counter his institution-damaging narrative (Chief Justice Roberts with “there are no Obama judges”).
With a sitting president actively seeking to undermine confidence in his court I’m inclined to accept Sullivan’s improper injection of crap into his sentencing consideration for the net positive effect it has on shoring up public trust in our justice system by undermining the president’s baseless attack on his court and the FBI treatment of Flynn.
I understand that Sullivan may have provided grounds for his removal, and may have compromised SCOs position with respect to Flynn. As we hurtle towards (through?) a constitutional crisis, how the Flynn sentencing goes from here will just be an insignificant footnote in a much larger struggle to maintain/restore the integrity of all of the democratic institutions under attack. I’m uncomfortable with what Sullivan did from a criminal procedure perspective, but from an institutional and constitutional perspective I applaud it.
Thanks so much for this great reporting, Marcy! I’ve been reading/lurking for a few weeks now after being turned on to your site by a friend… I read all your posts & all the erudite & insightful comments everyone makes. One sentence in the piece you referenced in your update gave me the chills as it’s something that has bothered me for a long time. ‘The White House stopped issuing readouts of Mr Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders in July.’ sorry – don’t know how to format this in your standard way (indented & offset)
In my imagination, a conversation with Whitaker goes something like this…
Mueller/Rosenstein: Look Sunshine… If we prove 5% of what we ABSOLUTELY KNOW about this sleazebag, he’ll spend the next 10-20 years in jail, along with his grifter kids. You think you’re a clever guy, but you’re not nearly clever enough. Really. Every word we say to each other is going to be written up in a memo the moment you walk out the door. Hell, we could eevn trick you into doing something stupid – just for sport. You f with this investigation, you’re Step 1 on the way to 5 years in jail for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Then disbarred. You really want to go down for this russian barf bag? I didn’t think so…
bmaz do you think that, absent Sullivan’s outrageous comments, Flynn and his lawyers would have asked for immediate instead of delayed sentencing? I don’t quite understand why Sullivan clearly wanted to delay sentencing and can’t help but wonder if that desire is caused by materials that he has seen and we have not.
Yes. In fact, they already had. I think they realized Sullivan needed some chilling out time, and that Sullivan himself was so indicating. I am less convinced it was all about the super sekrit things he saw in ex part submissions than that Sullivan knew he needed to back off if his sentence issued, and record thereof, was to not look like a torch job that would subject him to immediate ridicule and further challenge.
I got a message to upgrade the iOS on my iPhone yesterday.
One of the reported fixes was for iPhone ‘use in Turkey.’ Curious what this meant.
May have nothing to do with Flynn, but seems strange. Haven’t seen before updates that make country-specific claims, and I’m in the U.S.
I would love to help you in this regard, kind sir. Just send me all your accounts, digits and passwords, c/o IOSHelp.Tu and we can resolve this in no time whatsoever!
LOL. I thought the same at first but the message seemed legit albeit weirdly irrelevant to my phone needs.
I found a Forbes article about it, too:
I just won 4 million bucks in a “coca-cola lucky phone competition”. Just submitting my acc no’s to India for the deposit of winnings. I’m gonna have a Grrreat Xmas . . wonder what the poor people are doing?