The Ongoing Question of Trump’s (and His Flunkies’) Susceptibility to Compromise by Russia

One of Robert Mueller’s most remarkable lines in his testimony to the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees last week was a follow-up in the latter hearing to a Raja Krishnamoorthi question about how Mike Flynn’s lies exposed him to compromise.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: For example, you successfully charged former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn of lying to federal agents about this conversations with Russian officials, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

Two and a half years after Flynn was fired, the FBI is still trying to figure out what kind of damage his venality and lies put America at risk

It should surprise no one following closely that the FBI is still looking into different aspects of how Flynn’s lies — both about Russia and about Turkey — exposed him to compromise. After all, a footnote in the Mueller Report that should describe what happened to the counterintelligence investigations into Flynn remains redacted to protect ongoing investigations.

There’s still a redaction in Flynn’s cooperation addendum that likely pertains to something that went through Mueller but cannot yet be unsealed, which I suspect is a counterintelligence investigation. In March, prosecutors in Bijan Kian’s case said at least one other district had an ongoing investigation into matters relating to Flynn (after correcting himself for saying districts, plural, had such investigations). And just recently, Kian’s lawyers disclosed that prosecutors had told them there was classified evidence showing Ekim Alptekin’s efforts to cultivate Flynn and through him, Trump, outside of his consulting company.

Prosecutors wrote to lawyers for Flynn’s ex-lobbying partner Bijan Kian that the US government was “in possession of multiple, independent pieces of information relating to the Turkish government’s efforts to influence United States policy on Turkey and Fethullah Gulen, including information relating to communications, interactions, and a relationship between Ekim Alptekin and Michael Flynn, and Ekim Alptekin’s engagement of Michael Flynn because of Michael Flynn’s relationship with an ongoing presidential campaign, without any reference to the defendant of FIG.”

Then there are the new materials released by the Oversight Committee showing how willing Flynn was to entertain a corrupt proposal to sell nukes to Saudi Arabia.

(Note, it’s a bit ironic that one of the other National Security Advisors to plead guilty to a crime spoke to Flynn of the Christmas vacation during which he had tried to secretly undermine Barack Obama’s punishment of Russia for its interference in the election spoke to Flynn of his “conviction” in the new year.)

By August 2017, Flynn was being investigated for four things, and it’s not clear we yet know all of them.

Now that Bijan Kian has been convicted, Flynn may be scot free (though the timing on his sentence will be a bit awkward, given that Judge Trenga may still overturn one or both of his convictions in early September, after Flynn’s next status hearing). But, in one of the big disclosures Mueller made last week, he revealed that the FBI is still investigating all the ways the General’s venality put the United States at risk in his short time as Trump’s top national security advisor.

And that’s just one aspect of the most important confirmations of the Mueller hearings.

When the Mueller Report came out (and even more so, when the four page Barr summary came out), denialists proclaimed that the Report (that is, the Barr summary) proved that concerns about Trump being compromised by Russia had been proven false — the substantive concern that led to the Trump investigation in the first place. The damning details of Trump’s interactions with Russia left unmentioned in the Mueller Report, as well as the descriptions of the separate FBI track of the counterintelligence investigation, already suggested that wasn’t true.

But on several different occasions, Mueller made it clear that nothing in his report rules out Trump or Flynn or several other people having been blackmailed by Russia.

To be clear, Mueller makes it clear that Trump is not a “Russian agent,” meaning the report does not present evidence that Trump is willfully doing Russia’s bidding.

WENSTRUP: So a member of this Committee said President Trump was a Russian agent after your report was publicly released. That statement is not supported by your report, correct?

MUELLER: That is accurate. Not supported.

But three other times, Mueller does not dispute and at times agrees that Trump and his flunkies’ actions pose a blackmail threat. He didn’t disagree on this point with Lou Correa:

CORREA: I may begin because of time limits we have gone in depth on only five possible episodes of obstruction. There’s so much more. And I want to focus on another section of obstruction which is the president’s conduct concerning Michael Flynn, the president’s national security advisor.

In early 27, the White House Counsel and the president were informed that Mr. Flynn had lied to government authorities about his communications with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign in transition. Is this correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

CORREA: If a hostile nation knows that a U.S. official has lied publicly that can be used to blackmail that government official, correct?

MUELLER: I’m not going to speak to that. I don’t disagree with it necessarily, but I’m not going to speak to — anymore to that issue.

With Adam Schiff, Mueller seemingly agreed that Flynn’s lies could expose him, though he refused to answer Schiff’s question about the President specifically:

SCHIFF: You have, I think we can all see that. And befitting the times, I’m sure your reward will be unending criticism, but we are grateful. The need to act in ethical manner is not just a moral one, but when people act unethically it also exposes them to compromise particularly in dealing with foreign powers, is that true?

MUELLER: True.

SCHIFF: Because when someone acts unethically in connection with a foreign partner, that foreign partner can expose their wrongdoing and extort them.

MUELLER: True.

SCHIFF: And that conduct — that unethical conduct can be of a financial nature if you have a financial motive or elicit business dealing, am I right?

MUELLER: Yes.

SCHIFF: It could also just involve deception. If you are lying about something that can be exposed, then you can be blackmailed.

MUELLER: Also true.

SCHIFF: In the case of Michael Flynn, he was secretly doing business with Turkey, correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

SCHIFF: That could open him up to compromise that financial relationship.

MUELLER: I presume.

SCHIFF: He also lied about his discussions with the Russian ambassador and since the Russians were on the other side of the conversation, they could have exposed that, could they not?

MUELLER: Yes.

SCHIFF: If a presidential candidate was doing business in Russia and saying he wasn’t, Russians could expose that too, could they not?

MUELLER: I leave that to you.

But Krishnamoorthi’s full exchange with Mueller not only gets him to acknowledge that Trump lied about his Trump Tower deal (and continued to lie during the investigation), but establishes that at least some of Trump’s possible vulnerabilities because of his financial ties were not included in Mueller’s investigation.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Director, since it was outside the purview of your investigation, your report did not reach counterintelligence conclusions regarding the subject matter of your report.

MUELLER: That’s true.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: For instance, since it was outside your purview, your report did not reach counterintelligence conclusions regarding any Trump administration officials who might potentially be vulnerable to compromise of blackmail by Russia, correct?

MUELLER: Those decisions probably were made in the FBI.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But not in your report, correct?

MUELLER: Not in our report. We avert to the counterintelligence goals of our investigation which were secondary to any criminal wrongdoing that we could find.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Let’s talk about one administration official in particularly namely President Donald Trump. Other than Trump Tower Moscow, your report does not address or detail the president’s financial ties or dealings with Russia, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Similarly since it was outside your purview your report does not address the question of whether Russian oligarchs engaged in money laundering through any of the president’s businesses, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And of course your office did not obtain the president’s tax returns which could otherwise show foreign financial sources, correct?

MUELLER: I’m not going to speak to that.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: In July 2017 the president said his personal finances were off limits, or outside the purview of your investigation and he drew a “red line,” around his personal finances. Were the president’s personal finances outside the purview of your investigation?

MUELLER: I’m not going to get in to that.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Were you instructed by anyone not to investigate the president’s personal finances?

MUELLER: No.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Mueller, I’d like to turn your attention to counterintelligence risks associated with lying. Individuals can be subject to blackmail if they lie about their interactions with foreign countries, correct?

MUELLER: True.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: For example, you successfully charged former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn of lying to federal agents about this conversations with Russian officials, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. As you noted in Volume two of your report, Donald Trump repeated five times in one press conference, Mr. Mueller in 2016 “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

Of course Michael Cohen said Donald Trump was not being truthful, because at this time Trump was attempting to build Trump Tower Moscow. Your report does not address whether Donald Trump was compromised in any way because of any potential false statements that he made about Trump Tower Moscow, correct?

MUELLER: I think that’s right — I think that’s right.

The FBI continues to assess the damage done by Flynn’s vulnerability to compromise. But Mueller didn’t say whether the FBI continues to assess whether the President’s own lies and entanglements have made him vulnerable to compromise.

That’s not to say they have — as Mueller said, the report does not show Trump to be an agent of Russia.

But the Mueller Report does not say, one way or another, whether Russia has been able to manipulate Trump by getting him to lie to America about his entanglements with Russia.

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48 replies
  1. Democritus says:

    OT majority of House Democrats support impeachment.

    “BREAKING: With ⁦@RepTedDeutch⁩, a majority of House Democrats now back an impeachment inquiry into Trump. Deutch is the 118th Democrat (and the 119th Representative) to support the effort.
    #ImpeachmentInquiryNow”

    https://twitter.com/B52Malmet/status/1156924445036093441

    Shit I thought this as the thread I was just in. If you want delete this and I will post in old thread.

    • Hops says:

      Am I the only one thinking the GOP reps who recently announced not running again in 2020 might be preparing to vote to impeach?

  2. Willis Warren says:

    I think it’s great we’re gonna let a guy who is probably going to jail if he’s not president throw the country into chaos in a national election he can’t lose. I mean, that’s just totally not a national security risk, or anything. I’m sure that this election is gonna be totally legit and should he somehow lose, he’s totally gonna just step aside and not call in the national guard to “observe” polling stations in inner cities or anything. Nope, that’s totally not gonna happen.

  3. joel fisher says:

    Sometimes I think the President is so shameless that he actually can’t be blackmailed; what more than what’s currently in the public record could possibly be used? Porn stars? Cash from Russian crooks for condos? Crude and racist statements? Rape? I can’t rule out that there’s still something out there, but
    for immunity from blackmail, I can’t remember anyone to match.

    • viget says:

      You forgot pedophilia. That might get someone’s attention. But, you know maybe not, if the girls are 16, as Alan Dershowitz seems to think….

      • Mongoose says:

        Alas, unless videos exist, the pedo charge has no traction. (They probably existed at one time.)

      • joel fisher says:

        Dershowitz says 15 should be the age of consent to the gross clasps of the lascivious Dershowitz .

    • Anne says:

      He’s told us loud and clear: his finances. Whatever’s in there, it’s what Nancy is waiting for.
      And whatever’s in there is going to make Joe Sixpack in the Midwest angry.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        It does seem like this is what the flashing arrow has been pointing to. Let’s hope it brings the goods.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          The flashing arrow is pointing to finances, not Nancy. Just to be clear. In other words, it’s best to “de-fi-Nancy’s” example. Inquiry is imperative.

      • bmaz says:

        The thought that “Nancy” is waiting on that, and would otherwise do her sworn duty under her oath of office is beyond ludicrous. She is nothing but a craven political opportunist, too worried about the next election to do the job she was elected and sworn to do. Pelosi is a disgrace to her office and the Constitution.

        • MattyG says:

          Regrettably this is true. I was never a Nancy fan, then thought she may be headed in the right direction, then back to not being a fan.

        • joel fisher says:

          The common sense me agrees with everything you said but there is a–what would you call it?–foolishly dreaming me that thinks Pelosi is thoughtfully doing nothing while all GOP officials weld themselves tightly and permanently to Trump. At some date in the near future, Trump the anchor takes them down. One has to agree that, at this point, there’s no “Oh, now he’s gone to far for me” defense for riding on the Trump train. Possible result: (at least in my dream world) wide and permanent damage to the GOP. But then this could happen without Pelosi’s thoughtful indolence and the words “craven” and “disgrace” do seem to capture the current look of things.

        • horses says:

          Nah, dude. What she is is a knife fighter from Baltimore with generations of political training.

          Check yourself. She the best hope you’ve got, and she’s good enough to be elected Speaker twice. Is she perfect? No.

          Who else you got? I’m genuinely interested.

  4. Tom says:

    Volume I (pp. 103-104) of the Mueller report discusses the Center for the National Interest (CNI), which it describes as a “Washington-based non-profit organization”, and its President and CEO, the Russian-born Dimitri Simes. The CNI describes its role as “a voice for strategic realism in U.S. foreign policy” and Simes and has boasted of having “unparalleled access to Russian officials and politicians among Washington think tanks”.

    Later in Vol. I (pp. 163-164), Mueller describes Jared Kushner’s efforts in December 2016 to set up a secret back channel to Moscow. Mueller also describes how Simes was contacted (I’ll leave out the details of how & why) and invited to meet with Kushner to discuss how Simes could assist in setting up the planned secret communications line. Simes’ response was that he wanted nothing to do with this scheme and did not want CNI to be seen as acting as an intermediary with the Russians. “Based on what Simes had read in the media,” the report states, “he [Simes] stated that he already had concerns that Trump’s business connections could be exploited by Russia”. I’ve wondered whether there could have been more to this part of the story and whether Simes, with his “unparalleled access to Russian officials”, might have been privy to far more information about Trump’s business dealings–and other things–than what he claimed to have read in the media.

  5. Democritus says:

    I have always wondered why the only place I see this Russian geopolittect book discussed is Reddit. It’s discussed on Reddit frequently. Is it bogus? Anyone with any knowledge have opinions?

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics

    From the wiki:

    “The book emphasizes that Russia must spread Anti-Americanism everywhere: “the main ‘scapegoat’ will be precisely the U.S.”

    In the United States:

    Russia should use its special services within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism, for instance, provoke “Afro-American racists”. Russia should “introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics”.[9]”

    “In Europe:
    Germany should be offered the de facto political dominance over most Protestant and Catholic states located within Central and Eastern Europe. Kaliningrad oblast could be given back to Germany. The book uses the term “Moscow–Berlin axis”.[9]

    France should be encouraged to form a “Franco–German bloc” with Germany. Both countries have a “firm anti-Atlanticist tradition”.[9]

    The United Kingdom should be cut off from Europe.[9]”

    *Snip*

    “Ukraine should be annexed by Russia because “Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning, no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness, its certain territorial ambitions represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia and, without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics”. Ukraine should not be allowed to remain independent, unless it is cordon sanitaire, which would be inadmissible.[9]”

    There are tons of things that haven’t occurred, but given Russia’s involvements in the US and Brexit it seems like it should be at least discussed

  6. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy. Always beneficial to read testimony from much missed while watching or listening to a testimony.

    What stood out for me is the exchange with Schiff and Mueller about Flynn secretly doing business with Turkey.

    Lies and secrets from Flynn, a retired Army Lt. General, doing secret business with Turkey, dines with Putin, lies to VP and FBI about lifting Obama-era sanctions against Russia with ambassador, lied about links to Turkish government and who can forget his statement “Lock her up, that’s right” at the Republican convention. And he may not go to prison. Ugh!

    SCHIFF: In the case of Michael Flynn, he was secretly doing business with Turkey, correct?

    MUELLER: Yes.

  7. viget says:

    Excellent article Marcy. Really hit it out of the park with this one. The point re: Flynn and the ongoing CI investigation needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    Which brings me to my next question: The oversight cmte report. Where did they (committee staff) get all of those emails between Flynn, McFarlane, Barrack, etc., if Flynn wasn’t cooperating, McFarlane wasn’t cooperating, IP3 wasn’t cooperating? I imagine Barrack *might* be cooperating, the recent stories around him make it sound like he’s moving heaven and earth to avoid an indictment in either SDNY or EDNY. But Barrack wouldn’t have emails from the early days of the conspiracy (before IP3 even), so where did they come from?

    I have to think it’s from the FBI. And if it’s from FBI, does that mean their investigation has been closed? That’s what I worry about. Or maybe it’s from Mueller’s team, but out of scope (like from the transition emails)?

    If anyone has read the report and has insight on it, please chime in!

  8. Izzydog says:

    Marcy,
    As always, thank you for all you do. You are must reading in my day.

    In volume 1, section 1, Mueller told us basically that CI was outside the scope of the investigation (which was a surprise to me when I first read it), and that when “the Office periodically identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Council’s jurisdiction,” they consulted with the Office of the Deputy AG and then “the Office referred it to appropriate law enforcement authorities, principally other components of the the DoJ and to the FBI.”

    These referrals are mostly redacted in Appendix D. My questions are, after seeing Barr hired just before the Cohen investigation was closed, why should we not expect the CI investigations to be closed too and how would we even know if they were/weren’t? What should we be looking for?

  9. Mongoose says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. Something about the Mueller hearings has been gnawing at me for a week, and it just surfaced. Mueller looked frightened and detached the entire day. Of what? Barr? Russia?

    2. “MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.” Mueller did not need to volunteer this information in this particular forum at this particular time. What was Barr/(Trump’s) reaction to this?

    • Americana says:

      FBI Director Christopher Wray mentioned the FBI’s continuing investigations in a very cautious way in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23. Wray seems well aware he’s balanced on a knife edge trying to get these ongoing multiple investigations completed without them being compromised by Trump/Trump’s minions’ actions. It’s also interesting Sen. Feinstein is seeking information she knows Wray has but which Wray is at present likely justifiably hesitant to share w/Congress. Feinstein asked for a confidential briefing. Would that be just for her or for the entire Judiciary Committee?

      Watch the following beginning at the 39:12 mark for one of the instances where Wray threads the needle:

      43:59 mark, Sen. Lee levels charges at the FBI; Wray again threads the needle; discussion about the Patriot Act which in the instance of Donald Trump, it accomplished its purpose. There are a few more instances sprinkled in his testimony. His testimony is 3+ hours and perhaps isn’t worth watching in its entirety to try to catch those moments of relevance to current events. It’s fascinating to me to watch these individuals struggling to convey the enormity of their task relative to Trump while GOP congressmen try to pretend everything about Trump is normal, nothing criminal here.

      At the 47:35 mark, Sen. Lee examines the reauthorization of the Patriot Act and Wray again counters very ably.

      I’m awaiting IG Horowitz’s report. I hope he’s given the opportunity to read it publicly into the Congressional record in its entirety (less classified redactions) prior to giving testimony alongside FBI Director Wray.

      • bmaz says:

        Hi there “Americana”. Rayne has told you this before, and so have I. This is likely the last time. I freed up this comment out of moderation only to make a point. The other four run on comments pending in moderation are going to be bounced.

        Your comments are overly long and run on to make the minimal point you do. And that is not even accounting for the ones where you are just blowing bunk, which is far more than often.

        You seem to think that every comment you make should be as long as a blog post. It should not. Many, if not most, people here read on mobile devices, and when overly long run on comments constantly clog up the threads, it makes for a very bad reading experience. If you really have some profound point, as many here on this forum often do, fine, and then lengthy comments are warranted. But that is almost never the case with you.

        And do NOT post full size You Tube videos. Seriously, what in the world? Do you just not care about propriety? Again, I am not sure how many warnings you have left.

      • Mongoose says:

        I was aware of this, but I was wondering why Mueller chose not to let sleeping (productive) dogs lie.

  10. Avattoir says:

    The response Mueller provided to questions concerning whether the SCO report addressed Trump’s status as an “agent” of Moscow is, IMO, somewhat misleading, in that it appears Mueller is only prepared to grant ‘agency’ status to a consciously willing subject. That would leave aside the use of Trump as, for example, an “innocent agent” (such as the U.S. Post in, say, a case of illegal drugs or other substances being conveyed by snail mail), or, closer to this particular bone perhaps, the use of him as an eager and feckless if not reckless agent.

    • Vicks says:

      DJT works on behalf of no one but himself.
      Narrowly defined, isn’t a “Russian agent” someone working FOR or on BEHALF of Russia?
      Could Trump be getting disqualified from foreign agent status because he and his partners in crime are getting things in return for the favors he grants?

    • it's complicated says:

      That’s the reason why I call him “Asset Orange”, not “Agent Orange” which would imply he’s acting knowingly.

  11. Peterr says:

    Now that Bijan Kian has been convicted, Flynn may be scot free (though the timing on his sentence will be a bit awkward, given that Judge Trenga may still overturn one or both of his convictions in early September, after Flynn’s next status hearing). But, in one of the big disclosures Mueller made last week, he revealed that the FBI is still investigating all the ways the General’s venality put the United States at risk in his short time as Trump’s top national security advisor.

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think Flynn is scot free at all.

    Emmet Sullivan made it exceedingly clear at Flynn’s initial sentencing hearing in Dec 2018 that he was ready to ignore the deal that the government and Flynn had agreed to, and throw the book at Flynn. When Sullivan proposed to Flynn that he might want to ask for a continuance, so he could see what more he could do to show contrition through cooperation, that was a 2×4 to the foreheads of the defense team to tell them that Flynn was going to be in deep trouble if Sullivan sentenced him that day.

    And nothing Flynn has done since that day is likely to have shifted Sullivan’s views of Flynn. Indeed, his new lawyer may have made things worse.

    One of the things I realized during the Ted Stevens trial, over which Sullivan presided, is that Sullivan is a lifelong resident of DC. From his wiki:

    Sullivan was born in Washington, D.C. in 1947 and attended local schools. He graduated from McKinley Technology High School in 1964. In 1968, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Howard University, a historically black university, and in 1971 a Juris Doctor from the Howard University School of Law.

    Upon graduation from law school, Sullivan received a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship. He was assigned to the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C., where he worked for one year. The following year, he served as a law clerk to Superior Court Judge James A. Washington Jr., a former professor and dean of Howard University School of Law.

    In 1973, Sullivan joined the law firm of Houston & Gardner, co-founded by Charles Hamilton Houston, who had expanded Howard University Law School as its dean, and led litigation for the NAACP to overturn racially restrictive laws. Sullivan became a partner and was actively engaged in the general practice of law with that firm.

    In August 1980, his partner, William C. Gardner, was appointed as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Sullivan was a name partner in the successor firm of Houston, Sullivan & Gardner. He also taught as an adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Law and has served as a member of the visiting faculty at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.

    Sullivan was appointed by President Reagan to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on October 3, 1984. On November 25, 1991, Sullivan was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve as an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

    For some 70 years, Sullivan has seen life in DC up close, both its flaws and its glories. When he reamed out Flynn at that Dec 2018 hearing, his barely bridled contempt is as much a function of his DC heritage as his views of the law. He knows how govt is supposed to work, and is pissed off beyond belief when the govt fails at that. (Again, see the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case.) Here, Flynn is the target of that anger. From the transcript [p. 7]:

    THE COURT: . . . I cannot recall any incident in which the Court has ever accepted a plea of guilty from someone who maintained that he was not guilty, and I don’t intend to start today. So I’m going to invite Mr. Flynn and his attorney or attorneys to come to the podium, and I’m going to ask the courtroom deputy to administer the oath to Mr. Flynn.

    (MICHAEL FLYNN, DEFENDANT IN THE CASE, SWORN)

    THE COURT: All right. And I will inform you, sir, that any false answers will get you in more trouble. Do you understand that?

    THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

    Right off the bat, Sullivan put Flynn and his legal team on notice that this was not going to be a simply sentencing hearing. That “any false answers will get you in more trouble” line does not strike me as standard legalese, but a very carefully chosen statement in the vernacular. Call it a warning shot across Flynn’s bow.

    After running through the much more standard “do you make this plea freely?” kind of stuff, Sullivan accepted the guilty plea, and then he went through the usual “here’s how we calculate the suggested sentencing range” stuff, which ended like this (p. 17):

    THE COURT: . . . Are there any objections to the mathematical calculations [of the sentencing recommendations], Counsel?

    MR. KELNER: No, Your Honor.

    THE COURT: All right. And the advisory range for supervised release is one year to three years. I’m going to request that you gentlemen have a seat because I want to, for the record — and again, because I wasn’t the original judge who accepted the plea in the first instance, I want to talk about the plea agreement and the facts that are relevant for the Court’s consideration, and you gentlemen don’t have to stand there in front of me while I do that, all right. You can have a seat.

    MR. KELNER: Thank you, Your Honor.

    Kelner said “thank you” but he had to be thinking “Uh oh . . .” It’s the phrase “the facts that are relevant for the Court’s consideration” line that hints at where Sullivan is going.

    On page 31, Sullivan gets to the nub of things:

    THE COURT: If you want to postpone this and come back at some later point – and I don’t know what that later point will be — that’s fine with me. Because at that time I can say the book is closed, the government is satisfied, there’s nothing else that Mr. Flynn can do, and I can evaluate everything that you’ve done or not done.

    I have to caution you, Mr. Flynn, that the sentence the Court imposes today, if sentencing proceeds, may not be the sentence that you would receive after your cooperation ends. I don’t know that to be a fact. I don’t know. I mean, who knows? I don’t have the proverbial crystal ball, but I always approach sentencing with an open mind, and I’m fully prepared to listen to the attorneys and the defendant and consider the full extent of someone’s cooperation.

    In other words, the Court likes to be in a position to say there’s nothing else this defendant can do to help the United States of America. He’s done everything that he can do. And then the Court focuses on what impact that has under the advisory Guidelines.

    I’m going to be frank with you. This crime is very serious. As I stated, it involves false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on the premises of the White House, in the White House in the West Wing by a high ranking security officer with, up to that point, had an unblemished career of service to his country. That’s a very serious offense.

    You know, I’m going to take into consideration the 33 years of military service and sacrifice, and I’m going to take into consideration the substantial assistance of several ongoing — several ongoing investigations, but I’m going to also take into consideration the aggravating circumstances, and the aggravating circumstances are serious. Not only did you lie to the FBI, but you lied to senior officials in the Trump Transition Team and Administration. Those lies caused the then-Vice President-Elect, incoming Chief of Staff, and then-Press Secretary to lie to the American people. Moreover, you lied to the FBI about three different topics, and you made those false statements while you were serving as the National Security Advisor, the President of the United States’ most senior national security aid. [sic] I can’t minimize that.

    Two months later you again made false statements in multiple documents filed pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. So, all along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

    I mean, arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for (indicating). Arguably, you sold your country out. The Court’s going to consider all of that. I cannot assure you that if you proceed today you will not receive a sentence of incarceration. But I have to also tell you that at some point, if and when the government says you’ve concluded with your cooperation, you could be incarcerated.

    It could be that any sentence of incarceration imposed after your further cooperation is completed would be for less time than a sentence may be today. I can’t make any guarantees, but I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.

    THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

    As I noted, Sullivan is a lifelong resident of DC. When Sullivan said he’d take Flynn’s military service into account, it first sounded like “you’ll get some credit because of this,” but by the end of this epic statement, Sullivan appears to be saying that while anyone selling out their country is bad, someone with (a) this kind of military background, (b) this kind of high-ranking position and (c) the ear of the president on the most important issues of security is exponentially worse. While others may hear this and nod intellectually, this is the kind of thing a DC native understands in their gut.

    And all this is before Sullivan got into his back-and-forth with the government about whether they considered charging Flynn with treason. That was not a rhetorical flourish nor a bit of judicial grandstanding. Sullivan was honestly extremely pissed off at what he knew about Flynn’s actions (a non-trivial amount of what was classified and not to be discussed in open court), and just as honestly confused as to why the government agreed to what Sullivan saw as a sweetheart deal.

    If I were Flynn, I’d be *very* worried about what Sullivan will do the next time he stands in Sullivan’s courtroom. Even if Trump has promised a pardon, Flynn may want to have a spare outfit with him, as Sullivan’s sentencing statement may cause him to soil himself.

  12. harpie says:

    This might be a good post for the following:
    Marcy asks:
    https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1157045846741082112
    2:50 PM – 1 Aug 2019

    Am I understanding correctly that Lindsey Graham broke SJC rules to push through a bill authorizing concentration camps today?

    OK, if the Republican Party just took steps to AUTHORIZE CONCENTRATION CAMPS why isn’t the press treating it as a big fucking deal? Is the First Amendment pro-concentration camp now?

    The answer to the first question would be YES!

    Senator Leahy:
    https://twitter.com/SenatorLeahy/status/1156933134568566789
    7:22 AM – 1 Aug 2019

    Chairman Graham just broke Judiciary Committee rules to advance Trump bill to indefinitely detain immigrant children.
    Senator Leahy will be speaking on this momentarily. LIVE on @CSPAN and at [link]

  13. MattyG says:

    MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

    “aspects of that issue”. Strikes me as possible Mueller is indicating here that the issue is not limited to Flynn, but any actor that made false statements Moscow knew to be false and could be used as leverage. D (ahem cough cough) T?

  14. Democritus says:

    MiniThread on Dems making a pact against foreign interference should they get elected. This should be something that NATO should be working on together. Before it’s too late.

  15. BillCO says:

    What odds are there that Flynn will face court marshal once the civilian courts are done with him?

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