The Frothy Right Wingers Claiming “Perjury Trap” Are Accusing General Flynn of Perjury

The frothy right is in full frenzy claiming that poor General Flynn, with his thirty years of intelligence experience, got naively caught in a perjury trap by FBI agents he regarded as his allies.

There’s a problem with that. Every single person claiming that Flynn was coerced to lie by the FBI — which necessarily concedes he did lie — is also accusing Flynn of perjuring himself in a recent sworn statement before Judge Emmet Sullivan. If what they say is true, then Flynn committed a crime in January, one for which the statute of limitations will extend until 2025.

Take this concession from right wing propagandist Jim Hanson, where he states that, “it seems clear he did lie.”

Hanson appears to excuse these lies because he doesn’t much care that, in the wake of an attack by a hostile foreign country, Flynn called up that country and told them it was no big deal, all while taking steps to hide that he had done so. That is, Hanson seems to excuse the lie because (in his mind, apparently) it is admirable for a man to work secretly with a country that has attacked America to help them avoid any repercussions for having done so.

Remember: Flynn told the FBI he thought an appropriate punishment for tampering with our elections would be a single Russian diplomat being sent home.

But once you’ve conceded that Flynn lied, you are accusing the General of perjury in a sworn filing submitted in January 29 which says,

On December 1, 2017 (reiterated on December 18, 2018), I pled guilty to lying to agents of the FBI.

I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my plea.

Flynn’s declaration is full of other details that are provably false — such as that he was extremely busy and only had a limited amount of time to give the FBI Agents who interviewed him. Flynn talked about hotels, ISIS, and Trump’s knack for interior decorating before turning to that interview; Peter Strzok even wondered how he had so much time to shoot the shit.

So when Flynn claims, in the declaration, to still not remember if he discussed sanctions with Kislyak or the UN vote with Israel, it’s not only not credible, but also refuted by other witness testimony, including KT McFarland’s own 302s and those of several top Trump aides, who told Mueller they recognized in real time that Flynn had lied.

Flynn technically maintains he did not lie (though that means his sworn plea allocutions were perjury, and he has never reneged on his sworn grand jury testimony admitting he knew while working for Ekim Alptekin that he was actually working for the Turkish government).

But if, like Hanson, you concede he did lie, if you believe the FBI did succeed in capturing Flynn in a “perjury” trap (actually, a false statements trap), then you, by definition, believe that his sworn statement from January is a lie — perjury, and perjury not coerced by any evil FBI Agents but instead coaxed by his pretty Fox News lawyer Sidney Powell.

It is a testament to how unmoored from any aspiration to truth that this entire campaign to excuse Mike Flynn’s coming pardon is that key propagandists participating in it don’t bother to familiarize themselves with the facts or the precarious net of sworn claims Flynn has made. There appears no concern, on the part of the propagandists, to ensure their stated views fit logically with Flynn’s sworn statements, to say nothing of adhering to the known facts or reality.

Ultimately, though, this debate is not about truth, because no one contests that Flynn got caught telling the hostile country that had just attacked us in 2016 not to worry about any retaliation, and Republicans are simply trying to find a way to minimize the political fallout in ensuring he pays no price for having done so. Ultimately, Billy Barr has rolled out four possible ways he can guarantee Flynn won’t do prison time, with varying degrees of political cost to Trump and blithely incurred damage for rule of law, and it is virtually assured that one of those ways will work.

But the willingness of those wailing “perjury trap” to concede that Flynn did lie introduces an interesting dynamic into these issues of power. That’s because Judge Emmet Sullivan, as recently as December, and possibly as recently as last week, showed some impatience with being dicked around like this (though he’s also increasingly impatient with Covington & Burling’s failures to provide Flynn all their records). And Sullivan has the ability to find that Flynn has lied to him, Emmet Sullivan, repeatedly, including in his declaration from January. Sullivan has the means to do so even if Barr orders Flynn’s prosecutors to withdraw their contest of his motion to withdraw.

It would raise the cost of a pardon if Trump had to do it after a judge were to find that Flynn continued to lie, in 2017 to Judge Contreras, in 2018 to Judge Sullivan, and again in 2020 to Judge Sullivan, all without the coercion of some baddy FBI Agents purportedly springing a trap on him. And yet that’s precisely the scenario that the perjury trap wailers make more likely.

48 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    There are a couple of things to consider as well. If the scenario plays out as expected and Flynn is rehired by the WH then it will make (I think) something of a first since both Hicks and Sean quit before being rehired. Remember that at the time DJT fired Flynn for lying to Pence, so there is some ‘splainin’ to do.

    Also, it could be a sign that the WH can’t find anyone else to work for them.

    Perhaps our legal experts can look at the effect of pardon (which IIRC means acceptance of guilt and politically harder to sell for a re-hire) or commutation (which IIRC means the guilty plea remains and perhaps that bars Flynn from rejoining the WH). We know Judge Sullivan will not buy this dreck, it is solely to corner DJT into some form of exoneration so what would Barr recommend to limit the political exposure?

    • rosalind says:

      Pence is already back-pedaling, saying yesterday he doesn’t think Flynn’s lies were “intentional”.

    • emptywheel says:

      I remain open minded whether Jensen’s review will find something alarming. Thus far he has instead shown:
      1) FBI assessed concerns abt Flynn’s ties to Russia and dismissed them
      2) DOJ did not make formal promises that Powell claimed they had
      3) FBI prepped a high profile interview
      None of those are at all alarming once you consider how alarming it is that the incoming NSA called up Russia and privately told them not to worry about the sanctions just imposed.

      • Peterr says:

        That last one is the biggie.

        Pick any three AGs, DNIs/CIA Directors, or National Security Advisors out of any former administration who have not been part of the Trump administration, and I’m willing to bet that their reactions would range for OMG! to OMFG!

        Then imagine putting any of those folks on the stand, under oath, in front of Judge Sullivan to testify to just how alarming that would be.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If Trump rehires Flynn – basically, to prove his judgment was right all along [sic] – or, even if he pardons him or commutes his sentence, then Trump is explicitly owning Flynn’s lies and crimes, and telling Americans no big deal, trust me.

        Anyone but a look forward-not back establishment Democrat should be able to hang that albatross around Trump’s neck. But I try not to underestimate the Democrats’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

        • Das Robot says:

          “But I try not to underestimate the Democrats’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
          How could you? Please.

  2. jaango says:

    Flynn is a criminal!!!

    Thus, anyone giving a damn about Flynn means that the Grifters and Grafters, have their work cut out for themselves. And therefore, anyone managing a blog site, is reinforcing the meme that the Grifters and Grafters have enabled themselves. As such, criminals like Manafort and Stone, and etcetera, had their day in court and still came up short, and thereby don’t deserve our attention. And a 7 year to 14 year sentence of imprisonment seems appropriate. Anything less, and the legal system is practicing “privilege.” and further, reinforcing today’s political cabal.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      jaango, I’m confused. Are you arguing that we who oppose Flynn skating on the legal (and moral) consequences of his actions are somehow empowering him and his backers with our attention, like some kind of perverse, unintended-consequence ideological anti-Judo? Given your declared adherence to the leveling potential of justice, it would seem we share the same goal–albeit with a head-down, never-take-your-eyes-off ’em resignation to the asymptotic task on my side.

  3. bmaz says:

    Just because DOJ withdraws its opposition to Flynn’s withdrawal of his plea, that is no guarantee Sullivan would allow it to occur. The court accepted the plea, it solely the court’s decision as to withdrawal, and I am not sure Sullivan would do it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Right: Even beyond Sullivan making a formal finding of fraud on the court, he can just reject the withdrawal. Flynn will contest that, but if he does, he’s going to still expect a pardon on November 4. In the meantime, Covington will have an opportunity to make it clear how blatantly Flynn lied to them in preparation of the FARA filing, which will make his Turkey payday far more damning.

      • Peterr says:

        Schedule-wise, what is the likelihood of Powell being able to push any significant hearings with testimony and such beyond November 4?

          • Peterr says:

            I meant Sullivan putting Flynn under oath and having a nice little chat, face to face, as he did in December 2018.

            • bmaz says:

              It is not really pertinent to sentencing or Sullivan’s decision to maintain the plea. Your own post demonstrates that. Why should Sullivan order a hearing?

              • emptywheel says:

                Um … he already said he wanted one. It’s the primary if not sole basis for Flynn’s motion to withdraw.

                • bmaz says:

                  Well, he shouldn’t. Be done with this bullshit. There is nothing that merits a hearing.

                  • emptywheel says:

                    It’s my sense that Sullivan intends to put Flynn under oath once more. Along with Covington’s four more credible witnesses and Brandon Van Grack.

    • Silly but True says:

      That’s not the only option.

      The DoJ can also withdraw case; file with Sullivan “justice isn’t being served because [Barr’s explanation here], and everything gets dropped.

      There’s probably even odds of that occurring the moment DoJ undertook a “re-review” of Mueller investigation in general, and a second look into Flynn’s case, specifically.

      Everyone should be clear: that’s one of the products of these re-reviews.

      Silly but True

        • Silly but True says:

          We’ll know for sure by noon on May 11 — the deadline Sullivan set for government to respond to Flynn “egregious government misconduct” filing.

          At this point, fighting uphill battle against Jensen & Durham (Barr) cutting their legs out from under them, prosecution at this point must be weighing dropping case or facing increasing pressure against it with distributions of sensitive information by other parties in DoJ to Flynn that Flynn prosecutors would generally prefer Flynn not to have.

          • bmaz says:

            That is simply not correct. The prosecution (DOJ) cannot simply “drop the case”. Flynn’s guilty plea has not just been entered on the record, but accepted as a matter of record…TWICE. The matter is entirely in the province of the court now. DOJ can drop opposition to dismissal, but they CANNOT unilaterally cause it.

            And, no, no other “sensitive information” need be disclosed as it is irrelevant to the count in the accepted plea. Don’t bite off on right wing/Fox News/Sid Powell horse manure. And don’t spread it here.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Flynn already pleaded guilty and did so repeatedly. IANAL but that sounds like any attempt to “withdraw” the case is rendered moot since a decision had been reached for the crime, in this case by the defendant.

        So it would seem Judge Sullivan has to agree to the plea withdrawal and given how carefully he cornered Flynn in prior testimony it seems rather doubtful he will and I also doubt he will be too concerned about what AG Barr thinks either. The Covington foot-dragging might be the lever to use for Powell, but that has to overcome quite a lot I would think given what Flynn has already admitted to. Repeatedly. In open court with no qualifier about being under duress.

        So pardon versus commutation would seem to be Barr’s choices right now.

    • Manwen says:

      Interesting thought, but I see his appointment as NSA or WH advisor. He will not be appointed to anything requiring Senate confirmation. The Senate does not want the circus of this man publicly testifying. Unless, he does the old, temporary appointment that lasts as long as he chooses. This is something else we have to fix going forward. Avoiding the requirement of advise and consent by using the title, “temporary appointment” is seriously weakening American government. It is a recipe for cronyism and corruption that we see play out consistently in this administration. Trump defends it as giving him “flexibility”, meaning he avoids democratic accountability. This administration has revealed so many structural flaws in our system such as the arbitrariness of the pardon power, the surrender of the tariff power, and the ability of the President to ignore Congressional funding authority. We have a day of reckoning coming to fix these problems or the next Trump will be a more savvy, smarter person who understands government better. He or she will probably have more mature and less impulsive judgment, be less toxic personally, and will probably wear a more friendly fascist face than the ugly divisive orange thing. Early candidates might include a Tom Cotton, James Lankford, or Nikki Haley. Some competitors might even emerge from the left. While I appreciate all of the focus on the current problem, we need an agenda going forward to fix the structural problems or the next Trump will be far more dangerous in the long term.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Temporary or “acting” appointments do have a time limit since it had been raised about the BDTS AG (Whitaker) before Barr. While I wouldn’t doubt that this WH would push those boundaries I think however that Flynn would be ticketed to be part of the ant-heap of special assistants to keep him under the WH thumb and away from Congress.

        • john in denver says:

          Flynn could become an “acting” appointee … by the time he emerges, there will be fewer than 180 days to the election, so the time limit becomes moot.

          Or, he could become a “special assistant” to the President for something …. an international version of Steven Miller.

          In either case, Trump would be redeeming someone he thinks got a raw deal and getting a grateful sycophant to help manipulate whoever remains as competent public servants, apolitically implementing the *resident’s “policies.”

  4. joel fisher says:

    All the noise around the lying charge tends to obscure the fact that Flynn’s known and unknown dealings with Turkey and Russia were of much more concern to the FBI. Of course they wanted leverage. Flynn’s and Trump’s multi-faceted connections to Russia and Flynn’s plan for the kidnapping of a US permanent resident should be the sort of things that concern the FBI. Because the agents suspected he would lie, that doesn’t make it entrapment and because they were more concerned with what Flynn knew about a range of issues doesn’t make him innocent. In every dope deal with an undercover officer, the officer obviously expects the dealer to sell some dope. And, often, the dope deal is not of that much interest to the cops; they have bigger fish to fry. It’s hard to see how Sullivan’s standard order, requiring disclosure of exculpatory evidence, even before a plea, was violated in the lie to the FBI charge. And another thing, here’s who said, under oath, that the Fed’s disclosures were sufficient: Flynn.

    • bmaz says:

      That is true. And the beauty of the false statements plea to the DOJ is that they didn’t have to burn a bunch of classified means, methods and information to make the factual basis on the plea. That, and Flynn’s cooperation were both very important. Sidney Powell and the howlers.arguments are ludicrous.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Ludicrous in any reality outside TrumpWorld. While reprehensible, Powell’s performance art seems suited to a world in which dancing up and down, with a sign and in a weird costume, is the best way to get the attention of a game show host-president.

        Her gambit is entirely dependent, though, on getting action from that president, in order to circumvent the normal legal process. The window for that behavior seems to be closing.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, I think Powell and Flynn have Trump’s attention, but have to believe Sullivan is flat out of patience for the nonsense.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I agree, but getting Trump’s attention and getting him to do something – which must only benefit Trump – are different things.

        • Das Robot says:

          Powell’s been posing for Trump and the media and nothing else. In retrospect it looks like good lawyering to me even if she’s made several tactical errors. She’s made the scumbag Flynn totally recognizable and sympathetic to the other scumbag. Throw in some backdoor JDA negotiations for pardons and who knows what for on going issues that Flynn now has no memory of and Flynn will skate. The wingnuts are acting like he’s getting the guillotine (which he probably should) when he’s basically beating a 3 month beef. BFD

  5. Savage Librarian says:

    Herr Hector

    There was an old man, Herr Hector,
    preposterous in all of his flaws,
    Like a masterful kayfabe wrestler,
    he teamed up with pretenders of laws.

    He loved to force non sequiturs,
    confused genetic with generic terms,
    If he tapped some sympathetic nerves,
    they morphed into synthetic turds.

    He never could ever dare utter
    anything more than a mutter,
    Because his mind was so full of clutter,
    he lost all his assails in butter.

    So he took to licking his fingers,
    as if all of them were dead ringers
    to bygone days with some swingers,
    But now they were alt-right wingers.

    There was an old man, Herr Hector,
    preposterous in all of his flaws,
    Like a masterful kayfabe wrestler,
    he teamed up with pretenders of laws.

  6. Rugger9 says:

    TPM has been following this for a while:

    So, as has been noted here repeatedly by the group, there is nothing new here in the notes or in the filing, so what is the reason this is being hyped like this now? DJT could have pardoned Flynn long ago back when he complained about the allegedly shabby treatment of a good man, and that was many moons ago.

    So, using the observation borne out by many examples that this WH does nothing without a reason usually involving money (or viciousness if Miller is involved), what is the game here? Flynn is compromised by both Russia and Turkey, so is DJT getting a commissar, for lack of a better word, to supervise his actions in exchange for bailing his empire out of the latest financial crisis exacerbated by COVID-19? Since Deutsche Bank is also being strangely uncooperative (I’m waiting for Merkel to pull its charter back for review) and tied to further Russian laundering I’m wondering what the “pro quo” is for the quid received by DJT and his organization.

  7. Vicks says:

    Seems to me Powell simply convinced Flynn that Trump was corrupt enough to pardon him.
    We may never know how she ended up joining the crime family, she may have been recruited or it may have been her auditions on Fox “news”
    Either way it appears she was the one to start the “I would like you to do us a favor” conversation.
    It looks like the request was to help us destroy our intelligence department.
    Flynn made Trump look bad when he made the deal with Mueller. I think he is an idiot if he thinks Trump forgot that,

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I’m pretty sure Lt. Gen. Flynn did not need Powell to convince him how corrupt Trump was. With decades of special ops training, field work, and command, and senior assignments inside the Pentagon, Flynn would have known full well how corrupt Trump was and what Flynn could make of it. I imagine he knows the same about Powell, too. All of which makes the frothy right’s claim that the nasty FBI bamboozled him into two confessions an argument that only the Base would believe.

      • Vicks says:

        I was meaning to say that initially Flynn may not have been confident that he could count on a pardon so he acted on his own best interest.
        Back then, Bill Barr was just a twinkle in the eye of whoever is masterminding this, and things sure have come a long way since.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    More than a few readers on this site know what happened on May 4, 1970, at northeast Ohio’s Kent State University. A detachment of Ohio National Guardsmen fired into crowds of students a hundred or more feet away. In thirteen seconds, they killed four and wounded nine.

    Claims that the guardsmen were in fear of their lives were never credible. It was more a case of political fear and compensating machismo on the parts of Nixon, Ohio’s governor, Jim Rhodes, and the Guard’s and detachment’s leadership. Pour encourager les autres. None of them paid any obvious price. That was not true of America’s students, their families, and liberal thinking on campus and in America.

    Nixon was re-elected. The Vietnam draft, the war it fed, and the politicians who fed on it continued. The Powell memo came out the following year, and business leaders and legislators lined up to defund state colleges and universities, substituting private debt in place of legislative funding. That and Reagan’s neoliberalism turned average American students and their families into debt slaves, cash cows, and compliant “cubicle farmers.”

    Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer has a good summary. James O’Connor, on campus that day, writes about it at the Akron Beacon Journal (one of the great regional newspapers). Bunch embeds a video of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s, Ohio, which commemorates the shooting. And he cites Thomas Grace’s excellent, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties. Nineteen sixty-eight saw the murders of MLK and RFK, and the election of Richard Nixon; and Kent State was not the only deadly student protest that year. But May 4th is called the day the Sixties died.

  9. RobertJ says:

    Didn’t the DOJ make a serious, but failing, effort to get an indictment against McCabe for lying? It would seem that there is some extreme selectivity in enforcing laws.

  10. Webdaddy says:

    Your take would make more sense if the line…”or fired” wasn’t included in Priestap’s notes. The consolation prize of a man getting fired in case the plan doesn’t work out is inappropriate and is evidence he was targeted for a political win.

    • vvv says:

      Do tell, because your analysis is really pretty lacking in anything but opinion.

      Not to mention, it ignores the actual results of, say, admissions and other evidence, guilty pleas *and* the well-deserved firing by those who so irresponsibly and against all educated and experienced advice hired the putative traitor to the subject position, the same jerk costing time, effort and money in a pretty transparent attempt for a crooked pardon.

      • bmaz says:

        Heh, I almost did not approve that comment because of, you know, what you said. I intended to come back and address it, but got busy.

        • vvv says:

          I really don’t know how all y’all here keep your patience with this stuff …
          I got suspended at a local newsgroup for troll-fighting, altho’ I don’t think it was any one thing I posted, just that I was willing to engage.

          I don’t mind contrary opinions based on facts and rationale, but political trolling just kinda sets me off.

          And it’s too early for a cocktail.

          • bmaz says:

            Meh, we have very long, and very deep, experience with this, and know how to deal. It comes with the territory.

  11. The Old Redneck says:

    When did “perjury trap” become a thing? There is absolutely, positively no such thing as a perjury trap. You don’t have to lie under oath, ever. You don’t have to lie to FBI agents either. If you choose to do so, you shouldn’t be surprised if you get charged with perjury.
    Whatever Sullivan’s eccentricities are, it seems like he might be annoyed at the thought that Flynn would come into his courtroom and lie to his face. If so, he should deny the request to change the plea, regardless of what DOJ now wants.

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