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Mike Flynn Was Renting His Name to the Highest Bidder While Ostensibly Working for Trump

In this post, I noted that for three initial subjects of the FBI’s investigation into Trump associates’ ties with Russia — Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos — the campaign gave similar reasons for firing them as the Mueller Report laid out about their behavior.

The fourth initial subject of the investigation is Mike Flynn. The campaign did not fire Flynn for his ties to Russia; in fact, according to some Flynn associates, Trump directed him to reach out to Russia during the campaign.

Nevertheless, last week, Trump complained that he hadn’t been informed that Flynn was under investigation earlier (presumably asking why he wasn’t given a defensive briefing that discussed the investigation into Flynn specifically).

Of course, as I mentioned, we know how Trump would have responded to a warning because we know how Trump responded to Obama’s warning about Flynn: he blew it off.

Still, that should in no way undermine the investigation into Flynn.

The Russian side of the investigation into Flynn, partly for his trip to Moscow where he sat with Vladimir Putin in December 2015, goes largely unmentioned in the Mueller Report, suggesting it may have become a counterintelligence investigation into Russia instead.

But we can review the Bijan Kian indictment — which is based significantly off Flynn’s cooperation — to see how sleazy Flynn was acting while ostensibly serving as one of Trump’s top advisors on the campaign trail.

After the failed coup attempt against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016 — around the same time Flynn was leading chants of “Lock her up” at the RNC — Erdogan was trying to persuade the American government to extradite Fethullah Gulen, using the coup as an excuse to crack down on a source of power that challenged his regime. After DOJ determined there was still no basis to extradite Gulen, Kian, Ekim Alptekin, and some high ranking Turkish officials reached out to Flynn’s consulting company. They asked what kind of spin Flynn and Kian could generate “on the short and mid-term,” but warned not to read anyone else in.

On July 30 — three months before the election — Kian and Flynn pitched a 3-month plan, again emphasizing the secrecy of the project. On August 2 — the same day Trump’s campaign manager got together with someone suspected of ties to Russian intelligence to talk about how to win Michigan and carve up Ukraine — Kian nudged Alptekin, again emphasizing the secrecy. On August 8, Alptekin approached the Turkish government.

This was also the period when Flynn started getting involved in an effort to find Hillary’s deleted emails from any possible source, including foreign intelligence services.

On August 11 — as the Turkish government grew closer to a deal and as Trump’s campaign manager started engaging in bigger and bigger lies to hide that he had been an Agent of Ukraine — Kian changed the name of the project, which had been “Truth” to “Project Confidence” and introduced Alptekin’s company, Inovo, as the funder as a cut-out t0 hide that Turkey was behind the plan. From that point forward, both Trump’s soon-t0-be-former campaign manager and one of his top national security advisors were engaged in subterfuge in an attempt to hide their work for foreign countries. In Flynn’s case, he was doing that work even as he campaigned for Trump.

On August 17, while negotiating a deal with the government of Turkey, Flynn accompanied Trump for his first intelligence briefing.

Flynn’s deal with Turkey was confirmed, with a 20% kickback to Alptekin for his company’s role as a cut-out, on August 25 and 26. When Kian put together the contract for the project on September 3, he set the start date two weeks after they really started it to hide that it was the same project for Turkey.

On September 8, Flynn would politicize the intelligence briefings he was attending with Trump while being paid by Turkey, claiming briefers indicated some policy differences with Obama.

“The intelligence we’ve received in the last two briefings were in stark contrast to the policy decisions being made,” Flynn said.

“They would say the intelligence professionals, as they should, they would say those are policy decisions,” Flynn continued. “So Donald Trump, in a very, very sophisticated way, was asking tough questions, and they would back off and say, ‘That is not our job, those are policy decisions at the—in this case the White House is making.’ And we would sit there and go, OK, we understand.”

Flynn, however, caught some controversy himself when NBC News reported on Thursday that Flynn was unruly in one of the briefings. The report stated that Trump’s transition chief, Chris Christie, had to calm Flynn down after he repeatedly interrupted intelligence officers with pointed questions.

On September 9, the first check arrived, $200,000, of which $40,000 went back to Alptekin as a kick-back.

On September 19, Flynn and his partners met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish Energy Minister (and Erdogan son-in-law) Berat Albayrak in New York and discussed how to bring about Gulen’s extradition. James Woolsey, attending the meeting as an advisory board member with Flynn’s firm, described the meeting as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” Woolsey declined his consulting fee after attending the meeting, in part out of legal concern, and let Joe Biden know about it via a mutual friend.

That was a week before the first Presidential debate.

On October 11, two days after the second presidential debate, the second check arrived, $185,000, with another $40,000 kicked back to Alptekin. Two days later, Flynn started reading from talking points scripted by Kian: funding, “Islamists,” and Mullahs.

On October 22, two days after the third debate, Flynn wrote members of the project team, referencing the Turkish officials who were the real customers for the project.

On November 2, days before Americans went to the polls, Flynn’s cut-out demanded more: private investigative work targeting Gulen’s supporters, congressional hearings on his schools. That same day, Kian sent Alptekin an op-ed he had drafted. Kian told Flynn the next day an editor was tightening it up before showing it to Flynn. November 4, Kian sent it to Alptekin, who loved it.

Flynn signed his name to Kian’s work and it was published in The Hill, blaming Gulen for the attempted coup, invoking “professionals in the intelligence community” viewing “the stamp of terror” in Gulen’s ideology, but the language was really written by Kian. The paid op-ed would go on to complain about Gulen’s “vast network of public relations” and his “false façade.”

On November 10, two days after Flynn’s op-ed and Trump’s victory and the day Obama warned Trump against picking Flynn to be his National Security Advisor, the third check came, another $200,000 to do the bidding of Turkey.

Even after the FARA office started nagging Flynn about registering, he stalled for the entire time he was in the White House, even while engaging Turkey and Russia in their joint peace plan for Syria. When he finally submitted his FARA filing on March 7, 2017, he falsely claimed he had written the op-ed as a public figure, not in the service of Turkey.

Trump may not have fired him. But both his wails that he should have been informed Flynn was under investigation (at a briefing Flynn attended) and that this investigation was in any way without predicate belie the sheer audacity with which Flynn sold his name to the highest bidder even while claiming to work for Trump.

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. 

Duty of Candor: The Timing of the Sessions News

Since Jeff Sessions fired Andy McCabe Friday night and Trump started ratcheting up his attacks on Robert Mueller, few Republicans have vocally supported Mueller (Jeff Flake, Trey Gowdy, and John McCain are exceptions; all are retiring).

There was, however, this story, reporting that three sources say Jeff Sessions was not as dismissive of George Papadopoulos’ plan to reach out to Russians as JD Gordon has claimed.

Three people who attended the March campaign meeting told Reuters they gave their version of events to FBI agents or congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the accounts they provided to Reuters differed in certain respects, all three, who declined to be identified, said Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos’ idea.

One person said Sessions was courteous to Papadopoulos and said something to the effect of “okay, interesting.”

The other two recalled a similar response.

“It was almost like, ‘Well, thank you and let’s move on to the next person,’” one said.

As the story notes, this conflicts with Jeff Sessions’ November 14 sworn testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.

So in the wake of the Attorney General firing McCabe for violating his duty of candor, three current or former Trump associates leaked that he lied to the House.

The thing is, there can’t be that many people who these sources could be. I’m not sure the annotations from Seth Abramson (above) are all correct, but here’s what it looks like.

Sessions and Gordon are on the record stating Sessions pushed back. Trump hasn’t testified yet.

One may well be Papadopoulos.

That leaves, starting with Abramson’s guesses (here’s a later list of Trump’s national security advisors, which should round out Abramson’s):

  • Joseph Schmitz, who left his job as DOD IG amid some scandal
  • Bert Mizusawa, who is running for VA Senate and presumably wants some national help, but he is himself a lawyer
  • Jim Hoskins, who’s career military (including a lot of time working in intelligence)
  • Walid Phares, appears to still be pitching Trump’s foreign policy adventurism
  • Gary Harrell, who is career special operations
  • Charles Kubic, who even contemporaneously was raising legal concerns about such outreach (and who would be a likely candidate to have been interviewed by Mueller since he showed up in email chains raising such concerns)
  • James Carafano may be the balding man in the foreground (though he’s not in Trump’s list of advisors) — he’s still running interference for Trump’s crazy foreign policy
  • Sam Clovis, who is not identifiable in the picture, raised concerns about legal issues and NATO concerns, but elsewhere was clearly involved in the effort to reach out to Russia, even per Carter Page; he’s in the news because of the potential conflict Joe Di Genova’s reported representation of Trump poses
  • Keith Kellogg is another possible candidate; he remains part of Trump’s foreign policy team and has been interviewed
  • James Woolsey is another candidate — we know he has spoken with Mueller and has been critical of the tension between the White House, Congress, and FBI of late
  • Stephen Miller was at the meeting and interviewed with Mueller last year; I would think he would be a Sessions loyalist, though

I raise all this because, while Republicans in Congress are largely dodging the issue of protecting Mueller from Trump, some people closer to the investigation are calling Sessions on his hypocrisy. That might be far more dangerous to the Trump administration in the near term.

The Flynn-Turkey Deal Raises the Obstruction Stakes for the Preet Bharara Firing

Twitter is abuzz this morning with the WSJ story (this is the NBC version of it; here’s a paywall free link) that Mike Flynn and his spawn hoped to make up to $15 million for kidnapping Fethullah Gulen and delivering him to Turkey.

Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference with the U.S. presidential election recently questioned witnesses about the alleged December 2016 meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials, two people knowledgeable with the interviews said. The questions were part of a line of inquiry regarding Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.

Mueller’s investigation into Flynn’s potential deal with Turkey was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Four people familiar with the investigation said Mueller is looking into whether Flynn discussed in the late December meeting orchestrating the return to Turkey of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan who lives in the U.S. Additionally, three people familiar with the probe said investigators are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the U.S. Zarrab is facing federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions.

The story has already been told; what’s new about this iteration of it is the eye-popping pay-off, as well as more details about the timing and location of a second meeting.

The meeting allegedly took place at the upscale 21 Club restaurant in New York, just blocks always from Trump Tower where Flynn was serving on the presidential transition team. Flynn was offered upwards of $15 million, to be paid directly or indirectly, if he could complete the deal, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Mostly, the focus has been on the kidnapping part of the story (perhaps, in part, because Republicans tried to attack James Woolsey for his involvement in it a few weeks back). But, because of the timeline, I think the far more interesting side of it is the inclusion of a deal on the Reza Zarrab prosecution — because that implicates Trump’s decision to fire Preet Bharara, substantiating a parallel case to his firing of Jim Comey.

As noted, SDNY is prosecuting Zarrab for laundering Turkish gold into Iranian coffers. Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey are representing Zarrab, with Giuliani going so far as brokering a deal that would trade foreign policy cooperation for Zarrab’s release even while defying pressure from DOJ about explaining his role in it. Because the case implicates Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally, the impending trial has led to increasing diplomatic tensions with Turkey.

By November 30, Trump assured Preet, as he did Comey, that he would stay on in the Trump Administration. But that changed when, in March, Trump unexpectedly asked for the resignation of almost all US Attorneys. Preet forced the issue and made Trump fire him; early reports suggested Marc Mukasey might replace Preet. Since then, Jeff Sessions has struggled to explain his own role in the firing, which could be an important element to proving the reasons behind it. In the same hearing, it came out that Trump has personally interviewed potential successors for Preet.

In the wake of the Preet firing, those watching closely honed in on the connection between increasing scrutiny on Flynn’s ties with Turkey and the firing.

There’s another reason we should all be alarmed by the unceremonious firing of Preet Bharara, outgoing U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Bharara is presently involved in a case against Reza Zarrab, a dual Iranian-Turkish national accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Investigators initially focused on Zarrab’s sanctions evasion. They then discovered that Zarrab was in close contact with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who used Illicit funds to provide weapons, financing and logistics for jihadi groups in Syria including ISIS.

Bharara has a reputation as a non-partisan professional. He is known for independence and resisting direction, which led to tensions with the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of State.

As it happens, Bharara’s dismissal occurred the same day [actually Flynn filed his FARA registration on March 7] former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn admitted to obscuring ties with Turkish interests in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Bharara’s dismissal also occurred in the wake of recent contact between Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, and Jared Kushner.

What this story provides is — like the Comey firing and not coincidentally also tied to Mike Flynn’s actions — important timing. In November, Trump promised to keep Preet. In December, Flynn continued his discussions with the Turks. In March, just after DOJ started forcing Flynn to reveal details about his work for Turkey, Trump reneged on his promise to Preet and — in the guise of firing everyone — fired Preet.

Here’s what the timeline looks like:

November 30: Trump tells Preet he can stay

Mid-December: Flynn has meeting discussing $15 million payoff for doing Turkey’s bidding

March 7: Flynn submits delated FARA registration ending in November

March 11: Trump fires Preet

Given Sessions’ confusion about whether he was really involved in that decision, I would bet there’s a paper trail showing he provided, as he did for the Comey firing, cover for a decision that had already been made.

The one other important detail of this story, which follows on stories from yesterday, is that Mueller has implicated Flynn Jr in this deal. That reportedly is already making Flynn Sr consider pleading, to protect his son.

But if he does that, he may be forced to disclose how closely Trump was involved in these discussions to sell US policy to Turkey to enrich a staffer.

The Checkered Neocon History of Mansoor Ijaz, Instigator of Pakistan’s “Memogate”

As I noted yesterday, Josh Rogin has been doing outstanding work on the issue now rocking Pakistan, a memo purportedly sent from the highest levels of the Pakistani civilian government seeking US support for shutting down the branch of Pakistan’s ISI that deals with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and weakening Pakistan’s military.  Now that Rogin has confirmed existence of the memo (and today has even provided a copy of it), I’d like to return to the figure who got this whole scandal started, Mansoor Ijaz.  Here is information Rogin dug up regarding Mansoor Ijaz back on November 8, when Michael Mullen was still denying existence of the memo:

This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.

Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between U.S. officials and former Pakistani Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton‘s White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.

In the mid-1990s, Ijaz traveled to Sudan several times and claimed to be relaying messages from the Sudanese regime to the Clinton administration regarding intelligence on bin Laden, who was living there at the time. Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security AdvisorSandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz’s allegations “ludicrous and irresponsible.”

Those are some pretty damning allegations.  Before moving to the detail from the source Rogin linked on Ijaz’s attempt to get $15 million from Pakistan in return for securing a positive vote in the House of Representatives for the Brown Amendment back in 1995, it’s worth getting the context for this bill.  From the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Read more

The NeoCons Make Unapologetic Call for McCarthyism against Muslims

One of the successors to the NeoCon organization PNAC, the Center for Security Policy, released a report the other day that makes an unapologetic call for trumped up McCarthyism targeted at Muslims.

The study rather humorously models itself on Team B–the alternate analysis Poppy Bush ordered up to paint the Soviet Union as an ongoing threat in 1976. They do so, apparently, in an effort to invoke St. Ronnie’s use of Team B’s “analysis” for electoral gain and ultimately to point to the usefulness of ideology to generate political support for foreign policy adventures. But nowhere do they bother to mention that Team B’s analysis was famously, embarrassingly wrong.

The effect of this authoritative alternative view was profound. Among others, former California Governor Ronald Reagan used the thrust of its findings to challenge détente and those in public office who supported this doctrine. Drawing on the thinking of Team B with regard to national security issues, Reagan nearly defeated President Gerald Ford’s bid for reelection in the 1976 primaries. Four years later, Reagan successfully opposed President Jimmy Carter, with their disagreement over the latter’s detentist foreign and defense policies towards Moscow featuring prominently in the former’s victory.

Most importantly, as President, Ronald Reagan drew on the work of Team B as an intellectual foundation for his strategy for destroying the Soviet Union and discrediting its ideology – a feat begun during his tenure and finally accomplished, thanks to his implementation of that strategy, several years after he left office.

Which is, I guess, CSP’s unapologetic endorsement of simply making shit up to create an enemy.

It’s stuff like this that led me to brand these clowns with the name “utilitarian postmodernists” some years back.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay these clowns any attention–they’ve got a long history of lying to support warmongering. But what really concerns me is the report’s insinuation that the country’s laws protecting speech–which were solidified in the process of protecting leftist speech–are too strong for their trumped up fight against Muslims.

Beginning in the 1960s, however, the Supreme Court drastically reinterpreted the First Amendment, gradually extending the original guarantee of American citizens’ right to engage in political speech, to include a constitutional protection to (a) subversive speech that could be construed as “advocacy,” rather than incitement to imminent lawlessness, and (b) the speech of non-Americans. Bowing to elite opinion, which scoffed at fears of communist penetration of our government and institutions, Congress (in such legislation as the 1965 Immigration Act, the 1978 McGovern Amendment, the 1989 Moynihan-Frank Amendment, and the 1990 Immigration Act) gutted the statutory basis for excluding and deporting individuals based on ideological beliefs, regardless of their subversive tendencies – at least in the absence of demonstrable ties to terrorism, espionage or sabotage.

Let us assume, again for argument’s sake, that there was some validity in the opinion elite’s critique that anti-communism went too far – and set aside the fact that such an assumption requires overlooking post-Soviet revelations that have confirmed communist infiltrations. The prior experience would not mean the security precautions that sufficed to protect our nation from communism are adequate to shield us from a totalitarian ideology cloaked in religious garb.

Such precautions are wholly inadequate for navigating a threat environment in which secretive foreign-sponsored international networks undermine our nation from within. That is especially the case where such networks can exploit the atmosphere of intimidation created by the tactics of their terrorist counterparts (including individual assassinations and mass-murder attacks on our homeland) in a modern technological age of instantaneous cross-continental communications and the increasing availability of mass-destruction weapons that allow ever fewer people to project ever more power.

We were wrong to let leftists exercise their free speech, these fearmongers say, in spite of the fact that our nation survived the Cold War. But the threat from Muslims is even stronger than the threat of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union. And so, they suggest, we must not only abridge the free speech of Muslims, but also change the law to allow deportations of those saying unpopular things.

So to sum up this latest stunt from the NeoCons: they unabashedly admit they intend to make shit up to sow fear of Muslims, and part of that will be targeting Muslims for deportation.