Why Didn’t Mueller Hold Counterintelligence Suspect Mike Flynn Responsible for Sanctions Call?
There’s a problem with the way the Mueller Report describes events pertaining to Mike Flynn.
It describes how someone under active counterintelligence investigation for his ties to Russia and already on thin ice with the President-Elect got on the phone and, through the Russian Ambassador, persuaded Vladimir Putin to hold off on retaliating for US sanctions. It describes how Flynn avoided leaving a paper trail of that call. Ultimately, the report remains inconclusive about whether Flynn made that call on his own initiative — which would seem to bolster the case he had suspect loyalties with the Russians — or at the direction of the President — in which case his actions would be appropriate from a constitutional standpoint (because this is the kind of thing the President can choose to do), but not a legal one (because he was purposely hiding it from the Obama Administration). One or the other would seem to be a necessary conclusion, but the Mueller Report reaches neither one.
In part, that’s because both Flynn and KT McFarland seem to have protected President Trump’s plausible deniability even after both got caught lying about these events. But it also appears that Mueller is more certain about the answer than he lets on in the public report.
This is the subject that, in my post noting that the Mueller Report has huge gaps precisely where the most acute counterintelligence concerns about Trump’s relationship with Putin are, I suggested created a logical problem for the report as a whole.
If it is the case that Flynn did what he did on Trump’s orders — which seems the only possible conclusion given Mueller’s favorable treatment of Flynn — then it changes the meaning of all of Trump’s actions with regard to the Russian investigation, but also suggests that that conclusion remains a counterintelligence one, not a criminal one.
Mike Flynn was under active counterintelligence investigation but he’s not an Agent of Russia
According to the Mueller Report, the first Rosenstein memo laying out the detailed scope of the investigation, dated August 2, 2017, included “four sets of allegations involving Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump.” Two of those four must be his unregistered sleazy influence peddling for Turkey (which he got to plead off of as part of his plea agreement) and the Peter Smith operation to obtain Hillary’s deleted emails (about which his testimony is reflected in the Mueller Report).
Then there’s the counterintelligence investigation into Flynn. We’ve known that the FBI had a counterintelligence investigation into Flynn since before HPSCI released its Russian Report, and a later release of that report described that the investigation was still active when the FBI interviewed Flynn on January 24, 2017.
A key focus of that investigation — one reflected in Flynn’s January 24, 2017 302 — was his paid attendance at a December 10, 2015 RT event in Moscow in December 2015, where he sat with Putin. The Mueller Report makes just one reference to that event, and only as a way of describing the public reporting on Trump flunkies’ ties to Russia during the campaign.
Beginning in February 2016 and continuing through the summer, the media reported that several Trump campaign advisors appeared to have ties to Russia. For example, the press reported that campaign advisor Michael Flynn was seated next to Vladimir Putin at an RT gala in Moscow in December 2015 and that Flynn had appeared regularly on RT as an analyst.15
15 See, e.g., Mark Hosenball & Steve Holland, Trump being advised by ex-US. Lieutenant General who favors closer Russia ties, Reuters (Feb. 26, 2016); Tom Hamburger et al., Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin, Washington Post (June 17, 2016). Certain matters pertaining to Flynn are described in Volume I, Section TV.B.7, supra.
However, in addition to that trip, the FBI must have been scrutinizing earlier Kislyak contacts that don’t show up in the Report at all:
- A meeting on December 2, 2015 (described in the HPSCI report) that Kislyak that Flynn and his failson attended in advance of the RT trip at the Russian Embassy
- A call to Kislyak sometime after GRU head Igor Sergun’s death in Lebanon on January 6, 2016; in his interview with the FBI; Flynn said he called to offer condolences, though he used that excuse for other calls that involved substantive policy discussions; he also claimed, not entirely credibly, not to be associated with the Trump campaign yet
- Other conversations during the campaign that Flynn revealed to friends that otherwise don’t show up in public documents
In one of the only (unredacted) references to the counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, the Mueller Report describes that Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key focus of that investigation.
Previously, the FBI had opened an investigation of Flynn based on his relationship with the Russian government.105 Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key component of that investigation.10
But that passage doesn’t reveal the scope of those contacts and, in spite of detailed analysis of other people’s contacts with Kislyak (including an invite to JD Gordan to his residence that appears similar to the December 2015 one Kislyak extended to Flynn and his son), the Report doesn’t mention those earlier contacts.
Perhaps far more interesting, in the report’s analysis of whether any Trump aide was an agent of Russia, it does not include Flynn in the paragraph explaining why Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page were not charged as such. Instead, his foreign influence peddling is treated in a separate paragraph discussing just Turkey.
In addition, the investigation produced evidence of FARA violations involving Michael Flynn. Those potential violations, however, concerned a country other than Russia (i.e., Turkey) and were resolved when Flynn admitted to the underlying facts in the Statement of Offense that accompanied his guilty plea to a false-statements charge. Statement of Offense, United States v. Michael T Flynn, No. l:17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Dec. 1, 2017), Doc. 4 (“Flynn Statement of Offense”). 1281
The footnote to that paragraph, which given the admission elsewhere that a separate counterintelligence investigation into Flynn focused on Russia, likely deals with Russia, is entirely redacted for Harm to Ongoing Matters reasons.
While we can’t be sure (hell, we can’t even be totally sure this does relate to Russia!), this seems to suggest that the investigation into Russian efforts to cultivate Flynn is ongoing, but he has been absolved of any responsibility for — as an intelligence officer with 30 years of counterintelligence training — nevertheless falling prey to such efforts.
All of which is to say that, along with the descriptions of Trump’s most alarming interactions with Russians including Vladimir Putin, many of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak and other Russians (including not just Putin but the guy who headed GRU until just before the election hacking started in earnest in January 2016) appear to be treated as counterintelligence information not suitable for public sharing.
The Mueller Report deliberately obscures key details of the timeline on the sanctions call
That’s important to note, because the counterintelligence conclusion on Flynn has to be utterly central to the analysis of Trump’s attempt to obstruct the investigation into Flynn.
The two discussions in the Mueller Report (Volume I pages 168 to 173 and Volume II pages 24 to 48) of Flynn’s December 2016 conversations with Sergey Kislyak are totally unsatisfying, probably in part because two key witnesses (Flynn and KT McFarland, and possibly others including Steve Bannon) lied when the FBI first interviewed them about the calls; they had also created a deliberately misleading paper trail for the events.
In both places, the Report provides times for some events on December 29, but obscures the most critical part of the timeline. I’ve put the Volume I language at the end of this post. It provides the following timeline for December 29, 2016:
1:53PM: McFarland and other Transition Team members and advisors (including Flynn, via email) discuss sanctions.
2:07PM: [Transition Team Member] Flaherty, an aide to McFarland, texts Flynn a link to a NYT article about the sanctions.
2:29PM: McFarland calls Flynn, but they don’t talk.
Shortly after 2:29PM: McFarland and Bannon discuss sanctions; according to McFarland’s clean-up interview, she may have told Bannon that Flynn would speak to Kislyak that night.
3:14PM: Flynn texts Flaherty and asks “time for a call??,” meaning McFarland. Flaherty responds that McFarland was on the phone with Tom Bossert. Flynn informs Flaherty in writing that he had a call with Kislyak coming up, using the language, “tit for tat,” that McFarland used on emails with others and that Flynn himself would use with Kislyak later that day.
Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today.
Sometime in here but the Report doesn’t tell us precisely when: Flynn talks to Michael Ledeen, KT McFarland, and then Kislyak. [my emphasis]
4:43PM: McFarland emails other transition team members saying that, “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.”
Before 5:45PM: McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and others on the sanctions. McFarland remembers that someone at the briefing may have mentioned the upcoming Kislyak call.
After the briefing: McFarland and Flynn speak by phone. Flynn tells McFarland, “that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration,” and McFarland tells Flynn about the briefing with Trump.
The next day, December 30, 2016 — after Putin announced they would not retaliate to Obama’s sanctions — Flynn sent a text message to McFarland that very deliberately did not reflect the true content of his communication with Kislyak, reportedly because he wanted to hide that from the Obama Administration (the Trump team had falsely told Obama they would not fuck with their existing policy initiatives).
Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.126
On December 31, after Kislyak called again to tell Flynn that Putin had decided not to retaliate because of the Trump Administration request not to, he and McFarland communicated again about their attempts to convince Russia not to respond to sanctions. Flynn spoke with others that day but “does not recall” whether they discussed the sanctions, though he remembers (but Bannon does not) that Bannon seemed to know about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak.
The narrative for the same events in the obstruction section has less detail, but infuriatingly, similarly manages to leave out all the details (in bold above) about when Flynn spoke to McFarland and when he called Kisylak.
The thing is, Mueller knows precisely when those Flynn calls happened. The Volume I version of events make it clear they have the call records of Flynn, Michael Ledeen, and McFarland that would provide a precise timeline.
They just refuse to provide those times and the times of key emails, which would add to the clarity about whether Trump learned of Flynn’s plans before he contacted Kislyak.
In the “Intent” discussion regarding obstruction, however, the report suggests that the Trump briefing, where sanctions did come up, preceded the first Flynn call to Kislyak (even though the timeline here suggests it did not).
In advance of Flynn’s initial call with Kislyak, the President attended a meeting where the sanctions were discussed and an advisor may have mentioned that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak.
That’s particularly interesting given that the Volume II discussion of events describes how, after Trump fired Flynn, he also fired KT McFarland but offered her a position as Ambassador to Singapore. There’s very little discussion of the explanation for her firing, but they do describe how Trump tried to make McFarland write a memo — very similar to the false one he tried to make Don McGahn write denying that Trump had ordered him to have Rod Rosenstein removed — denying that he had any role in Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak about sanctions. McFarland did not write the memo, as she explained in a Memo for the Record, because she did not know whether Trump had spoken with Flynn or with Russia directly.
The next day, the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions.253 Priebus said he told the President he would only direct McFarland to write such a letter if she were comfortable with it.254 Priebus called McFarland into his office to convey the President’s request that she memorialize in writing that the President did not direct Flynn to talk to Kislyak.255 McFarland told Priebus she did not know whether the President had directed Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions, and she declined to say yes or no to the request.256
256 KTMF _00000047 (McFarland 2/26/ 17 Memorandum_ for the Record) (“I said I did not know whether he did or didn’t, but was in Maralago the week between Christmas and New Year’s (while Flynn was on vacation in Carribean) and I was not aware of any Flynn-Trump, or Trump-Russian phone calls”); McFarland 12/22/ 17 302, at 17.
Again, at a minimum, Mueller knows if Trump called Flynn, and may know if Trump called Kislyak or — more likely — Putin. But he’s not telling.
Trump was already pissy with Flynn, so why didn’t he blame him for the sanctions calls?
There’s one more contradictory detail about Trump’s behavior in this narrative.
According to enough witnesses to make it a reliable claim, Trump had already soured on Flynn in December 2016, before all this blew up (but not before Obama warned Trump and Elijah Cummings warned Mike Pence about Flynn’s suspect loyalties).
Several witnesses said that the President was unhappy with Flynn for other reasons at this time. Bannon said that Flynn’s standing with the President was not good by December 2016. Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 12. The President-Elect had concerns because President Obama had warned him about Flynn shortly after the election. Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 4-5; Hicks 12/8/17 302, at 7 (President Obama’s comment sat with President-Elect Trump more than Hicks expected). Priebus said that the President had become unhappy with Flynn even before the story of his calls with Kislyak broke and had become so upset with Flynn that he would not look at him during intelligence briefings. Priebus 1/18/18 302, at 8. Hicks said that the President thought Flynn had bad judgment and was angered by tweets sent by Flynn and his son, and she described Flynn as “being on thin ice” by early February 2017. Hicks 12/8/17 302, at 7, 10
As I’ve noted before, Trump made the same complaint to Jim Comey in their “loyalty demand” dinner on January 27, 2017 — but he did so in the context of Flynn not informing him that Vladimir Putin had beaten Theresa May to congratulating him about his inauguration.
All these details — including that Flynn publicly informed Trump of Putin’s call — should make Flynn a bigger counterintelligence concern, not one that could be dismissed more easily than Page and Manafort and Papadopoulos.
Unless Mueller had more certainty that Trump was in the loop of these sanctions discussions — either through Flynn or directly with Putin — than he lets on in the public report.
Mike Flynn’s Interviews with Prosecutors
To sum up, Mueller knows that someone already under investigation for his suspect calls to Russia and Sergey Kislyak got on the phone with Kislyak and undercut the Obama Administration’s attempt to punish Russia for its election interference. Flynn deliberately created a false record of that call, then lied about it when it became public the following month, and continued to lie about it when the FBI asked him about it.Trump allegedly got pissy that Flynn’s counterintelligence exposure had already been raised by Obama, but also got pissy that Flynn wasn’t being obsequious enough to Putin. But, when this all began to blow up in the press, rather than firing Flynn right away for being a counterintelligence problem — the outcome Sally Yates clearly expected would be the no-brainer result — Trump instead repeatedly tried to protect Flynn.
Which is why the likelihood that a key part of Flynn’s cooperation, that relating to the counterintelligence side of the equation, is so interesting.
As I noted when the addendum showing Flynn’s cooperation came out, it likely broke into the Turkish influence peddling [A], two (or maybe three?) topics relating to Trump [B], as well as more classified part of the investigation conducted under Mueller [C].
A Criminal Investigation:
11+ line paragraph
6.5 line paragraph
2 line paragraph
B Mueller investigation:
Introductory paragraph (9 lines)
i) Interactions between Transition Team and Russia (12 lines, just one or two sentences redacted)
ii) Topic two
10 line paragraph
9 line paragraph
C Entirely redacted investigation:
4.5 line paragraph
The footnotes from the Mueller Report describing what Flynn told prosecutors when seems to reinforce this.
- November 16, 2017: Trump appoint Flynn as NSA, first call with Putin, Israel vote, communications with Kislyak, December Kislyak call
- November 17, 2017: Israel vote, December Kislyak call, especially comms with Mar a Lago, re Ignatius Flynn said he had not talked sanctions, Mar a Lago with Trump, Flynn’s last meeting with Trump, “we’ll take care of you”
- November 19, 2017: Why sanctions, whether he told others at MAL, comms on 12/29, re Ignatius Flynn said he had not talked sanctions, Mar a Lago with Trump
- November 20, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius
- November 21, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius, meeting with Trump
- November 29, 2017: Peter Smith
- January 11, 2018: November 30 meeting with Kislyak
- January 19, 2018: Flynn did not have specific recollection about telling POTUS on January 3, 2017
- April 25, 2018: Peter Smith
- May 1, 2018: Peter Smith
- September 26, 2018: Proffer response on meetings with Foresman
We know from court filings that Flynn had 19 interviews with prosecutors, of which four pertain to his sleazy influence peddling with Turkey. Here’s what that seems to suggest about his interviews (assuming, probably incorrectly, that they didn’t cover multiple topics at once):
- Turkish influence peddling: 4 interviews, unknown dates
- Transition events, 7 interviews: 11/16/17, 11/17/17, 11/19/17, 11/20/17, 11/21/17, 1/11/18, 1/19/18
- Peter Smith, 3 interviews: 11/29/17, 4/25/18, 5/1/18
- Counterintelligence: Remaining 5 interviews???, unknown dates
It’s possible, however, there’s a third “links” topic pertaining to Transition era graft, which for scope reasons would not appear in the Mueller Report.
The possibility that Flynn may have had five interviews dedicated to a counterintelligence investigation that implicated Trump would make this Brian Ross story far more interesting. As the Report lays out, when hints that Flynn flipped first came out on November 22, 2017, one of Trump’s lawyers (probably John Dowd) left a voice mail message (!!!) with one of Flynn’s lawyers (probably Rob Kelner). He specifically wanted a heads up about anything that “implicates the President” which would create a “national security issue.”
I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms. . . . [I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with … the government. … [I]f . .. there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, . . . so, you know, . . . we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests ifwe can …. [R]emember what we’ve always said about the ‘ President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains ….
The following day, Trump’s lawyer told Flynn’s that cooperating would reflect hostility to the President.
A week later, once the plea was official on December 1, Flynn had the following leaked to ABC.
During the campaign, Trump asked Flynn to be one of a small group of close advisors charged with improving relations in Russia and other hot spots. The source said Trump phoned Flynn shortly after the election to explicitly ask him to “serve as point person on Russia,” and to reach out personally to Russian officials to develop strategies to jointly combat ISIS.
“Flynn is very angry,” the confidant told ABC News Friday. “He will cooperate truthfully on any question they ask him.” [my emphasis]
Only, originally, the story read that Trump asked Flynn to reach out to Russia before the election. The story is often cited as one of the big gaffes of the Russian investigation, but Mother Jones has since corroborated the pre-election timeline with two Flynn associates.
For some reason, Mueller did not hold Mike Flynn responsible for — at a time when he was under active counterintelligence investigation for his ties to Russia — undercutting the official policy of the US on punishing Russia for its election year attack. I wonder whether the content of up to five counterintelligence interviews with Flynn may explain why.
As they are elsewhere, the Washington Post is trying to liberate the filings about Flynn’s cooperation that would explain all this. On Thursday, Emmet Sullivan — the same judge who, after seeing all the sealed filings in Flynn’s case, used some really inflammatory language about Flynn’s loyalty — set a briefing schedule for that effort. Then, acting on his own on Friday, Sullivan scheduled a hearing for June 24 (after the next status report in Flynn’s case but before he would be sentenced) to discuss liberating those filings.
So maybe we’ll find out from the WaPo’s efforts to liberate those documents.
Timeline of known Flynn investigation
November 10, 2016: Obama warns Trump that Mike Flynn’s name kept surfacing in concerns about Russia.
November 18, 2016: Trump names Flynn National Security Adviser.
November 18, 2016: Elijah Cummings warns Mike Pence of Flynn’s Turkish lobbying.
Shortly after inauguration: On “first” call with Kislyak, Flynn responds to Ambassador’s invitation to Russian Embassy that, “You keep telling me that,” alerting others to previous contacts between them.
January 24, 2017: In interview with FBI, Flynn lies about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak.
January 26 and 27, 2017: Sally Yates warns the White House about Flynn’s lies.
February 2, 2017: WHCO lawyer John Eisenberg reviews materials on Flynn’s interview.
February 13, 2017: Flynn fired.
July 19, 2017: Peter Strzok interviewed, in part, about Flynn interview, presumably as part of obstruction investigation.
November 16, 2017: Interview covers: Trump appoint Flynn as NSA, first call with Putin, Israel vote, communications with Kislyak, December Kislyak call.
November 17, 2017: Interview covers: Israel vote, December Kislyak call, especially comms with Mar a Lago, re Ignatius Flynn said he had not talked sanctions, Mar a Lago with Trump, Flynn’s last meeting with Trump, “we’ll take care of you.”
November 19, 2017: Interview covers: Why sanctions, whether he told others at MAL, comms on 12/29, re Ignatius Flynn said he had not talked sanctions, Mar a Lago with Trump.
November 20, 2017: Interview covers: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius.
November 21, 2017: Interview covers: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius, meeting with Trump.
November 22, 2017: Flynn withdraws from Joint Defense Agreement; Trump’s lawyer leaves a message for Flynn’s lawyer stating, in part, “if… there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security
issue,…so, you know,…we need some kind of heads up.”
November 23, 2017: Flynn’s attorney returns Trump’s attorney’s call, the latter says cooperation would reflect hostility to the President.
November 29, 2017: Interview covers Peter Smith.
December 1, 2017: Flynn pleads guilty, has story leaked to Brian Ross that his cooperation covers Trump’s orders that he take “serve as point person on Russia,” originally stating that the order preceded the election; the story is corrected to say the order comes ” shortly after the election.” Two Flynn associates subsequently told Mother Jones the contacts did start before the election.
January 11, 2018: Interview covers November 30 meeting with Kislyak.
January 19, 2018: Interview covers Flynn did not have specific recollection about telling POTUS on January 3, 2017.
April 25, 2018: Interview covers Peter Smith.
May 1, 2018: Interview covers Peter Smith.
September 17, 2018: Status report asking for sentencing.
September 26, 2018: Flynn’s attorney offers proffer response on meetings with Bob Foresman.
December 18, 2018: After Judge Emmet Sullivan invokes treason and selling out his country, Flynn delays sentencing.
The Volume I Narrative about December 29, 2016
Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.126
The sanctions were announced publicly on December 29, 2016. 1231 At 1 :53 p.m. that day, McFarland began exchanging emails with multiple Transition Team members and advisors about the impact the sanctions would have on the incoming Administration. 1232 At 2:07 p.m., a Transition Team member texted Flynn a link to a New York Times article about the sanctions. 1233 At 2:29 p.m., McFarland called Flynn, but they did not talk. 1234 Shortly thereafter, McFarland and Bannon discussed the sanctions. 1235 According to McFarland, Bannon remarked that the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia, and that Russian escalation would make things more difficult. 1236 McFarland believed she told Bannon that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak later that night. 1237 McFarland also believed she may have discussed the sanctions with Priebus, and likewise told him that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak that night. 1238 At 3: 14 p.m., Flynn texted a Transition Team member who was assisting McFarland, “Time for a call???”1239 The Transition Team member responded that McFarland was on the phone with Tom Bossert, a Transition Team senior official, to which Flynn responded, “Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today.” 1240
Flynn recalled that he chose not to communicate with Kislyak about the sanctions until he had heard from the team at Mar-a-Lago.1241 He first spoke with Michael Ledeen, 1242 a Transition Team member who advised on foreign policy and national security matters, for 20 minutes. 1243 Flynn then spoke with McFarland for almost 20 minutes to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions. 1244 On that call, McFarland and Flynn discussed the sanctions, including their potential impact on the incoming Trump Administration’s foreign policy goals. 1245 McFarland and Flynn also discussed that Transition Team members in Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation. 1246 They both understood that Flynn would relay a message to Kislyak in hopes of making sure the situation would not get out of hand.1247
Immediately after speaking with McFarland, Flynn called and spoke with Kislyak. 1248 Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East. 1249 With respect to the sanctions, Flynn requested that Russia not escalate the situation, not get into a “tit for tat,” and only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner.1250
Multiple Transition Team members were aware that Flynn was speaking with Kislyak that day. In addition to her conversations with Bannon and Reince Priebus, at 4:43 p.m., McFarland sent an email to Transition Team members about the sanctions, informing the group that “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.” 1251 Less than an hour later, McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump. Bannon, Priebus, Sean Spicer, and other Transition Team members were present. 1252 During the briefing, President-Elect Trump asked McFarland if the Russians did “it,” meaning the intrusions intended to influence the presidential election. 1253 McFarland said yes, and President-Elect Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.1254 McFarland also discussed potential Russian responses to the sanctions, and said Russia’s response would be an indicator of what the Russians wanted going forward. 1255 President-Elect Trump opined that the sanctions provided him with leverage to use with the Russians. 1256 McFarland recalled that at the end of the meeting, someone may have mentioned to President-Elect Trump that Flynn was speaking to the Russian ambassador that evening. 1257
After the briefing, Flynn and McFarland spoke over the phone. 1258 Flynn reported on the substance of his call with Kislyak, including their discussion of the sanctions. 1259 According to McFarland, Flynn mentioned that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration.1260 McFarland also gave Flynn a summary of her recent briefing with President-Elect Trump. 1261
As I disclosed last 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.
I love it!
Almost everything mentioned is in the general area of play. However your telling hints at out of bounds by MF. If either the as you indicated WaPo’s attempts to liberate filings or miraculous CI reporting whistle the ball could be cleaned and dropped on the fairway and the game resumed.
Illuminating! I love your in depth analyses! Could we please confirm if Flynn was fired or resigned? I heard (I forget where) that he resigned first, then trump pretended that he fired him.
Excellent Marcy. Thank you. I hope Rep. Nadler and Schiff are reading your posts.
It’s hard to dissect what you’re hinting at, sometimes, but do you think Emmet Sullivan could rule that the Trump’s are in violation of the emoluments clause, and that this could be fatal to the trump presidency? And all of this is being done to keep a bigger story out of the headlines about CounterIntel?
No. The documents might reveal that FBI has more concerns about Trump that aren’t in the Report.
Well, yeah. But are we gonna see that, or is the bad guy gonna get to cover it up…
“Sources and methods”, or no, we’re not going to see that stuff any time soon. (This should be obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention.)
Nothing about this investigation has been “obvious” from the beginning. The US doesn’t have a precedent for what happens when a foreign asset is elected. Now, anything is possible at this point. Mueller’s team went without leaking to “the letter.”
If there’s a genuine concern that reelecting trump could lead to, say, the dissolution of NATO, then “sources and methods” aren’t gonna let that happen.
Agree with that – no precedent for what’s happening here. Problem is how and when are the constitutional officers necessary to make the judgement called into play? Is there a black book somewhere deep in foggy bottom that lays out a procedure of who to tell and how in event intel points to a mole in the highest office?
Unless I missed it in my search, the Washington Post hasn’t reported about its application to Sullivan regarding Flynn. I think it would be helpful to have an article from them explaining what they are seeking (here and elsewhere) and why they think it would be helpful.
Along with the Trump efforts to stonewall Congress, there will be a big move to block access of the press to the record, and the Post should be aggressive about explaining why this is important.
Great post. I hope the House investigative committees’ staff are reading it as well.
It raised two things in my mind. 1) The dog that didn’t bark. If the intelligence community has been keeping a close eye on this, which I would think they have been, the absence of a scene in which Trump is hustled physically out of the White House suggests that they have not got anything which would demand such an action. 2) Trump’s fawning approach to Russia and Putin started very early which suggests some reason pre-presidential campaign that Trump wanted to stay on Putin’s good side. I don’t think the Trump Tower Moscow deal would have been the main driver. As a developer, Trump would have not relied too much on that project actually going forward, especially with the profit margin that has been discussed.
I don’t think they can legally hustle Tr*mp out of the WH – that’s really not their job. But they can inform the Gang of Eight, in Congress, that he’s a major problem, and they could, I assume, inform the courts that are interested enough to ask.
I think I recall Eric Swalwell saying the other night on MSNBC that the gang of eight hasn’t has an CI briefing on any of this since Comey was fired. That’s a scary long time ago to be in the dark on all of this for them, wouldn’t you say? Of course, now we find out in the report that Richard Burr has been back-dooring stuff to the WH from briefings on the investigation, so perhaps they don’t trust the entirety of that group with CI investigation information any more. Not scary at all!
I think there hasn’t been a briefing of the Gang of Eight since Comey’s departure because at least half of the members cannot be trusted with the information they would be briefed on.
Certainly none of those with an “R” after their name….
Yes – Flynn’s side of the story is frustratingly thin in the report, leaving the strong feeling CI has been a wedge of sorts driving his actions and the DT investigation apart. Same goes for the whole secret back channel Kushner set up/tried to set up with Kislyak in the Russian embassy, and anything detailed about the nature of voter database *polling* info that was coordinated with Moscow.
But if Flynn was in as deep with the Russians as it looks, and DT was in the loop, what’s the reasoning for letting DT off the hook in the report? If it’s because Flynn’s dealings were not *specifically* tied to Russian election interference – that’s cutting it pretty close – since it sure looks like Flynn’s job was at least in part to organize the DT side of a presumed quid pro quo.
Or is it that Mueller, having decided that he was limited to investigating only *offical* Russian ties and dealings with the DT campaign, refused to connect dots? Or did he farm out anything shady/illegal he uncoverd, but that wasn’t strictly to do with election meddling? Like I said – that would be cutting it awfully close – especially if it ever comes to light that there was a *tacit* understanding between the campaign and Putin – a quid pro quo. Could indications such as these possibly be buried in a CI investigation? Is it possible a president could be under this degree of scrutiny without Congressional coordination?
The problem with all of this is with the guy who in real time, when it might have mattered, did *nothing* about all this. You know, the guy who bailed out the banks (even funding bonuses with taxpayer money) but foreclosed on ~15 million American homeowners. I voted for him 4x counting primaries (and hrc in 2016) but I do think the ‘feckless’ label is valid. He *could* have legitimately pre-empted all this.
That’s a nice demonstration of someone not understanding what was going on in the fall of 2016. Did you somehow miss McConnell’s threats?
McConnell’s threats? Oh, like the one that Republicans would turn all this around and accuse the Dems of politicizing the investigation? gods, that would have been awful, wouldn’t it?
It seems Democrats are perennially wary about doing what they must do lest Republicans retaliate by doing what they will do anyway.
Utter bollocks beginning with your claim about the bank bailout:
They make this thing called ‘Wikipedia’ you should try using before pantsing yourself in public.
There’s also the problem of co-equal branches of government — 538 people share as much resposibility for TARP as the president. But I guess it’s easier to give into ‘sour grapes’ attitude and blame the one black guy who took office months after TARP passed.
Bring a better game.
That sucks, Rayne – certainly not a Bush supporter, but we surely know TARP as revised and implemented from Jan 2009 had wheels of its own – incl bonuses aided and abetted by Geithner and Summers. You can Google all this stuff easily w “TARP bailouts Obama”, but here’s a few links (Taibbi’s name is tarnished re: Russiagate, but his work on the financial meltdown was much more solid):
And please leave Obama’s race out of this, as if the guy who said he voted for Obama 4x and Hillary once was showing inherent racism by criticizing Obama’s respinse to Bush’s financial disaster. Nothing Obama did – good or bad – makes him responsibke fir the initial crisis, and it was awful that that was how he had to conduct his early days rather than more liberal initiatives.
I followed along closely; I had skin in the game. I wrote about it last year. But blaming Obama and not the guys who had a much bigger role in setting up the crash — Bush/Cheney, who blew off warnings about subprime mortgages while implementing changes from the executive office making it difficult to stop the impending crash, and Clinton for signing Glass-Steagall’s termination without a fight — is just plain ignorant. By all means let’s blame the guy who had an economic gun to his head and blew his political capital to enact ACA.
Lastly, I’ll goddamn well add race as a factor when Obama is singled out for blame when a massive cascade of white men get to shuck off accountability. Maybe you ought to think about race and how it might have played a role in trying to fix a very old system based in white supremacy.
Hmm, I have no problems b keeping Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld blamed for the financial mess and the Iraq War (plus screwing up welfare reform, etc), but still hoping our guy Obama would fight back harder from the White House rather than the too optimistic “reach across the aisle” he campaigned on. At the same time I give him quite a bit of credit just for getting us through tough times and steady improvements over 8 years, even though I think he let them hobble him on healthcare and his lack of bragging/messaging let Republicans kneecap much of his efforts and helped put Trump in.
So how many caveats before we’re allowed to critique a Dem politician on the merits of his/her work?
You want to blame Obama for something (because clearly you do, you’re insisting on it)? Go to town on the neoliberal composition of his administration and on the footdragging about the stimulus we needed post crash, along with a lack of effective response to GOP killing ACORN, an organization much needed during the foreclosure crisis. And then move the fuck on because what he did in office is nowhere near as problematic as the mentally-challenged malignant narcissist Nazi in office now, the guy who spent more than a decade indulging in racist trashing of Obama to hamper his effectiveness.
You went to town on D4v1d (“Utter bollocks” & quoting back Wikipedia to him) for noting that Obama didn’t push very hard against McConnell in Oct 2016 re: Russian influence, same as he didn’t push back much against the thoroughly discredited Republicans and their laughable Tea Party rebranding back in Jan/Feb 2009.
Fact is a) No Drama Obama earned his name, including sadly giving Trump & the Russians some openings as the corrupt GOP played footsie with Russia (& Giuliani was compromising/consiring with a rogue gang in Obama’s FBI), yet b) Obama was still much much better than Iraq deceit/financial meltdown Bush, who was much much better than the current criminal-in-chief.
Do you see it different?
Do you remember which party had the majority in each house of Congress at that time? (Hint: it wasn’t the one with the name starting with “D”.) They’d already made it clear that they didn’t think the black Democrat was a legitimate president, even though all the laws said so.
Seems the internet ate my previous response.
TARP evolved after Obama came in. Geithner & Summers had something to do with keeping the bonuses coming.
Per Taibbi [better on financial matters than Russiagate] government let banks pay back loans with new loans, & these 2nd loans could be used to pay out those bonuses:
(more articles elsewhere if you don’t trust Taibbi)
Here’s a Politico article from Jan 15, 2009 showing Obama taking a role with TARP even before in office in lobbying Congress to release the 2nd half of TARP funds, and reshaping how they would be used.
You mean as a senator who wasn’t even the majority leader or whip, voting along with 51 other senators, against the balance of senators who would rather the entire global economy crashed because vulture capitalism? Ri-ight. Let’s blame him for all of it.
I hope you realize that Politico article is what is called a ‘puff piece’ or a ‘beat sweetener’, intended to improve access with then-president-elect.
Cool – and what’s your dismissal of the Taibbi article and the other sources I listed the first time?
[note I didn’t “blame him for all of it”, but as Prez he certainly had a lot of sway. Or is that contentious? And as President-elect, I suspect he wasn’t considered just any other senator the week before inauguration, but that’s me talking]
Make up your mind. It’s this one senator’s fault in October 2008 or his fault as president after the fact in 2009. Which also means it’s not Bush/Cheney’s fault for willfully ignoring warnings about subprime mortgages or Clinton’s fault for the end of Glass-Steagall under his watch.
I’m going to point out here that Trump had bonds with Bear Stearns — IIRC, in the very first funds that failed and set off the massive economic Jenga. (Just check the testimony by Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS before the HPSCI in 2017 and match it to Bear Stearns’ funds.) Let’s not hold him accountable nor any other overleveraged capitalist who shouldn’t have been extended credit.
Not sure what you’re expecting. I was largely pro-TARP – something had to be done, and the 2nd half of the funds that Obama was lobbying for in Jan 2009 needed to be released by Congress. Obama’s influence on Jan 15, 2009 as president-elect was greater than as a Senator in Oct 2008, but less than President as of Feb 2009 (and his appointment of Geithner & Summers, along with Republican fucktard pressure opened him up to both restructuring to effectively allow the bonuses to too-big-to-fail bailout firm agents as well as the heavy-on-tax-cuts stimulus that Krugman for one blamed for dragging out the recovery. I was also critical of 100 cents on the dollar rescue for auto industry investors, but I do recognize that Obama had a huge crisis on his hands, and that the left was going to be disappointed to avoid something worse, just didn’t have to be quite this disappointed.
I’m still waiting/hoping that something prosecutable is found with Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank. If there’s something with Bear Stearns as well, great (though 10 years later, a number of statute of limitations have likely passed).
Try this – if I’m critical of Comey for (twice) showing lack of sense & proper action, and if I believe Mueller Report part 2 from what’s not redacted, shouldn’t I also be critical of Obama for having some awareness of Russian intrusion and not doing enough to rein it in? Blaming Trump for stealing everything in sight is a bit like blaming the hyperactive kid for smashing up the china pantry – we pretty much knew they would if they could – they were as shameless as could be, but Obama & team knew more of the secret details in real-time, knew at least parts of Trump’s team were compromised, knew he had a history with Russia, knew they were hacking & attacking, possibly had an idea of how much money was flowing into this effort… Obama got played, and it gives me no pleasure saying that, and it’s only useful at this point if it helps take care of the impeachment, response to Russia & Saudi Arabia, and the protection of the 2020 election that’s currently in danger.
The real estate market in L.A. was slowing down even in 2006. Which means that Obama was dealing with cleaning up a mess he didn’t make. People seem to think that it all happened after he was elected – because that’s what Fox and Murdoch want people to do.
Question the ability of ALL who wrote postmortems on the crash if they didn’t recognize and point out how big a role transnational money laundering may have played. Question ALL who don’t note the beneficiaries of western banking’s crisis.
Lastly, and I do mean, lastly, I’m going to point out AGAIN that TARP was signed in early October 2008, a month before the election. Think about the timing. And then move on.
Alan Grayson & Paul Krugman were pointing out problems *at the time*, not as post-mortems, and I was following both. The Oct 2008 bill released only the first half of the money – it required a new vote to release the 2nd half, which happened in Jan 2009, and the conditions for using that money changed quite a bit after, for good and bad – some overtly, some sneakily. (The Fed in the initial TARP proposal had carte blanche to spend the first half of the money as it wanted, a pretty crappy & unwise deal). The stimulus bill was then signed in Feb 2009 with some similar huge flaws & good effects. And again, in case not clear, Bush’s cronies and his compromised oversight allowed/caused the 2008 meltdown – Obama had no blame there – he just got stuck with having to fix it.
So I can understand Mueller protecting CI information, but I also think he was *directed* to do and not do certain things. I would wager that he had to shut down his investigation and release the damn report. I hope when he testifies he will discuss those constraints. I am gobsmacked that the repugs are so horribly powerful- for now. I’m still hoping that karma, law and justice, catch up to them.
Feel free to ignore if this is too OT (no thread hijacking intended), but how vulnerable to Barr’s squashing is the CI investigation continuing or its results seeing the light of day (or at least the HPSCI)?
By law, the Intel Committees must be briefed. Thing is they haven’t been briefed, but that’s probably Mueller’s doing, not Rosenstein/Barr’s.
“By law”. Heh.
Nothing about Flynn that appears on the surface is accurate. He moled into the Trump team, and found out about Russia/Turkey. Maybe he did illegal things to line his own pockets and maybe he did them to be a viable participant in the conspiracy. Mueller and the counter intelligence people seem to have gotten a nearly complete picture of how it was being done from Flynn.
Flynn told obvious lies to get himself out of the conspiracy and into an informant roll.
And Trump still made an effort to protect Flynn, because Flynn knew so much.
If you line up Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as power players, it might as well be the 15th century. And Flynn was playing ball with each.
In your experience of covert operations, how many counter-intel. operatives go out of their way to embroil their adult children in their scheming?
Sorry. Not buying it.
He was a cruddy boss/manager who got bounced from his position at DIA and wanted revenge for the slight to his ambitions while doing his best to make as much coin as he could, legally or no. A man driven to low acts by his high ego.
I suspect his son-with-the-same-name was a willing participant.
I’m thinking about the meetings between Flynn, the former Lt. General and Defense Intelligence official whose decades of service to the country ultimately left him seeking a fortune of his own via illegal efforts on behalf of a foreign country, and Mueller, the decorated war hero, Purple Heart recipient, Bronze Medal winner, former Deputy AG and FBI director…each perhaps recalling a more ordered, rational time in the world of men and US politics. And each with an understanding, if not appreciation, of the other’s sacrifices, trials and tribulations.
One could speculate that, having gotten what he needed from Flynn – a guilty plea, an agreement to cooperate, conspiracy intel and the knowledge that he was not an agent of Russia – Mueller was intentionally ambiguous about Flynn and the sanctions call, knowing also that evidence – and DOJ protocol – was ultimately leading him toward Trump and considerations of obstruction of justice.
“Flynn told obvious lies to get himself out of the conspiracy and into an informant roll.”
That’s the part that’s always stuck out to me. Why would a guy with his background, who absolutely KNOWS that the truth was known via intercepts by the guys interviewing him, reportedly so casually and without any nervousness or sense of malice, tell obvious lies to those agents? It’s almost like the lies were some sort of ‘safe word’ to them to ‘pull him out’.
Even if it was just once he knew he was caught, his best move was to turn himself into the most valuable witness for the prosecution since the Trump folks looked pretty cooked at that point, probably. Flynn’s behavior has never made sense and Trump’s anemic reaction to Flynn’s flipping has never made sense either. After Trump knew he’d flipped he still never went against him publicly the way he did Cohen or anyone else who crosses him. The only people Trump doesn’t cross is anyone who has more on him than Trump has on them. Trump knows how to do Alpha-male math better than anyone and he’s been playing “Survivor” since he was born, just curious why he thinks his route to surviving goes through not crossing Flynn.
If an intelligence agency breaks a code, or a mole penetrates a hostile government, the initial information often cannot be used, because it reveals the code has been broken or the mole has infiltrated.
Flynn obviously knew a tremendous amount of information, because Trump was afraid of him speaking with the Special Counsel.
A few months ago I read where McFarland was very concern on Dec 29, 2016. General Flynn consoled her telling her not to worry every thing would be ok.
I personally believe there is more to this then were being told.
[Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your fourth username at this site which is why your comment went into auto-moderation. /~Rayne]
A few hours ago I placed a comment about a post I read a couple of months back. The post said that Ms. McFarland was concerned enough about December 29, 2016 for the General to say that everything was going to be alright.
I found that a little unusual. I also find you not placing my comment as unusual.
[Your comment was cleared. Look for it because it contains a special note./~Rayne]
How are we to understand this passage about the December 29, 2016 briefing?
***During the briefing, President-Elect Trump asked McFarland if the Russians did “it,” meaning the intrusions intended to influence the presidential election. 1253 McFarland said yes, and President-Elect Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.1254 McFarland also discussed potential Russian responses to the sanctions, and said Russia’s response would be an indicator of what the Russians wanted going forward. 1255 President-Elect Trump opined that the sanctions provided him with leverage to use with the Russians. 1256***
I see two possibilities:
a) Trump really and truly did not think the Russians interfered in the election, which would be consistent with his voluminous denials that his campaign had any involvement in it. More specifically, it would be consistent with a scenario in which he neither personally had any involvement in it nor had any knowledge that anyone associated with his campaign had any involvement in it.
b) He was aware on December 29, 2016 that the Russians had interfered and at this briefing strove to deceive his own team into thinking otherwise.
Is not the first of the two the more plausible? Are there any other explanations?
I didn’t want to clear this from auto-moderation because the logic is so very flawed.
If (1) Trump truly didn’t believe Russia interfered, why has nearly every action he’s taken related to Russia and election security suggested he absolutely believes Russia did and he hasn’t wanted the public to find out?
Can’t even with (2) because he and some members of his transition team were surely getting intelligence briefings — not to mention these same briefings also shoot (1) in the keister.
Welcome to emptywheel.
Thank you, Rayne. Glad to be here! And I neglected to mention before, “first time, long time.” And thank you for the great and indispensable work you all are doing.
With regard to the first point — I was speaking of his state of knowledge in December 2016; what he has come to understand and accept in his heart of hearts since then is a different matter.
With regard to the second point — I am not understanding what you are saying.
The question remains: Why, according to the Mueller report, did he convey to his team in December 2016 his doubt that the Russians interfered in the election?
The explanations I offered are mutually exclusive. If the first is not correct, then the second must be, yes?
Either he was in earnest, or he was engaging in some kind of charade. What other explanation is there?
It is certainly plausible that Trump was engaging in a charade for the express purpose of deceiving K.T. McFarland. Perhaps she was not in the loop, and Trump meant to keep it that way.
However, here is another question: If the quid pro quo had already been so firmly established, why would it have been necessary for Flynn to give these assurances to Kislyak? Would not Kislyak have already understood very well that the Trump administration would go easy on Russia?
Maybe you should ask Kislyak. You clearly didn’t read the Mueller Report pages that EW cited in this post.
Eureka, be so kind as to explain what you mean.
I’ll first do more to explain what I mean.
The main conspiracy scenario holds that Team Trump and Team Putin engaged in a dance — a tacit agreement — in accordance with which Team Putin would help Trump win and in return a victorious Team Trump would pay for the favor by removing sanctions.
This post is not consistent with that scenario. If the tacit agreement were in place, there would be no need for Team Trump to reassure Team Putin abou Obama’s elelection interference-related sanctions. Surely the tacit agreement would cover that as well.
As I read this post, the matter Mueller explored with regard to Flynn was the fresh potential scandal of Team Trump having ignored Team Obama’s direct request that Team Trump not mess up Team Obama’s election interference-related sanctions play.
Additionally, there was other skulduggery on Flynn’s part that Trump knew about and Trump sought to obstruct the investigation of Flynn so as to protect himself with regard to that.
Do kindly explain where and how you disagree with what I have just written.
My reading has me stuck on that passage as well.
“1252 During the briefing, President-Elect Trump asked McFarland if the Russians did “it,” meaning the intrusions intended to influence the presidential election. 1253 McFarland said yes, and President-Elect Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.1254 McFarland also discussed potential Russian responses to the sanctions, and said Russia’s response would be an indicator of what the Russians wanted going forward. 1255 President-Elect Trump opined that the sanctions provided him with leverage to use with the Russians.
As written it makes Trump appear to have been out of the loop
Or it makes Trump out to have been leading a potential witness to reach conclusions that were not true. You need to study how obstruction and obfuscation, “plausible deniability”, comes about in an active conspiracy.
Consider the date, though.
There is no reason to think that on December 29, 2016 Team Trump was wary of an investigation.
The only thing they knew — the reason for the briefing — was that Obama earlier that day had ordered sanctions on account of Russian interference in the election.
On October 31, the New York Times reported that the FBI had essentially cleared Team Trump of involvement, and that seemed to settle the matter.
The specter of investigation came to light only on January 22, 2017, when the Wall Street Journal reported on the investigation of Flynn for his activities on that very same December 29.
It does not seem to me that the timeline supports the notion that Trump was attempting a cover-up at this early date. The cover-up started with what Flynn did that same day.
The Steele Dossier did not reach public consciousness until January 10, 2017.
The Washington Post revealed Flynn’s December 29 chat with Kislyak on January 12.
THAT is what triggered the cover-up.
I seem to recall that they’d already been warned not to hire Flynn.
Trump was also no doubt aware that he had lied to the public about the Trump Moscow deal, etc, etc, etc. Further, Trump was aware by that time that there was a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between his campaign and Russia. Or was Manafort fired in August because Trump was blissfully unaware of there being any problem and that the GOP sudden change in platform with regard to Russia in their 2016 convention was somehow all coincidental?
This brings us back around to how upset Trump was when later Jeff Sessions, someone who had failed to mention his contacts with the Russian Ambassador, the same Russian Ambassador involved here with Flint’s communication in Nov/Dec 2016, occurred during that same 2016 GOP convention, recused himself from anything having to do with the counterintelligence investigation at FBI regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Flynn thing.
No, basically, it beggars the mind to think that Trump might not have motivation for leading a witness by Dec 29, 2016, prior to his being sworn in as President.
Agree, (my not very well made) point is Trump’s comments “as written” contradict my bias.
Which makes me uncomfortable.
Which makes me start looking (hard) for what tricks Trump is playing.
Which makes me sound like I am really really trying to make sense of this tidbit and still stick to my story.
Which sounds an awful lot like what I am constantly accusing the Trump supporters around me of doing.
I suspect DT has a much longer history of corruption and has fine tuned skills to excel at deception. Right?
vicks — we have similar concerns.
Confirmation bias can afflict a person of any political affiliation or ideological inclination. It is maddening to attempt to engage with a person who, being so wedded to bias, refuses to tolerate contradictory evidence. Such behavior demonstrates an utter rejection of critical thinking.
We who oppose the atrocity in the White House are — or have the potential to be! — better than that.
P.J. — I agree with you; Obama warned Trump about Flynn. However, I believe that had mostly to do with Flynn’s behavior in the Obama administration, for which Obama fired him. Perhaps there was something there about Flynn’s post-Obama administration activity as well.
And then Sally Yates warned Don McGahn about Flynn after she learned of Flynn’s December deceptions.
Savage Librarian (comment below) — absolutely! Trump also has a long history of being out of touch with reality. Talk about confirmation bias!
Listen “Patient Observer”, you came out of the blue and have been here just slightly more than 24 hours, and during that time posted nine comments all saying the same thing and pretending to be high minded and holier than thou.
If you do not think what you are doing is concern trolling, I’d suggest you do not understand what concern trolling is.
Boole weeps. Darwin watches. James nods, knowingly.
All the evidence is, yes, pointing to Tr*mp being a willing tool for Putin, even if he doesn’t realize that most of us will call it treasonous, or, at the very least, unAmerican.
But we know that in his mind, the universe does revolve around him and whatever he most wants at that moment (and not what he wanted five minutes earlier or what he’ll be wanting in another five minutes).
P.J., I have absolutely no illusions about his indefensible character.
The case that he has obstructed justice is straightforward and convincing, and those who believe or pretend to believe otherwise display deficits of various sorts.
However, where pieces of evidence do not fit easily into a larger narrative of infamy, do we not need to come to a proper understanding of them, rather than simply ignore them?
Here’s another odd piece for you: Why did Russia’s involvement in hijacking our elections even come up? One explanation is that Trump was doing a “party line” check to make sure everyone understood the correct answer.
There’s no reason to think this question was any more honest than “I don’t have any business dealings in Russia, do I, Michael?”
Also, considering this was the first time Trump was actually in a position to deliver foreign policy bennies, yeah, a reassurance makes perfect sense.
Guessing this is classic concern trolling.
Certainly a strong whiff of it on the wind.
I’m sure Neil Armstrong is being sincere when he says he walked on the Moon, I’m just concerned whether NASA’s full account can be trusted when they issued a document about Saturn Rocket fuel capacity that isn’t fully consistent with…
Specifically, a NO COLLUSION!!! varietal. Notable for academic purposes.
Twenty-minute calls to both Leeden and McFarland seem like long calls, ones that leave space for lots of topics and/or back-and-forths with other parties during the call(s). Maybe some (unseen/deleted) timestamps overlap.
Forty minutes of jabber-jawing hem-hawing whatnot, in contrast to the brief text excerpts. Guess Flynn got to liking his ‘moment’ of great cell service…
Marcy’s post stimulates my interest in what might be the nexus/nexuses between Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia…and, of course, Trump.
-Russia is Iran’s protector and benefactor, but–given its hostility to Islam–probably wouldn’t mind eliminating the Islamist regime. Its major national goal seems to be to extend projection of its power into the Mediterranean, with impacts on the Middle East/North Africa and Europe. Control over Iran would give it control over the Gulf and therefore greater leverage over Europe, India, Japan, and China
-Saudi Arabia is principally interested in weakening Iran. That’s also a principal Israeli goal. The Saudis apparently want nuclear technology, probably to make it independent of the superpowers. The Saudis immediate goal seems to be to consolidate control of the Gulf States.
-Turkey, while it has some conflicts with Iran, is a historical opponent of Russia. It shares goals with Iran such as containing the Kurds. Its ties with the US have frayed, but NATO is the only guarantor of its sovereignty against Russia. It may have come to terms with Israel. Erdogan views its immediate problem as internal dissent.
-Israel works with Saudi Arabia, but would probably be threatened in Saudi Arabia became a nuclear power. Israel’s principal preoccupation is the Palestinians, who it seems determined to expel from the West Bank and isolate in Gaza. Israel requires a favorable Administration in Washington to do this.
-The leaders of all of these nations as well as Trump shares goals of personal enrichment through corrupt practices.
-Thanks to having been the historical anvil between hammers on all sides, Iran trusts no one, but makes common cause with Russia and Turkey in order to survive.
Flynn was working with Saudi Arabia to to transfer nuclear technology. He was working for Turkey to help the Erdogan regime consolidate power. He is also a supporter of Israel’s right. He was working with the Russians to end sanctions. If Trump was trying to pull off a grand deal, Flynn might know what it is and whether it involved criminal actions with national security implications.
That sounds about right. Whatever Flynn gave Mueller, it had to be pretty good considering the new “Axis of Evil” he was helping to create. It must have been a ton of CI stuff that was immediately actionable.
Perhaps the plans for the 2018 election? Just a wild-arsed guess.
Guessed wrong, BobCon.
Listen, I hold no bruef for the atrocity that occupied the White House. I simply want to understand things as well as I can. When things don’t make sense, I seek explanations.
Plenty of things in the world make no sense. Some of the things that make no sense are worth parsing and some are not. May we pick our battles wisely…
Read Andrew McCabe’s book “The Treat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.”
This stood out on page 200 last paragraph when McCabe called Flynn to set up an interview with two agents.
“One thing he said stands out in my memory. When I told him that people were curious about his conversations with Kislyak, Flynn replied, You know what I said, because you guys were probably listening. To Flynn’s specific point, I had and have no comment. But I had to wonder, as events played out: If you thought we were listening, why would you lie?”
The title is “The Threat,” not Treat.
Well, if the FBI does succeed in protecting us from Trump it will definitely be a treat.
Absolutely great timeline. Thank you. Some necessary need-to-know truth lies in the intentionally missing CI details from the Mueller Report.
Is tomorrow’s Reporting Russiagate at j school going to be live streamed in any way? I would love to catch it! Thanks.
ok. copied answer here.
Hi, we’ll film and put it up on the J-School Youtube channel sometime next week. Thanks for asking!
George T. Delacorte Assistant Professor of Magazine Journalism
Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism
Flynn was a true spy, That means he could sell that he was their side to both sides. At the same time he was on his own side, and trusted no one. And that explains why Trump was afraid of him.
Remember the original letter Rodentstein wrote? https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3726408-Rosenstein-letter-appointing-Mueller-special.html
And then we got this bad boy for Pauly? https://www-m.cnn.com/2018/04/03/politics/read-rosenstein-aug-2-memo/index.html
I would like to see the redacted parts now, please. And if I cannot, I would like to know why. If there really is “NO COLLUSION”, why can’t it be un-redacted?
Who is “Rodenstein”? Is that a typo, or yet another commenter making this blog look idiotic by insisting on putting up asinine forms of official’s names because they think it is oh so cute? It is not cute.
The screen names that sound like death metal bands, sprinkled with pretentious-sounding Latin/Greek pseudo-words.
Leucippus is evidently the earliest Greek philosopher to propose atomism. Not clear why that would be someone to emulate…
Crazy! If you scroll down your Google search results, they also mention the painting by Peter Paul Rubens. Maybe they are about the same Greek guy? Who knows!
Looking at my qwerty keyboard, I see a correlation…but is it causation?
Intellisense. I have to actually replace “Rodentstein” with “Rosenstein”. I DO spend a lot of time naming metal bands, so that may be why my phone thinks that is the correct spelling.
Incidentally, “Rodentstein” is playing the “Papa John’s Better Ingredients Arena” in Jacksonville, Florida this January.
Awesome. Sorry about the question then!
Flynn discovered the same thing that Cohen discovered. Trump does not pay his bills. Then Flynn had to decide what was the best way out.
Ever see the movie “No Way Out”? I bet Flynn has.
A fantastic, and VERY underrated movie.
From the “Trump was already pissy with Flynn” section, a fantastic opportunity for Mad Libs:
“This isn’t _______ we are talking about.” Hmm. Any guesses what goes in the blank? Some possibilities:
This isn’t Canada we are talking about.
This isn’t Nambia we are talking about.
This isn’t Puerto Rico we are talking about.
This isn’t some Mexican country . . .
What I find oh so interesting is that 2 of the initial targets of the Strozk CI probe have deep ties to 2 controversial shady NeoCons of the Bush Iraq era, Papadopoulos with Doug Feith over at the Hudson Institute, and Flynn with Michael Leeden (who has been so many places I’ve lost count).
No interest, nothin’ down,
The best deal they’ll find in town,
They put their lives in lay-away,
Until some day they gotta pay.
Did they have a real good reason,
For betraying all that’s decent,
What’s the price of treason,
Are all their answers regent?
Or a bank funds criteria,
Breaking ranks or a theory of
Creeping rot and delirium?
They sold the nation for a crown,
And turned the tables upside down,
They love their country, so they say,
That’s a story for another day.
They don’t own us, they’re out of line,
With their demented valentine,
All their secrets, all their lies,
All their evil, we’ll cut down to size.
So, here’s to their grand bargain,
And their corrosive brand jargon,
They’ve provoked us to conclusions,
Like their deceitful word “collusions.”
No interest, nothin’ down,
The best deal they’ll find in town,
They put their lives in lay-away,
Until some day they gotta pay.
Great work, Marcy! Thanks for all of your truly hard work. I don’t know how you wade through it all and keep it straight enough to write. I wish more people would read EW (I know that a lot already do.)
Just read a good piece in the WaPo by Matt Zapotosky re: Trump would have been indicted and convicted were it not for the DOJ policy re: indictment of (in our case) a squatting President. It’s signed by more than 370 former prosecutors. It’s terrific. I’m never sure about posting links, so I won’t do it here. Pretty damning stuff in my view, but what do I know – nal. Thanks again.
the statement can also be found here:
Why didn’t Mueller?…Why did Mueller?…
He’s getting it from all sides.
Really impressive article. I’m wondering though, where is Flynn’s ties to Saudi Arabia in all of this? It seems impossible that Mueller did not uncover the sketchy/illegal/unethical nuclear deal that Kushner, Flynn, and Perry were advancing with Saudi Arabia given how successful he said Flynn was as a witness. Is that one of the cases that was referred out to other prosecutors? Is some of it perhaps mentioned in the redacted portions? What do you think is going on with that?
OT: Lindsey Graham, John Bolton, et al want aircraft carrier strike groups deployed against Venezuela and Iran.
I realize that it’s not health care or the Green New Deal, but nonetheless we must ask: ‘how are they going to pay for it?’
Their preferred method is taking the money from social programs that keep people alive who aren’t wealthy white conservatives.
Maybe they’re just military Keynesians, now morphing into military Modern Monetary Theorists? Kicking down might be just a reflexive, pleasurable bonus?
So when the chief of Russian military intelligence, Igor Sergun, dies mysteriously in Lebanon in January 2016, Michael Flynn calls Ambassador Kislyak to offer his condolences? That seems mighty odd considering that Sergun’s career was devoted to undermining/destroying American and other western democracies.
Not the main point, but I am happy to have separate pdfs for Vol.s I & II (searchable, too). See EW/Leopold twitters and:
A New Version Of The Mueller Report Has Been Released In Response To A BuzzFeed News Lawsuit
Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election – Volume 1
Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election – Volume 2
Senator Elizabeth on the Senate floor today.
[email protected]: “The information that has been given to us in the #MuellerReport clearly constitutes adequate information to begin an impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives.”
Warren read parts of the report – and the letter from the former DOJ people – on the Senate floor. Whether the media will notice it is another problem.
So, Warren read things on the floor that the world was already aware of? Why is that significant?
Looks like the NYT has managed to do what the House Committees, up to now at least, have been unable to do:
“Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known.”
[ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/07/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html ]
“The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view.”
“The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.”
What many have always suspected – now finally, there’s some proof.
One of the authors, Russ Buettner, was on Mathews’ show today, MSNBC.
The “failing NYT” will sell a lot of copies with that one.
How the f*ck can someone lose that much money and not end up living under a bridge, or at least shunned by everyone who might be able to loan him anything more than a dime?
What should bother the folks that voted for him is that it was his purported business acumen that was going to make up for his lack of political experience. Can’t wait to see how this is spun…”Fake taxes!” maybe.
It’s all accounting. He carted off all kinds of cash. Just need to read NYT’s expose from last year taking special note of how Fred Trump operated. What NYT’s latest story doesn’t tell us is whether Trump was using the very same methods of operation — in particular, using a management company front to provide all services and products, then padding every damned invoice. That’s how ANY business can find themselves operating in the red, along with maintaining a huge debt load by borrowing a crapload of money. Up to 2007 the real question is why did any institution loan him money? What were they getting out of using him to round out their book of loans?
His lawyers aren’t doing him any favors with their line about “no one files accurate tax returns”. Most people do: it’s that block right above your signature, the stuff about certifying it’s true and accurate, under penalty of law.
Also, NYT apparently checked Fred’s returns too, which they had from last year, and those numbers match the IRS summaries. So Donald’s summaries are a story of massive accumulating losses, at least into the mid-1990s.
Here’s a link to the 2018 Times story. Unbelievable…until you read it.
[ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html ]
I’m waiting for Deutsche Bank to come clean. Apparently they want to and it’s just a matter of lawsuits working through the courts. So he’s playing ‘sue you’ on just about every front now – nothing new there. How the hell he sleeps at night is beyond me.
He does’t sleep well. This is why he takes stimulants and he slurs his words when he talks.
Again, no reporting added by the NY Times politics desks to this article, nor do they acknowledge the work in their own pieces. Adam Liptak has a piece today that includes talk of the House demand for Trump’s taxes, and yet he not once mentions the reporting of his colleagues on the investigative beat that justifies the demand.
In the two days prior to the release of this scoop, the Times DC bureau ran two articles by Alan Rappaport and Nicholas Fandos about the House demand, and surprise! No mention of the earlier Pulitizer Prize winning reporting by the Times investigative staff on Trump’s longterm tax fraud. The DC bureau is memoryholing the work of their colleagues.
Meanwhile, the Times Albany desk reported on May 7 that the NY Government is moving closer to forcing the release of Trump’s state taxes. You might think that the DC bureau would at least mention that in its reporting as useful context. You might think that, at least, if you thought the DC bureau wanted to acknowledge the fight is anything more than an isolated dispute based on purely political grounds.
The NY Times DC and elections desks are working off of the same stupid assumption as Pelosi. They think that no more news of Trump’s criminal and ethical violations will ever emerge and there is no pattern and no story here. History makes it clear there will always be more, lots more. They need to take their heads out of the sand.
Well, at least thank god there are still some real reporters left at the NYT. I hope they get another Pulitzer for their amazing work.
It would be nice if some of their colleagues threw them a bone every now and then, though.
Thank you Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner, and David Barstow and the entire NYT Investigations department for the amazing work you have been doing on this story!
And yet, at the end of the “Trump taxes” article:
Ha, you’re right, contributed but no byline. Almost certainly her one contribution was to get the react from Trump, which predictably was “Mr. Trump also called The Times’s investigation “a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!””
That’s about what I had assumed– also didn’t know if that credit would earn her any type of recognition later when (I further assume) this reporting is recognized.
This description of impeachment, from a 1974 House Judiciary Committee staff report, needs to be emblazoned on the door to the Speaker’s office and repeated in public until we are blue in the face:
(Link omitted. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/impeachment-trump/580468/)
Impeachment is not a danger to constitutional order or to the office of the president. It is a tool needed to keep them both functioning within the framework created by the Constitution. It is there – prominently displayed in the constitutional toolbox – because the drafters intended it to be used, for the same reason that drafters of building codes mandate the availability of fire extinguishers.
Dick Cheney is among those who argue that if the president does it – or the vice president on his behalf – that it cannot be illegal. He did so most famously in his unusual and hyperpartisan minority report to the House report on Reagan and Bush’s Iran-Contra scandal. He damned Nixon for resigning, for not sacrificing his last pawn, knight, rook, bishop, and queen, before being removed from office in irons. That’s the language of the military junta. Trump echoes it in every other tweet.
An entire movement coalesces behind this extra-constitutional claim of supreme presidential authority. It even has a name: the unitary executive theory. It is much loved by Bill Barr’s post-Watergate generation. It is loved, too, by a younger generation of apparently quiet but legally violent zealots such as Brian Rabbit, Bill Barr’s chief of staff, and Brett Kavanaugh.
It is not a political so much as a cultural mandate invented by those who prize dominance and power above all things. Examples from the ancient and medieval world abound, as they do among contemporary business leaders, who ignore restraints on their profit taking with an arrogant, “Make Me Stop.”
They claim that economic imperatives bind them to ignore the law if it makes money. They demand that the law detect their wrongs, stop them, and make them pay a higher price in money and personal liberty than they earn from ignoring the law and extending the judicial process against them until the Second Coming. When it finally succeeds, they lobby to change the law to avoid liability.
That’s business leadership reduced to strip mining. Trump and his patrons have a considerable foundation to work from. Those opposed to them have the law on their side. Use it or lose it. Only the nation is at stake.
The fact it even has a name in the first place makes it worse, somehow. Add the gaslighting, and you have got a template that fits a lot of people I don’t like.
House Trump: “Make Us Stop”
So Trump just asserted protective executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials from HJC.
I’m guessing this means that Mueller as a DOJ employee won’t be able to answer any questions on May 15th, huh?
Or do I have this wrong, bmaz and other lawyers?
Kyle Cheney reports:
6:32 AM – 8 May 2019
A response from Quinta Jurecic:
6:34 AM – 8 May 2019
Rumor has it that Mueller is leaving DOJ “soon”. (I ran into that one before the privilege claim was made.)
Also I’m not sure how privilege can be claimed over a report that’s been made public, at least in part.
Here’s Matthew Miller on how the WH assertion of Executive Privilege changes things:
8:14 PM – 7 May 2019
Well, the House Judiciary committee has voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
And the WH is claiming “executive privilege” over all of Mueller’s report.
wrt: executive privilege from Ted Boutrous:
7:25 AM – 8 May 2019
I thought that one was a bad move. Once it’s public, they’ve lost that option.
Except that 8+% of the report is redacted so it was never publicly released nor was all of the supporting evidence. Can he/Repubs retroactively claim privilege over the stuff that is not yet released? In any case, firm action by Nadler has forced their collective hands which suggests to me that if Pelosi/Schumer move forward in a similar deliberate fashion, we can actually get somewhere. Impeachment enquiry now.
“Can he/Repubs retroactively claim privilege over the stuff that is not yet released?”
It certainly look like that’s what they’re trying to do, including lying about how rule 6(e) works. (Kos is live-blogging the House Judiciary Committee meeting on contempt charges for Barr. The Rs are trying to avoid anything resembling facts and reality.)
Oh….Ok. Sounds about right. Thanks P J!
Here’s a good explanation of Rule 6(e) and the Rule 6(e)(3)(D) national security/foreign intelligence exception:
8:37 PM – 7 May 2019
Read the MR, but not a lawyer, and have questions regarding the retroactive executive privilege claim, which seems to be all about delaying the result of the “break glass in emergency” scenario as discussed by Katyal and Maddow (and Nadler). The Nixon tapes timeline went: subpoena April 74, court rules to enforce subpoena May 74, and 8 July 74 the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Nixon must turn over the tapes.
1. Is such a 3 month timeline regarding Mueller’s congressional testimony (also getting an un-redacted MR + underlying evidence to congress, and CI annex of MR to House Intel) legally plausible and reasonable for our present time and circumstances? 2. Considering that Trump/Russia are taking effective advantage of the inherent slow time constants in the US legal system, is 3 months simply too much time to give the other side, an adversary which is only superficially following the law? 3. Since the US Constitution is under swift threat, is there an “in extremis” argument that can made directly to the Supreme Court, asking them to immediately take up the case? The evidence points to the other side playing much faster, for example, Katyal wrote the SC regs envisioning trouble and put in an emergency clause where the special counsel could quickly testify to congress. But that is being gamed. I do know that if a prisoner is shortly to be executed that a lawyer representing that individual is able to cause the Supreme Court to respond rather quickly.
Via Zoe Tillman, from Judge ABJ wrt: STONE
8:21 AM – 9 May 2019
From the order, signed by Judge ABJ, 5/9/19: