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Glenn Greenwald’s Invented Claims in Defense of Bill Barr and Mike Flynn

Last week, Glenn Greenwald did a podcast defending Bill Barr’s efforts to overturn the prosecution of Mike Flynn (here’s a transcript; the italicized language below is my correction of that transcript). A whole slew of people wrote me in alarm over some of the claims he made in it. After some reflection, I decided to do a post showing how the public record that Glenn claims to have consulted in his podcast at least undermines some of his claims, and in places utterly refutes it.

Two points about this. First, after I made it clear I was working on this in conversations with Glenn, he wrote this post, once again claiming to know details of what I shared with the FBI and what their response to that was, which I assume was an attempt to bully me into withholding this post. Ironically, The Intercept is fundraising off that post, celebrating a post that gets key details wrong. That is their prerogative. Glenn will apparently continue to make these claims; while there are baseless claims in it, I will continue to focus on correcting his baseless claims about other issues more central to current affairs.

Before Glenn posted that post, I asked if people would support this one by donating to my local food bank. This post took a great deal of work, at a time I’ve got far more important things to do from a reporting and personal perspective. If you recognize that work and if you can afford it at this time of crisis, please consider a donation to Feeding America West Michigan. Thanks!

False claim: Mueller acknowledged that the crime was not particularly serious by recommending that Flynn be sentenced to not a single day in prison

As “proof” that no one should be worried about DOJ’s actions with regards to Flynn, Glenn claims that prosecutors said Flynn’s crime was not serious and he should do no prison time.

These flamboyant warnings about the critical importance of the Flynn prosecution and the cataclysmic consequences of the Justice Department’s decision to request its dismissal are particularly odd since General Flynn was accused of a single crime lying to the FBI pled guilty to it. And then the prosecutor Robert Mueller and his prosecutorial team acknowledged that the crime was not particularly serious by recommending to the judge that General Flynn be sentenced to not a single day in prison, citing both the cooperation he gave to the prosecution as well as the nature of the crime. So even the prosecutors in this case, have said that the conviction that came from the plea bargain doesn’t warrant a second in prison time.

While Mueller’s team appeared amenable to probation in their first sentencing memo, they did not actually recommend probation, leaving it up to Judge Sullivan’s discretion. Moreover, they introduced their recommendation for a low end of guideline sentence by stating Flynn’s crime was serious.

The defendant’s offense is serious. As described in the Statement of Offense, the defendant made multiple false statements, to multiple Department of Justice (“DOJ”) entities, on multiple occasions.

[snip]

For the foregoing reasons, as well as those contained in the government’s Addendum and Motion for Downward Departure, the government submits that a sentence at the low end of the advisory guideline range is appropriate and warranted.

After Flynn tried to get cute in his own sentencing memo, the government reiterated the seriousness of Flynn’s crime.

The seriousness of the defendant’s offense cannot be called into question, and the Court should reject his attempt to minimize it. While the circumstances of the interview do not present mitigating considerations, assuming the defendant continues to accept responsibility for his actions, his cooperation and military service continue to justify a sentence at the low end of the guideline range.

When Judge Sullivan asked prosecutors about benefits Flynn had obtained from cooperating at the sentencing hearing, Brandon Van Grack indicated that Flynn had been exposed to conspiracy and Foreign Agent charges, which could amount to a ten or fifteen year sentence (which is what Flynn says Covington counseled him before he pled guilty).

THE COURT: I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. Your answer is he could have been charged in that [EDVA] indictment.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And that would have been — what’s the exposure in that indictment if someone is found guilty?

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I believe, if you’ll give me a moment, I believe it was a conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, which I believe is a five-year offense. It was a violation of 18 U.S.C. 951, which is either a five- or ten-year offense, and false statements — under those false statements, now that I think about it, Your Honor, pertain to Ekim Alptekin, and I don’t believe the defendant had exposure to the false statements of that individual.

THE COURT: Could the sentences have been run consecutive to one another?

MR. VAN GRACK: I believe so.

THE COURT: So the exposure would have been grave, then, would have been — it would have been — exposure to Mr. Flynn would have been significant had he been indicted?

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes. And, Your Honor, if I may just clarify. That’s similar to the exposure for pleading guilty to 18 U.S.C. 1001.

THE COURT: Right. Exactly. I’m not minimizing that at all. It’s a five-year felony.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Excuse me one second. (Brief pause in proceedings.)

THE COURT: Yes, Counsel.

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I’d clarify that the maximum penalty for 18 U.S.C. 951 is a ten-year felony and five years —

After Flynn blew up his plea deal, prosecutors got more explicit about the seriousness of Flynn’s crimes in their second sentencing memo, one that had to be delayed twice to get approvals from everyone in DOJ.

Given the serious nature of the defendant’s offense, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in – and his affirmative efforts to undermine – the prosecution of Bijan Rafiekian, and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct, the government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

[snip]

The defendant’s false statements to the FBI were significant. When it interviewed the defendant, the FBI did not know the totality of what had occurred between the defendant and the Russians. Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

[snip]

The defendant’s offense is serious, his characteristics and history present aggravating circumstances, and a sentence reflecting those factors is necessary to deter future criminal conduct. Similarly situated defendants have received terms of imprisonment.

[snip]

The defendant monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it. When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it.

The only time any sentencing memo raised probation was the reply memo in January, which came after Barr started the process of reversing Flynn’s prosecution.

As set forth below, the government maintains that a sentence within the Guidelines range – to include a sentence of probation – would be appropriate and warranted in this case.

[snip]

Based on all of the relevant facts and for the foregoing reasons, the government submits that a sentence within the Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration is appropriate and warranted in this case, agrees with the defendant that a sentence of probation is a reasonable sentence and does not oppose the imposition of a sentence of probation.

Inapt comparison: Bill Barr’s orchestration of Cap Weinberger’s pardon is worse than Bill Barr doing the pardon here

In a crazy bit of straw man argument, Glenn claims (with no evidence) that those complaining about the Flynn matter don’t also care about past abuses of clemency and prosecutorial discretion.

And yet we’re hearing that the refusal to proceed with it is the end of American justice as we know. Apparently under this view, prior subversions of justice by the executive branch, such as the Act that I regard as the single most corrupt attack on basic justice in the United States, which is a decision by President Bush 41 to pardon numerous of his closest aides implicated in crimes relating to the IranContra scandal, including his defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger who had been charged with perjury crimes and trials that would have likely led to the investigation and probably the conviction of President Bush 41 himself.

The comparison is inapt for reasons that go to the core of how we hold the President accountable for abuse of his Article II authority.

Mueller has made it clear that if Trump weren’t the President, he would have been indicted for obstruction. One act of his obstruction involved firing Jim Comey in an attempt to end the investigation into Flynn. Another involved calling Flynn’s lawyer, Rob Kelner, and demanding that Kelner alert him if he was implicating the President. Which is to say, even before Barr’s actions here, Trump had taken steps Poppy Bush is not known to have done to try to prevent Flynn from implicating him in — among other things — working to undercut sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of the 2016 election.

The evidence strongly suggests that Flynn avoided implicating Trump in the strategy of the Kislyak call, in a way that matched Trump’s public denials. Here’s how the Mueller Report concluded it did not have sufficient evidence to conclude that Flynn lied to the FBI to protect Trump.

Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.

[snip]

Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017.

This is a matter about which Trump tried to create a contemporaneous record, one John Eisenberg thwarted to avoid obstruction exposure.

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

It’s one of the topics the White House scripted Steve Bannon to give in his HPSCI testimony.

And it goes to a question Trump blew off entirely in his response to Mueller.

i. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

That is, Flynn’s limited cooperation on the Russian investigation did not implicate Trump in ways that would have exposed him legally.

That’s the background to Bill Barr’s actions since January. The difference between this and the Weinberger pardon is precisely the point. If, when prosecutors explicitly called for prison time in January, Trump had simply pardoned Flynn, it would the equivalent of the Weinberger pardon. In addition, Trump would face the direct political consequences of doing so in November.

Instead, leading up to his motion to dismiss, Barr (the architect of the Weinberger pardon, but Glenn doesn’t mention that) removed a Senate-confirmed US Attorney, installed an unconfirmed flunky to oversee career prosecutors, and then got an outsider to go “find” documents that had already been reviewed by two outside oversight entities (DOJ IG and John Durham). Then Barr overrode the career prosecutors’ decision to move to dismiss the prosecution. He has subsequently replaced the past flunky at DC USAO with another one. That is, Barr is putting people in place solely to protect those who’ve refused to testify against Trump law, and doing it in a way that limits the political cost Poppy incurred with the Weinberger pardon. It also limits what Barr himself conceded might be further exposure for Trump for obstruction charges.

Misdirection: The FBI was corrupt during the 2016 election

Glenn complains that the entire Deep State (including the NSA, which is particularly crazy given that Mike Rogers was interviewing with Trump at a time he was at odds with his bosses) acted corruptly during the 2016, with the implication that this affected Trump.

There’s another reason it’s so important to understand what happened in this case, which is that it sheds light on and directly relates to very widespread corruption on the part of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DOJ and other agencies within the US security state during the 2016 election. For overtly political ends we already know of several extremely shocking revelations demonstrating abuse of power on the part of those agencies as part of the 2016 election.

This feels like just word diarrhea, so maybe Glenn hasn’t thought through what he said. But Glenn seems to suggest any corruption at DOJ and CIA and FBI (and NSA?!?!) harmed Trump.

It’s true that the FBI opened an investigation into four people associated with Trump’s campaign based off a tip from Australia, one that John Durham has said should have been opened as a Preliminary Investigation rather than a Full one (which would have no affect on techniques used).

It’s true that the Carter Page FISA application — obtained close to the end of the election and in secret — had real problems, though DOJ IG did not conclude that those errors arose from political bias. With respect to Woods Procedure violations, Page’s applications were actually better than a bunch DOJ IG later reviewed. Moreover, the worst problems on the Page applications came later, on the last two applications, under the Trump Administration. While Trump’s DOJ withdrew the probable cause determination for the third and fourth Carter Page application, it has not done so for the two earlier ones.

Meanwhile, two people have been fired for their actions in 2016. Both did things that did major damage to Hillary Clinton. Jim Comey was fired in part because repeatedly violated DOJ’s prohibitions about discussing declinations (and in part because he didn’t coordinate the declination statement with DOJ). And Andrew McCabe was fired because he confirmed the existence of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and allegedly lied about doing so to DOJ’s IG. (Whether he actually did lie remains the subject of litigation; DOJ failed to get an indictment against McCabe and DOJ IG withheld the testimony of Michael Kortan from his report on it).

The investigation into the Clinton Foundation, unlike the investigation into Trump’s campaign, had been predicated off of GOP oppo research, Clinton Cash, and it was leaked before McCabe confirmed it.

In fact, the only evidence the DOJ IG Report provided of biased agents handling informants targeting a candidate involved that same Clinton Foundation investigation.

We reviewed the text and instant messages sent and received by the Handling Agent, the co-case Handling Agent, and the SSA for this CHS, which reflect their support for Trump in the 2016 elections. On November 9, the day after the election, the SSA contacted another FBI employee via an instant messaging program to discuss some recent CHS reporting regarding the Clinton Foundation and offered that “if you hear talk of a special prosecutor .. .I will volunteer to work [on] the Clinton Foundation.” The SSA’s November 9, 2016 instant messages also stated that he “was so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.” The SSA explained this comment to the OIG by saying that he “fully expected Hillary Clinton to walk away with the election. But as the returns [came] in … it was just energizing to me to see …. [because] I didn’t want a criminal to be in the White House.”

On November 9, 2016, the Handling Agent and co-case Handling Agent for this CHS also discussed the results of the election in an instant message exchange that reads:

Handling Agent: “Trump!”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Hahaha. Shit just got real.”

Handling Agent: “Yes it did.”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “I saw a lot of scared MFers on … [my way to work] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. Haha.”

Handling Agent: “LOL”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Come January I’m going to just get a big bowl of popcorn and sit back and watch.”

Handling Agent: “That’s hilarious!” [my emphasis]

Perhaps Glenn meant to incorporate FBI’s failures involving Hillary investigations in his comments, but if so, he didn’t mention it.

False claims: The Mueller Report represented the completion of all Trump-related investigations and Mueller gave no “hint” of any leverage over Trump

Glenn continues to misrepresent what the Mueller Report was.

The Mueller investigation itself revealed that the two critical conspiracy theories that droveRussiagate” [sic] for three years number one that Donald Trump and the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election and that number two the Kremlin exerted all kinds of blackmail leverage over Donald Trump to effectively be able to rule the United States for the benefit of Moscow using not just compromising videotapes, but also financial leverage. We know that all of that turned out to be a myth, a conspiracy theory without basis. And we know that for all kinds of reasons, particularly the fact that the Mueller investigation, after 18 months of highly aggressive subpoena driven probes into every component of those conspiracy theories ended without indicting even a single American, not one single American indicted for the crime of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election in the Muller report didn’t even hint that let alone give credibility to let alone prove that there was any leverage being exerted over Donald Trump or the Trump White House by the Kremlin when it comes to things like blackmail average or other financial leverage.

Congratulations to Glenn for, this time, not exaggerating how long Mueller worked (22 months) like he normally does.

But Glenn continues to misunderstand both the allegations and the evidence.

First, in addition to any compromise (primarily financial, not the pee tape) tied to the crimes Mueller investigated, there was also the issue of a quid pro quo, Trump trading policy considerations in exchange for Russia’s election help.

In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

That’s precisely why Flynn’s actions on sanctions were so important (as the language from the second sentencing memo makes clear). Glenn pretends that wasn’t investigated.

As regards to any “hint” of evidence of a conspiracy, the report specifically says that, “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” And when Glenn says the Report did not hint at such a relation, he necessarily is ignoring:

  • The improbably lucrative real estate deal offered to Trump with the involvement of a former GRU officer
  • The meeting offering dirt where Don Jr said the campaign would revisit a request for sanctions relief if they won
  • Paul Manafort’s sharing of internal campaign information with a GRU-connected oligarch, including at a meeting where he also discussed carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking; Manafort continued to pursue the Ukraine effort until he was jailed
  • Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases which — recent releases make clear — the FBI believes or believed involved advance notice of the dcleaks and Guccifer personas, followed by Stone’s effort to pay off Assange with a pardon, starting seven days after the election

Glenn also misconstrues the scope of the investigation, which included the transition period but (probably for very important constitutional reasons), with respect to a quid pro quo or even Putin’s influence over Trump (but not obstruction), ended on Inauguration Day. Similarly, he misconstrues the scope of the Report, which explicitly said it did not include counterintelligence issues like blackmail (something I’ve tried to help Glenn correct his errors on before).

Most importantly, Glenn again claims, in spite of abundant public records to the contrary, that Mueller reported after finishing everything up. That ignores the twelve sealed referrals, of which just the George Nader prosecution has been disclosed (though one surely relates to Jerome Corsi and another probably pertains to Stone).

It ignores documented evidence of ongoing investigations (another thing I already laid out for Glenn’s benefit):

It is a fact, for example, that DOJ refused to release the details of Paul Manafort’s lies — covering the kickback system via which he got paid, his efforts to implement the Ukraine plan pitched in his August 2, 2016 meeting, and efforts by another Trump flunkie to save the election in the weeks before he resigned — because those investigations remained ongoing in March [2019]. There’s abundant reason to think that the investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and Rudy Giuliani, whether it was a referral from Mueller or not, is the continuation of the investigation into Manafort’s efforts to help Russia carve up Ukraine to its liking (indeed, the NYT has a piece on how Manafort played in Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to cultivate Trump today).

It is a fact that the investigation that we know of as the Mystery Appellant started in the DC US Attorney’s office and got moved back there (and as such might not even be counted as a referral). What we know of the challenge suggests a foreign country (not Russia) was using one of its corporations to pay off bribes of someone. [Note: I have reason to believe, given a redaction in the recently-released Rosenstein scope memo, that this investigation is ongoing.]

It is a fact that Robert Mueller testified under oath that the counterintelligence investigation into Mike Flynn was ongoing.

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.

That’s consistent with redaction decisions made both in the Mueller Report itself and as recently as last week.

And it ignores documents released in the last month that show that, in September 2018, the government took a number of steps in a Foreign Agent investigation that were deliberately hidden from Stone (and all the rest of us). The redactions in those filings indicate the investigation remains ongoing. In addition to Foreign Agent charges, it includes conspiracy among the crimes being investigated. The prosecution of Stone on False Statements charges was, in part, an effort to obtain Stone’s notes of his election-year meetings with Trump and his encrypted communications in support of this more serious investigation.

Based on very recent documents, DOJ continues to investigate Trump’s rat-fucker for conspiracy and Foreign Agent charges. The Mueller Report clearly does not reflect the end result of these investigations, including with regards to whether Mueller believed any of Trump’s aides had conspired with Russia or its surrogates.

False claim: FBI had no basis for believing Carter Page was an Agent of Russia

Glenn claims that the FBI had no reason to believe Carter Page was an Agent of Russia.

Perhaps the most egregious of it concerns the spying that was done by the FBI by the Justice Department on US citizen and former Trump advisor Trump campaign advisor Carter page. It was revealed throughout 2017 and into 2018 that the FBI had obtained FISA warrants to spy on the communications of Carter Page. spying on the email and telephone communications of a US citizen is one of the most draconian acts that the FBI and the US government can do. And yet they did it to Carter Page after shortly after he had served as an advisor to the Trump campaign yet while the presidential campaign was still underway, and for two years we heard Carter Page is clearly an agent of the Russian government. He was clearly a key cog in the conspiracy to conspire between Trump the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the election. We heard it vehemently denied that the Steele dossier, the unproven unvetted mountain of allegations served as a basis for the FISA allegation and yet, after a very comprehensive investigation, by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice in 2019, a comprehensive report was issued that concluded that not only was there no basis for believing that Carter Page was an agent of the Russian government, but the FBI lied to the FISA court, in order to obtain the warrants, to eavesdrop on him an incredibly serious scandal for the FBI to spy on somebody who had been associated with a rival campaign during a presidential election, when it turned out that not only was there no basis for doing so, but that they actually lied to the court in order to obtain those warrants, and it was the Mueller Report itself. That made clear that there was never any reason to believe, contrary to the definitive assertions of the media and political consensus that we heard for years, there was no reason to believe that Carter Page was ever an agent of the Russian government.

The actions of the FBI on the Carter Page FISA applications are inexcusable (note, Glenn gets the dates of the FISAs wrong, but that’s not important). It’s clear that Kevin Clinesmith, in June 2017, affirmatively misrepresented information key to the application. And after the FBI started learning of problems with the Steele dossier, largely in 2017, they did not incorporate that into their applications about Page. Nothing excuses that.

The FBI opened a counterespionage investigation into Carter Page on April 6, 2016, long before that application, based off actions that preceded his designation as a Trump advisor.

The IG Report explained why there was basis to investigate Page as a foreign agent: because he not only willingly shared non-public economic information with known Russian intelligence officers, extending beyond the time he was closed by the CIA as an approved contact (and CIA did not know all instances in which he had done so), but when his role in the Evgeny Buryakov prosecution became clear, Page seemed to affirmatively seek to resume contact with the Russians. In addition, it (and released 302s) made it clear that Page tried to deny doing so when asked by the FBI about this in a follow-up. The DOJ IG Report also laid out how Page believed he would cash in on his ties with Russia. And the 302s show that the FBI did get information from witnesses that seemed to corroborate some of the claims in the Steele dossier (or at least indicate that Steele was getting the same rumors that some of the people who set up Page’s trips to Russia got). The Mueller Report also shows that Page was representing himself as Trump advisor on Ukraine policy during his December 2016 trip to Moscow, actions that (if they weren’t sanctioned by Trump, as they appear not to have been) damaged the President-elect. The IG investigators did not review all the intelligence obtained via the FISA order.

Also of note, DOJ IG did not understand the predication of the investigation against Page until after the report was published, misunderstanding that 18 USC 951 is a different crime than FARA, and as a result conducted a First Amendment analysis that would have been passed based off the economic espionage actions with known Russian intelligence officers.

The Mueller Report that Glenn treats as the end all and be all of the matter makes it clear the government still had questions about what happened with Page in Russia (and released 302s make it clear the government wasn’t able to account for all of Page’s time in Moscow).

The Office was unable to obtain additional evidence or testimony about who Page may have met or communicated with in Moscow; thus, Page’s activities in Russia-as described in his emails with the Campaign-were not fully explained.

And a redacted passage in the declinations section of the report (page 183) clearly provides more context.

False claim: FBI planted Stefan Halper within the Trump campaign

After a long rant about what a terrible person Stefan Halper is (which is beyond my focus), Glenn claims that the FBI planted him “within” the Trump campaign.

And yet Halper pops up in the middle of the Russia gate investigation to serve as an informant on the part of the FBI essentially a spy planted within the circle of Trump campaign officials to approach George Papadopoulos and to approach Carter Page and report back what he was hearing and finding to the FBI. Exactly what has long been claimed that the FBI had essentially planted a spy, a former CIA operative with close ties to the Bush’s within the Trump campaign during the course of the presidential election.

The DOJ IG Report describes that when the FBI first reached out to Stefan Halper to serve as an informant in the investigation, they were focused exclusively on Papadopoulos. But then Halper revealed he had already met Carter Page in July, and Page had asked him to join the campaign; Halper was already expecting a call from someone senior (presumably Sam Clovis) about joining the campaign, but said he did not want to join the campaign.

Case Agent 1 told the OIG that the team asked Source 2 about Papadopoulos, but Source 2 said he had never heard of him. The EC documenting the meeting reflects that Source 2 agreed to work with the Crossfire Hurricane team by reaching out to Papadopoulos which would allow the Crossfire Hurricane team to collect assessment information on Papadopoulos and potentially conduct an operation.

Case Agent 1 told the OIG that Source 2 then asked whether the team had any interest in an individual named Carter Page. Case Agent 1 said that the members of the investigative team “didn’t react because at that point we didn’t know where we were going to go with it” but asked some questions about how Source 2 knew Carter Page. Source 2 explained that, in mid-July 2016, Carter Page attended a three-day conference, during which Page had approached Source 2 and asked Source 2 to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign. According to the EC summarizing the August 11, 2016 meeting, Source 2 said he/she had been “non-committal” about joining the campaign when discussing it with Carter Page in mid-July, but during the August 11, 2016 meeting with the Crossfire Hurricane team, Source 2 “stated that [he/she] had no intention of joining the campaign, but [Source 2] had not conveyed that to anyone related to the Trump campaign.” Source 2 further stated he/she “was willing to assist with the ongoing investigation and to not notify the Trump campaign about [Source 2’s] decision not to join.” Source 2 also told the Crossfire Hurricane team that Source 2 was expecting to be contacted in the near future by one of the senior leaders of the Trump campaign about joining the campaign.

Everyone on the team specifically said that if Halper did join the campaign they would not use him as an informant.

All of the FBI witnesses we interviewed said that they would not have used Source 2 for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation if Source 2 had actually wanted to join the Trump campaign. SSA 1 said he did not remember anyone on the Crossfire Hurricane team advocating for Source 2 to actually join the Trump campaign and told the OIG he was relieved that Source 2 did not want to join the campaign “at all.” Strzok told the OIG his reaction was “no, no, no, no, no, no…. [O]h god no. Absolutely not” when he learned that Source 2 had been invited to join the Trump campaign. Case Agent 1 told the OIG that if Source 2 had joined the campaign, the Crossfire Hurricane team would not have used Source 2 “because that’s not what we were after.”

It is true that Halper had taped interviews with Page (who had already reached out to Halper and who subsequently would invite Halper to join his Russian-funded think tank), Clovis, and Papadopoulos during the campaign. But the IG Report makes clear that these actions had the proper approvals and did not focus on campaign activities.

Unsubstantiated claim: Halper accused Svetlana Lokhova of being a honey pot entrapping Flynn

Meanwhile, Glenn suggests Halper accused Svetlana Lokhova honey trapped Flynn.

But also, it was the same Stephen Halper that first tried to raise concerns that General Flynn had should have his patriotism and his loyalties held under suspicion, because he claimed that General Flynn was speaking with and working with a Russian scholar, a woman named Svetlana Lokhova, who was at Oxford, and he was concerned Stephen Harper was he said that Svetlana Lokhova was basically a honeypot a sexpot, designed to entrap General Flynn to turn into a spy.

There are two aspects to this claim: that Halper’s allegations about Lokhova were part of the reason the FBI investigated Flynn and that Halper specifically accused Lokhova of being a honey pot.

The EC opening the investigation into Flynn shows that Lokhova was not included in the predication of the investigation against Flynn, which included his role on Trump’s campaign, his TS/SCI clearance, his acceptance of money from Russian state entities like RT, and his trip to Moscow in December 2015.

The draft closing document that Glenn himself thinks is a smoking gun only describes one stream of CHS reporting that came in on Flynn — which likely is that of Halper. That stream amounted to very little, was not reported before Halper was asked (contrary to claims Sidney Powell has made), and if this is Halper, the lead was chased down and dismissed.

That is, either FBI didn’t even consider Lokhova, or if they did, they didn’t give it any credence, the exact opposite of what Glenn claims happened.

Glenn also made an argument about Maria Butina in there, which I’ve dismantled when Matt Taibbi made it.

Claim without evidence: Barack Obama disliked Flynn

Amid a section laying out what a staunch critic of Obama Flynn was, Glenn also claims that Obama strongly disliked Flynn.

It’s really not an overstatement to say that President Obama after a very short period of time couldn’t stand Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn is exactly the kind of general and exactly the kind of official that President Obama strongly dislikes. And the feeling was very mutual.

[a very very long-winded presentation of how Flynn feels about Obama but not vice versa]

What was important and what is important for the subsequent events is the fact that President Obama seethes but seethes with contempt for General Flynn and the feeling was very mutual.

I know of no evidence to support this. Public reports show Flynn was fired for performance reasons, and most accounts say that James Clapper made the decision.

False claim: Flynn worked for “interests connected to the Turkish government”

In a passage on Flynn’s consulting work, Glenn misrepresents what Flynn himself has said about the work.

And they represented numerous clients as people who leave the military and intelligence world often do, including foreign governments, including interests connected to the Turkish government, and that consulting work that General Flynn did at times was not properly disclosed, as it is very common for consultants not to disclose their work. But that was the work that he was doing between 2014 when he left the Obama administration and 2016 in the middle of 2016 when he became an important surrogate for the Trump presidential campaign.

This passage suggests that Flynn did not work directly for the Turkish government and did that work before he became a chief surrogate for Trump.

The record shows the engagement with Ekim Alptekin started in late July, after Flynn had already figured prominently in Trump’s convention. Just days before Flynn sat in on Trump’s first classified briefing, he responded to an email from Alptekin describing his meetings with two Turkish ministers on the project by saying, “Thank you Ekim for your kind update. This is an important engagement and we will give it priority on our side.” Alptekin responded by describing his meeting with the two Turkish ministers and stating, “I have a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget and the scope of the contract.”

Moreover, unless Flynn perjured himself before the grand jury, he was not just working for “interests connected with the Turkish government,” he was working for the Turkish government.

I think at the — from the beginning it was always on behalf of elements within the Turkish government.

Of particular note, one of the lies Flynn told Covington as they prepared his FARA filings was that he wrote the November 8 op-ed published under his name as part of an effort to boost the Trump campaign’s war on terror cred. In reality, Flynn did not write the op-ed at all, he simply put his name to it.

Date and substance problems describing the sanctions

In a long passage in which Glenn suggests Russian interference isn’t proven, Glenn also muddles a lot of the facts regarding Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

On December 29, President Obama, the Obama administration announced a new series of sanctions, as well as the expulsion of various diplomats aimed at Russia in order to punish Russia for what the Obama administration said was Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It was Obama’s last one of his last acts on the way out the door was to give Democrats what they wanted by sanctioning Russia, imposing imposing new sanctions on Russia and expelling Russian diplomat as retaliation or punishment for what they claim was Russian interference in the 2016 election. [my emphasis]

Both the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee have issued reports confirming the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the election. And yet Glenn here suggests this was just an empty Obama Administration claim.

Moreover, Glenn misrepresents the full basis for the sanctions, which also retaliated for escalating Russian harassment of US diplomats in Russia.

And while it’s a minor issue, Glenn gets the date of the sanctions wrong. They were first reported on December 28, which is important because Kislyak reached out to Flynn on that day, not the other way around (the timing of this is central to problems with the story Flynn told, which was designed to hide his consultations with people at Mar-a-Lago), as did someone from the Russian Embassy.

Elaboration: Claims about the conversation

In his description of the actual calls between Flynn and Kislyak, Glenn elaborates on the public record, suggesting Flynn talked about what might happen after Inauguration with regards to sanctions (rather than just setting up a call and attending a conference in Astana).

Once the Obama administration announced the sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats, General Flynn, ready to take office as National Security Adviser, called the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak on two separate occasions on that day, December 29. When these new reprisals were announced, essentially to tell him Look, there’s no reason for you to overreact. There’s no reason for you to retaliate. We’re about to take office in three weeks, we’re going to improve relations with you, we’re going to have a whole new relationship, so there’s no reason for you to do anything now that will force us in turn to retaliate. He was essentially trying to tamp down tensions to lay the groundwork for one of President Trump’s President Elect Trump’s campaign promises and foreign policy objectives which was to improve relations with Russia,

While it’s possible this is the way the call occurred, it’s not supported by the public record. The Mueller Report describes the conversation this way:

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

The detail that Flynn suggested Russia respond “in reciprocal manner” is important because Russia did even less than that.

While Glenn says there were two calls between Flynn and Kislyak, he doesn’t describe the second one from these days, which is critical background to why the FBI focused on Flynn because of the calls. The Mueller Report describes it this way:

On December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and that Russia had chosen not to retaliate to the sanctions in response to the request. 1268

The transcripts themselves remain classified, as do Sally Yates’ descriptions of what was most alarming about these transcripts.

So we don’t yet know why reading the transcripts rather than hearing about the call elicited strong reactions from those who did read them, but they did, including not just people in the Deep State, but also Reince Priebus and Mike Pence.

Misrepresentation: It is normal for incoming National Security Advisors to reach out to their counterparts

Glenn correctly claims that it is normal for incoming national security officials to reach out to their counterparts. It is! He doesn’t say what made Flynn’s actions unusual, which is what increased the urgency about them: the lies he told to others within the Administration about the calls.

It is extremely common for transition teams and for national security officials who are incoming and an administration to reach out to their counterparts to try and create a new positive relationship. And that’s what General Flynn did by twice calling Ambassador Kislyak, whom he had known from his experience working as director of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency on December 29. Now those two conversations that General Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak were being monitored and recorded by the National Security Agency something that is extremely common is standard practice, as General Flynn knows and knew, because the NSA monitors and records the calls of as many officials as they possibly can, particularly in governments they consider to be adversarial such as Russia.

For some reason (perhaps so Glenn can liken surveilling US-based foreign officials with surveilling allies overseas) Glenn claims NSA picked up this intercept. FBI did.

But his silence about what makes Flynn’s actions here is utterly inexcusable: Flynn lied about what he had done to Mike Pence and others, which raised real questions at FBI about whether he was freelancing when he made the call (which might rightly be regarded as damage to Trump). As Mary McCord testified, that’s what made these calls different.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners, so the Logan Act seemed like a stretch to her. She described the matter as “concerning” but with no particular urgency. In early January, McCord did not think people were considering briefing the incoming administration. However, that changed when Vice President Michael Pence went on Face the Nation and said things McCord knew to be untrue. Also, as time went on, and then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made comments about Flynn’s actions she knew to be false, the urgency grew.

Note, too, some other small details here. Flynn knew Kislyak from paying a call before his RT gala trip; he denied any memory of meeting him in connection with his trip to Russia sponsored by the GRU. But he also made calls to Kislyak during the election that he attributed to condolence calls, which is the same excuse he used to claim his December calls weren’t about undermining US policy. It’s not public whether those other calls match Flynn’s claimed explanations for them.

False claims: Strzok and Page talked about needing to impede Trump and “discovered” these transcripts

Glenn next tells a story of the discovery of the Flynn-Kislyak transcript where the villains of his story play the central role, actually trolling through the FBI collections and discovering the conversations.

The NSA was spying on so General Flynn obviously knew and he later told the FBI that he knew that those conversations were being monitored or recorded, but they were being monitored and recorded because the NSA had successfully obtained access to Ambassador Kislyak’s communications knowledge of those two telephone calls that Michael Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak made its way to two particular officials with the FBI, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Paige, who became very controversial later on both because they were having an affair with one another, an extramarital affair, but more importantly, because there were all kinds of email exchanges between the two throughout the 2016 presidential election as they were participating in the investigation of the Trump campaign, where they were explicitly talking about the need to make certain that Donald Trump lost and then the need once he won to impede him to damage him and to try and undermine him anyway that they can. So it was these two FBI officials who discovered these conversations that General Flynn had with Ambassador Kislyak.

There are a lot of small details here that Glenn gets wrong.

As noted, the calls were monitored by FBI, not NSA (which is not a significant difference but notable since Glenn and Snowden conflate foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement).

The FBI discovered the calls because the IC was trying to figure out why Putin didn’t respond as expected.

And so the last couple days of December and the first couple days of January, all the Intelligence Community was trying to figure out, so what is going on here? Why is this — why have the Russians reacted the way they did, which confused us? And so we were all tasked to find out, do you have anything that might reflect on this? That turned up these calls at the end of December, beginning of January.

There’s not a shred of reason to believe that Strzok or Page “discovered” these conversations (Comey says analysts did).

I assume Glenn’s descriptions of the emails about “making certain Trump lost” are some text, not email, exchanges explained at length in the Midyear Exam IG Report. The most damning text dates to August 8, 2016, shortly after Crossfire Hurricane was opened.

“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”203

Another damning text dates to August 15, 2016, recounting a dispute in Andy McCabe’s office about how aggressively to conduct the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40….”

Importantly, Strzok lost his bid to investigate more aggressively during the election, just like he lost his bid to investigate Hillary as aggressively as possible. While these are utterly damning (even with Strzok’s explanations of them), as the later IG Report made clear, the report concluded — having read all the Page and Strzok texts — neither Strzok nor Page were in a position to unilaterally make decisions.

The only known text that might remotely suggest either was trying to “impede him to damage him” pertains to a discussion about whether Strzok should join the Mueller investigation. In it, he said he didn’t think there was much there.

“For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with MYE. Now I need to fix it and finish it.” Later in the same exchange, Strzok, apparently while weighing his career options, made this comparison: “Who gives a f*ck, one more A[ssistant] D[irector]…[versus] [a]n investigation leading to impeachment?”204 Later in this exchange, Strzok stated, “you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

If Glenn is relying on this (he didn’t cite anything), Glenn claims that a text showing that the guy whose goal (he says) was to impede Trump didn’t think there was much implicating Trump, and he uses that as proof he was out to sabotage Trump. It seems, instead, to be proof that Strzok didn’t let his view of Trump cloud his assessment of the evidence, a conclusion backed by other known details of the investigation.

False claim: Lisa Page and Peter Strzok decided to keep the investigation into Flynn open

Glenn’s interpretation of the texts showing Strzok’s actions, especially, claims both that Comey didn’t want to investigate Flynn and did want to. At first, for example, Glenn suggests that Comey had ordered — rather than authorized — the closure of the investigation. It suggests some “snafu” rather than bureaucratic lassitude delayed the closure. And it suggests the Page and Strzok led this decision-making.

James Comey and the leadership of the FBI had decided to close the only pending investigation that the FBI had into General Flynn, which was part of the Operation Hurricane investigation, the investigation about improper ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government James Comey and the FBI leadership concluded there was no evidence to believe that General Flynn had any improper contacts or connections with let alone had conspired with the Russian government during the election and as ordered that investigation closed and filed the paperwork in early January. But when Peter Strzok and Lisa Page got hold of these conversations that Ambassador Kislyak had had with General Flynn and decided they wanted to investigate him for it and use it against him, they discovered in early January that the order that James Comey and FBI leadership had given to close the investigation against Michael Flynn never was finalized because of a bureaucratic snafu. That investigation contrary to the decision that the FBI had remained open and what the newly discovered documents reveal, among other things, is that Peter struck and Lisa page celebrated. The bureaucratic snafu was good luck because it meant that there was now a still a pending investigation that was supposed to have been closed into General Flynn, who they could latch on to and hook on to in order to try and investigate him. Now because of these new conversations that he had with Ambassador Kislyak.

Comey testified that he authorized — not ordered — the investigation to be closed.

At that point, we had an open counterintelligence investigation on Mr. Flynn, and it had been open since the summertime, and we were very close to closing it. In fact, I had — I think I had authorized it to be closed at the end of January, beginning — excuse me, end of December, beginning of January. And we kept it open once we became aware of these communications. And there were additional steps the investigators wanted to consider, and if we were to give a heads-up to anybody at the White House, it might step on our ability to take those steps.

[snip]

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

The part of the texts that Glenn relies on to say Page and Strzok celebrated the case hadn’t been closed makes it clear that incompetence, not any snafu, had delayed the closure. It also makes clear that these decisions were coming from the 7th floor (that is, McCabe or Comey).

Other critics of these actions rely on that 7th floor detail to substantiate their claim of a great plot, but even imagining there was one, it would mean Page and Strzok don’t have the decisive role Glenn says they did.

Misrepresentation: Jim Comey wanted to investigate a person rather than a call

Both in the above passage and a following one, Glenn suggests that the existence of these calls was used as excuse to investigate Flynn, rather than the existence of transcripts showing the incoming NSA altering Putin’s behavior would always be reason to investigate.

James Comey wanted to investigate General Flynn. He wanted to do what he could use these newly discovered calls Against General Flynn, but the Justice Department then led by acting director, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, believe that it was improper to investigate what was about to be a high level White House official without notifying the Trump transition team and then the Trump White House that the FBI was investigating what was seemed to become a very high level official, and they thought about it and they thought about it until James Comey without notifying the attorney general or the Justice Department officials who were opposed to it sent FBI agents to general Flynn’s office with the intention of questioning him about the telephone calls that he had with the Russian ambassador,

As the texts above make clear, at first no one knew what to do about these calls.

Once again, Glenn doesn’t mention the role of Flynn’s lies to Mike Pence in leading everyone, including DOJ, to treat the transcripts differently.

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

As Yates described it, things heated up after it became clear Flynn had lied.

In early January, DOJ began to “ramp up” their discussions regarding Flynn, in reaction to a David Ignatius column describing the phone calls in early January 2017, followed by a statement where Sean Spicer around January 13, in which Spicer denied there was sanctions talk on the calls and stated that the Flynn calls were logistical. The false statement by Spicer, which Yates assessed to be the White House “trying to tamp down” the attention, caused DOJ to really start to wonder what they should do.

On January 13, 2017, things “really got hot.” On that day, Vice President Pence was on Face the Nation and stated publicly he’d spoken to Flynn and had been told there had been no discussion of sanctions with Kislyak. Yates recalled she was in New York City that weekend, and received a call from McCord notifying her of the statements. Prior to this, there had been some discussion about notifying the White House, but nothing had been decided. Until the Vice President made the statement on TV, there was a sense that they may not need to notify the White House, because others at the White House may already be aware of the calls.

There are redactions in Yates’ testimony that likely hide critical details. But Yates did concede that,

Generally, when the Intelligence Community learns of a “criminal investigation,” their reaction is to back off and defer to the FBI; [redacted] Yates did not herself believe the investigation would be negatively impacted, but Brennan and Clapper backed off after their talk with Comey.

False claim: The FBI made Flynn tell lies he wasn’t already telling

Glenn then turned to Bill Priestap’s notes, quoting from the part that reflects a rethinking about whether they should share Flynn’s own words with him, rather than the part that lays out the overall goal of the interview. 

The day that FBI agents including Peter Strzok were sent to General Flynn to interrogate him about the calls that he had with General Kys — Ambassador Kislyak, and those handwritten notes made clear that the FBI was overtly flirting with an entertaining if not outright, executing an interrogation with corrupt and improper motives specifically to purposely induce General Flynn to lie to them so that they could use those lies to then punish him or turn him into a criminal to handwritten notes from the FBI official Bill Priestap specifically explicitly state quote, what’s our goal truth slash admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired? This is revealing that the FBI had no real interest in interviewing General Flynn about what he said to Ambassador Kislyak because they already knew what he said since they had the transcripts of those conversations the result of the surveillance that was done on those calls, the only conceivable objective to go and interview him was to purposely induce him to lie not show him those transcripts, asked him what he talked about in that conversation that he had almost a month earlier, and the hope of getting him to lie so that they could get him fired. Not exactly a legitimate FBI objective, or turn him into a criminal create a new crime by using their power of interrogation to induce him to lie and then charged him with lying to the FBI. Whatever the ultimate motive was, these notes are highly incriminating about what the FBI’s real intentions were.

Again, Glenn said nothing about Flynn’s lies to Pence, which undermines the claims Glenn makes here. The public record at the time supported a suspicion that Flynn had gone rogue in his call to Kislyak, and was hiding what he had done with the Administration. Indeed, the public record still claims that Trump did not instruct Flynn to take these actions (though he applauded them after the fact).

That background is particularly important because the notes are consistent with several other contemporary pieces of documentation, including what Bill Priestap told Mary McCord contemporaneously and what Comey said a few months later. which show the purpose of the interview was to see whether Flynn would be honest about his conversations with Russia, particularly in light of Flynn’s apparent lies to Mike Pence and Sean Spicer.

That’s the very same purpose for the interview laid out in the second sentencing memorandum approved by Bill Barr’s DOJ just months ago.

And Glenn ignores how those notes also show that FBI backed off its initial plan not to share any details from the transcripts, but instead to quote his words back to him, effectively sharing the content of it. The 302 shows that the FBI Agents did that. In one instance, Flynn even thanked the FBI Agents for their reminder.

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled. any discussions with KISLYAK about a United Nations (UN) vote surrounding the issue of Israeli settlements. FLYNN quickly responded, “Yes, good reminder.” On the 22nd of December, FLYNN. called a litany of countries to include Israel, the UK, Senegal, Egypt, maybe France and maybe Russia/KISLYAK.

But each time they did so with respect to Russia, the 302 shows, Flynn lied.

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled any conversation with KISLYAK in which the expulsions were discussed, where FLYNN might have encouraged KISLYAK not to escalate the situation, to keep the Russian response reciprocal, or not to engage in a “tit-for-tat.” FLYNN responded, “Not really. I don’t remember. It wasn’t, ‘Don’t do anything.'” The U.S. Government’s response was a total surprise to FLYNN.

Glenn also utterly and hilariously misrepresents what happened between that initial interview, the investigations that revealed conversations with Mar-a-Lago that Flynn had lied about in the interview, and when Flynn accepted a plea deal in November 2017 because he faced up to 15 years on the Foreign Agent charges.

Conflation of the leak that the Steele dossier had been briefed and the sharing of the Steele dossier

Glenn then moves onto the Steele dossier, suggesting that the person who leaked a detail from Trump’s briefing had the intent of leading BuzzFeed to publish it, and conflating the public reporting on Trump with the FBI’s investigation of him.

CNN and CNN on January 10, reported that the director of the FBI had gone and briefed President Elect Trump to inform him of highly compromising information in the hands of the Kremlin. But this but CNN said that they weren’t going to describe the nature of that compromising information because they hadn’t been able to vet it or determine whether or not it was really true. But that was a limitation that BuzzFeed quickly decided that they were not going to be constrained by him so very predictably, and almost certainly intentionally from the perspective of whoever leaked this briefing. BuzzFeed then published what is now called the Steele dossier. And that forever altered the course ofRussiagate” [sic]those allegations those scurrilous and ultimately unproven allegations in the Steele dossier. About the Kremlin holding blackmail information over Trump about the sexual and the financial nature and all of the other highly inflammatory inflammatory material ended up shaping what becameRussiagate” [sic] and at least the first two to three years of the Trump presidency leaked by the very, very same people who were in the process of now exploiting the failure to close the Flynn investigation to also investigate.

Glenn seems to insinuate here that FBI leaked the Steele dossier to Buzzfeed. David Kramer did (and in fact, FBI didn’t have one of reports in the dossier that got leaked yet, so they couldn’t have leaked it).

His claim that the Steele dossier changed the Russian investigation is precisely the claim Paul Manafort started pushing after meeting a top Deripaska aide in Europe in early 2017, suggesting that was the point if the dossier was Russian disinformation. But there’s a difference between saying that the dossier was the basis of public reporting on Trump — in the same way that Clinton Cash was the basis of public reporting on the Clinton Foundation — and saying it drove the FBI’s work in the wake of its leak.

It is clear that the FBI used the Steele dossier to establish probable cause in the Carter Page applications even after it learned information that should have led it to stop. The FBI also used the publication of the dossier as an excuse to interview George Papadopoulos. But there’s no basis to believe it impacted the others, including Flynn. For example, the draft closing document on Flynn only made one reference to a CHS (which is how FBI treated Steele) and it clearly wasn’t a reference to Steele. And the predication of the investigation into Michael Cohen made no mention of the dossier, even though the most inflammatory claims in the dossier were about him.

So while the dossier may have mattered to Glenn and other people not actually following the evidence closely, aside from the very notable example of the Carter Page FISA application, the FBI primarily used it as an excuse to interview George Papadopoulos. For everyone else, there’s no evidence it played a big role.

Claim without evidence: David Ignatius should go to prison for his Kislyak leak

In his treatment of the inexcusable leak to David Ignatius, Glenn suggests that leak was more criminal than anything else (even though Glenn himself has published such information), claiming that someone leaked “NSA intercepts.”

The Washington Post David Ignatius, who has built a career, receiving leaks from the CIA and publishing what the CIA wants him to publish published a column in which he revealed for the first time that the NSA had monitored the conversations between General Flynn on the one hand and Ambassador Kislyak on the other and after that, the contents of the communications between General Flynn Ambassador Kislyak were elite to both the Washington Post and the New York Times, which published in detail what those communications were. Now the reason that’s so striking is because under the law, it is a crime, obviously, to leak classified information of any kind, any information that’s classified, if somebody inside the government leaks it to a journalist, that’s a crime. But there’s only a narrow number of types of information that can become a crime for the journalists to actually publish it. The most serious kind of information is not only a crime for that leaker to leak to the journalists, but for the journalists to publish it. And one of those types of information is exactly the type that people inside the intelligence community leaked in order to destroy the reputation of General Flynn, namely intercepts by the NSA, of the communications of foreign officials. And the reason that the intelligence community in the law regards leaks of that type. So grave is such a grave offense is obvious because it has the potential to ruin the ability of the NSA to continue to monitor that information by alerting the adversary that they have access to that communication. If you look at the relevant law, which is title 18 of the US Code Section 798 that specifies when it’s a crime not just to leak classified information, but for a journalist to publish it. It specifies exactly the kind of information that people inside the government are leaking against General Flynn that’s how far they were willing to go that law reads quote, whoever knowingly and willfully communicates or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person or publishes any class government shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both. Now, you can see it explicitly provides that the crime is not just leaking. But publishing it’s one of the few types of leaks where you can actually criminalize the journalist now I’m against this law.

As noted above, these were FBI intercepts (though that likely doesn’t change the Espionage Act analysis).

I don’t defend the leak to Ignatius (and raised questions about it contemporaneously). But it’s important to note several things: it is sourced in a way — senior US government official — that could be second-hand (which is what Comey seemed to believe), could be an Original Classification Authority (Flynn’s team has accused James Clapper of the leak), which would not actually be a leak or illegal — it would be directly equivalent to many of the releases Ric Grenell has recently made — or could be a member of Congress. Glenn accused a vague “they” of leaking it with no evidence that the FBI did it.

Indeed, one thing Barr’s DOJ reclassified in the motion to dismiss is a detail from McCabe’s notes of his call with Flynn reflecting real concern about the leaks.

This was first shared with Judge Sullivan in unredacted form when he took Flynn’s plea in December 2018. This version is, in some respects, more classified than a version released last May. For example, last May DOJ revealed that McCabe agreed with Flynn that leaks were a problem.

Today’s version redacts that line as classified.

Similarly, the frothy right has totally misrepresented Strzok and Page’s concerns about the leak of Carter Page’s FISA order.

Also, there’s nothing in the Ignatius column that necessarily proves he got the content of the call, which is a closer case than Glenn makes out here under 18 USC 798.

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Glenn has published a great deal of information that would violate this law, claiming it served the public interest. He is here substituting his judgment for Ignatius and the leaker in the same way others have questioned his and Snowden’s judgment.

The Logan Act Is Just the Cherry on Mike Flynn’s Foreign Agent Sundae

There’s an ironic line in Billy Barr’s CBS interview this week, where he acknowledges that prosecutors can become too wedded to a particular outcome.

These are very smart people who were working in the special counsel’s office, and in senior levels of the FBI. So what drove them here?

Well, I think one of the things you have to guard against, both as a prosecutor and I think as an investigator, is that if you get too wedded to a particular outcome and you’re pursuing a particular agenda, you close your eyes to anything that sort of doesn’t fit with your preconception. And I think that’s probably the phenomenon we’re looking at here.

That’s because Barr and Sidney Powell have the frothy right chasing the Logan Act like six year olds after a soccer ball as if that was the only basis to interview Mike Flynn on January 24, 2017. It’s unclear whether frothy commenters have been duped by Barr’s guile, or they just haven’t read the record.

The record is crystal clear, however: When the investigation into Mike Flynn was opened on August 16, 2016, he was being investigated as a witting or unwitting Agent of a Foreign Power (Barr’s DOJ — and DOJ IG — have both made the same error in suggesting this was just about FARA, but the investigation was also predicated under 18 USC 951). Timothy Shea conceded in his motion to dismiss the prosecution that that investigation was never closed. And evidence from three different contemporaneous witnesses — Jim Comey, Mary McCord, and Bill Priestap — say that’s why the FBI interviewed Flynn on January 24, 2017.

Bill Priestap made clear that they did this interview to find out whether Flynn was acting as an agent for Russia.

The FBI’s provided rationale for doing the interview was that the existence of the investigation had already leaked, so Flynn was already aware that the information was being discussed publicly and there was no element of surprise. Priestap told the group the goal of the interview was whether to determine whether or not Flynn was in a clandestine relationship with the Russians.

That’s what Comey said, too.

MR. COMEY: To find out whether there was something we were missing about his relationship with the Russians and whether he would — because we had this disconnect publicly between what the Vice President was saying and what we knew. And so before we closed an investigation of Flynn, I wanted them to sit before him and say what is the deal?

The Priestap notes that the frothy right is pointing to as proof of abuse makes quite clear that the point of the interview was not to create a perjury trap, but to see whether Flynn would be honest about his relationship with the Russians.

Bob Litt, who (per these same records) was the first person to raise the Logan Act, analyzed the ways that Timothy Shea’s motion conflicts with the FBI’s DIOG. He described the interview to be, first and foremost, about counterintelligence.

The attorney general and his minions are making the astounding argument that when the FBI—aware of extensive Russian interference in U.S. politics in order to benefit the Trump campaign—learned that the incoming national security advisor requested that Russia not respond to the sanctions that were imposed in response to that interference and then lied to other government officials about that, it could not even “collect information or facts to determine” whether this created a counterintelligence threat. This cannot be right. Even if the prior investigation into Flynn had been closed, which it had not, these circumstances at a minimum justified an assessment under standard FBI policy.

In fact, the department’s motion virtually concedes the point. It dismisses Flynn’s lies to Pence and Spicer by saying that “[h]ad the FBI been deeply concerned about the disparities between what they knew had been said on the calls and the representations of Vice President Pence or Mr. Spicer, it would have sought to speak with them directly, but did not.” But that would be a kind of investigative activity, and under the DIOG, either the FBI has a basis to investigate or it doesn’t. If the facts justified talking to Pence about Flynn, they justified talking to Flynn.

Once you have a predicated investigation into 18 USC 951, adding another potential crime (the Logan Act) does not change that the investigation into 18 USC 951 remained, per Shea, ongoing.

In his interview, Barr misrepresents the record to claim what Flynn did — undermining the punishment imposed on a hostile foreign country after they attacked us — was “laudable.”

They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition. So.

[snip]

Let me say that, at that point, he was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.

And that call, there was nothing wrong with it whatever. In fact, it was laudable. He– and it was nothing inconsistent with the Obama administration’s policies. And it was in U.S. interests. He was saying to the Russians, you know, “Don’t escalate.” And they asked him if he remembered saying that, and he said he didn’t remember that.

There are several problems with this claim.

For starters, at first, Mary McCord agreed with this take. She dismissed the call for the same reasons Barr still does — that this was just the typical communication between an incoming national security team and foreign leaders.

Two things changed her mind.

The first was the evidence that Flynn was lying about what he did to others in the incoming Administration.

It seemed logical to her that there may be some communications between an incoming administration and their foreign partners, so the Logan Act seemed like a stretch to her. She described the matter as “concerning” but with no particular urgency. In early January, McCord did not think people were considering briefing the incoming administration. However, that changed when Vice President Michael Pence went on Face the Nation and said things McCord knew to be untrue. Also, as time went on, and then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made comments about Flynn’s actions she knew to be false, the urgency grew.

It is normal for officials in incoming Administrations to reach out to foreign leaders. But it is not the norm for incoming officials to freelance, to set policy that no one else in the Administration knows about. And the public evidence at the time the FBI interviewed Flynn was that he had done this on his own and was actively hiding it form his colleagues (as indeed the current record says he was).

The record that Barr distorted in this interview shows that FBI was in a holding pattern until there was public evidence that Flynn had lied to others in the Administration, which not only changed the calculus about warning the Administration, but created urgency to take an investigative step FBI might not otherwise have done.

The other thing that changed McCord’s mind about whether this was the normal pre-inauguration outreach was reading the transcript.

After reading them, she felt they were “worse” than she initially thought; she noted that her recollection of them is that Flynn proactively raised the issue of sanctions, and she feels it is hard to believe he would forget talking about something he raised himself.

Sally Yates described Flynn make a series of asks, some of which remain classified.

And McCord wasn’t the only one who responded that way. Once Mike Pence and Reince Priebus read the transcripts, Flynn was out the door the next day.

Notably, even though Ric Grenell is in the middle of a declassification spree, neither he nor Barr have chosen to declassify the actual transcripts here, even though Flynn has requested them repeatedly. Barr’s DOJ is also withholding other details that would describe the reaction of Administration officials to reading the transcript in the Buzzfeed FOIA. So it’s easy for Barr to claim this was normal, but a career prosecutor who read the transcripts said they weren’t, and Barr is deliberately withholding information that would let us test that claim.

This is why DOJ’s materiality argument fails, too. Had Flynn told the truth, the FBI might have had reason to treat this as the normal pre-inauguration contact. But once he lied, the FBI had more reason to continue investigating, to try to figure out why he lied. All the more so given that Flynn was hiding his other Foreign Agent relationship with Turkey at the time.

If Flynn’s behavior were, as Barr claims, “laudable,” then he would have simply admitted it. Once he lied about it, the FBI had more reason to suspect he had been freelancing, deliberately undermining American policy without the sanction and knowledge of others in the Trump Administration.

Only one thing explains Barr’s view, and it is damning. The FBI had reason to investigate anyway, and as Litt correctly lays out, these actions were solidly within the guidelines laid out in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. But the only way to conclude, as Barr has, that Flynn’s actions — calling up the Russian Ambassador and telling him not to worry about the sanctions imposed for helping Trump get elected — are not clear cut evidence that he was clandestinely operating as an Agent of Russia is if Trump told him to do it.

That doesn’t make it laudable. But it is as close as we’ve ever come to an admission that Flynn did this not just with the knowledge of, but on orders from, Trump. That’s probably why Trump is boasting about learning from Nixon right now: Because unlike Nixon, he got away with cheating to win an election.

Research Misinfo/Disinfo: Ain’t No Sunshine Kill COVID-19 Gone

[Check the byline, thanks! /Rayne]

I thought this series would end after three posts but clearly the misinfo/disinfo related to research studies on COVID-19 continues.

This time Department of Homeland Security is one of the problem children.

By now you know about Trump’s wrong-headed comments about light and disinfectants used in and on humans’ bodies to eliminate SARS-CoV-19. You’ve also heard he gaslighted the public by claiming he was being sarcastic during Thursday’s briefing about light and disinfectants, followed by even more dog-ate-my-homework excuses.

You may have heard speculation that bleach as a COVID-19 therapy specifically may have been the result of communications with Trump by some crackpot who sells this re-labeled chlorine dioxide product as a miracle cure-all.

What you probably haven’t seen is the DHS’s “study” which may also have spurred Trump’s idiotic remarks about light or sunlight. Yahoo News reported about the “study” a week ago, sharing a link to the DHS document it received outlining DHS’s findings.

It’s not a paper. It’s a goddamned slide presentation of which stability of SARS-CoV-19 on surfaces was only a portion.

No peer-reviewed study has been published by DHS in any of the articles since Trump’s ridiculously inappropriate comments last evening.

News outlets have been all over Trump’s remarks, which as Marcy said elicited justifiable uproar. But outlets are doing a pissy job covering the sources of Trump’s practice of medicine without a license at the podium.

Newsweek offers a great example:

Fortunately, CNN got it right:

If DHS’s science and technology advisor Bill Bryan isn’t qualified to make declarative statements relying on research, who is?

Who did the research and where’s their data and output?

Why did the American public have to hear what DHS learned filtered through Trump who has proven himself to be incapable of understanding science let alone demonstrate respect for it?

We need to see the work because there are other studies which do not appear to agree with DHS’s presentation.

This widely cited piece tested the viability of SARS-CoV-2 on different surfaces after exposure to aerosolized virus. The temperature of the study was comparable to a nice spring day — 21-23 degrees Celsius or 69-73 degrees Fahrenheit — with 40% relative humidity.

Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1
van Doremalen N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, et al.
March 17, 2020
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

SARS-CoV-2 is quite stable in conditions one might find in an air-conditioned indoor setting according to this study. This much agrees with what DHS presented.

This study looked at viability of the virus over time at different increasing temperatures and exposure to ultraviolet light — like solar radiation.

Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions
Alex W.H. Chin, Julie T.S. Chu, Mahen R.A. Perera, Kenrie P.Y. Hui, Hui-Ling Yen, Michael C.W. Chan, Malik Peiris, Leo L.M. Poon
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.15.20036673v2.full.pdf

Here’s a table from the study addressing viability of SARS-CoV-2 at different temperatures:

You can see the virus is viable at 37 degrees C — that’s coincidentally 98.6F, the old average temperature for humans. The virus is stable at that temp for as long as a day. It’s not stable for long at 56C (132.8F) and not at all at 70C (158F) but then neither are humans.

Unsurprisingly, disinfectants disinfect according to the study’s results shown in the table above. Only one little burp with hand soap solution — one of three attempts showed some viability.

This study looked at the differences in number of outbreaks over time in a particular region of China, as the season changed and both temperature and amount of sunlight increased.

No Association of COVID-19 transmission with temperature or UV radiation in Chinese cities
Ye Yao, Jinhua Pan, Zhixi Liu, Xia Meng, Weidong Wang, Haidong Kan, Weibing Wang
Published online April 8, 2020.
European Respiratory Journal 2020, 2000517; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.00517-2020
https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/early/2020/04/01/13993003.00517-2020

These researchers hypothesized that COVID-19 transmission may decrease or even disappear when the temperature and UV radiation increase in the summer.

They collected the confirmed case numbers of 224 cities from China’s National Health Commission, the daily mean temperature and relative humidity collected from the China Meteorological Data Sharing Service System, and daily erythemally-weighted daily dose of UV radiation data extracted from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA’s Aurora satellite. After adjustment for relative humidity and UV, they found temperature held no significant associations with cumulative incidence rate, and that UV was not significantly associated with cumulative incidence rate after adjustment for temperature and relative humidity.

These studies — though some are pre-print and in peer review — do not agree with what DHS’s Bill Bryan or the DHS presentation published a week ago said.

And none of them match what Trump said, whatsoever.

Media outlets really need to have a science reporter covering Trump’s briefings rather than the usual White House correspondents — people who are already highly versed in COVID-19 research and are able to put Trump on the spot.

Or the media needs to give up covering Trump’s briefings live if they can’t do real time pushback and demand better of the guy occupying the White House. Carrying his unfiltered bullshit will get somebody killed and damage businesses which are doing their best to operate under the strain of pandemic conditions.

~ ~ ~

We know now from the Washington Post that Trump’s unacceptable remarks on light and disinfectant therapy for treatment of COVID-19 may have been inspired by a briefing about a DHS study:

Trump’s commentary seemed to be inspired by a presentation from a Department of Homeland Security official about a promising but still inconclusive government study exploring the possibility of heat, humidity and light to kill the virus, as well as the effectiveness of disinfectants in killing it on surfaces such as tables, countertops and office workspaces.

Emphasis mine. An in-fucking-conclusive study, the same one on which Bill Bryan gave a presentation. Why was it offered at all? To provide happy talk for the daily propaganda program?

William Bryan, the department’s acting undersecretary for science and technology, first shared the study with members of the White House coronavirus task force on Wednesday and returned Thursday. He said his department had studied the virus in an air chamber and never said chemicals or UV light had been studied on humans nor suggested they be used in humans, according to several administration officials.

Why did he come back? Did some asshat on the White House coronavirus task force think Bryan could finesse this inconclusive report?

Others on the task force, including Birx, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, as well as McEnany and others in the communications and press shops, were concerned that the Department of Homeland Security study had not been thoroughly vetted. “It was not ready at all to go to the president,” the senior official said. “There was no guideline. There was no data. There was nothing.”

Oh. Now we have sources named. At least one of these people and/or Dr. Fauci are most likely to have said this “study” was not ready to go to Trump. If these three and Dr. Fauci didn’t think it was ready, how did it end up getting in front of Trump?

Still, Vice President Pence and his team wanted Bryan to present the information to the president and to the public, eager to have something positive to share. They hoped the study would help encourage people to spend more time outdoors and to disinfect their homes, aides said.

Oh great — Mr. HIV-outbreak-of Indiana Pence with a history of ignoring public health officials’ advice to the public’s detriment, probably ignored the opinions of task force members who felt the DHS “study” was not ready for Trump’s propaganda show.

This time Pence’s bad decision-making resulted in an onslaught of calls to poison control center numbers and at least 20 people in New York alone who ingested bleach or disinfectant.

No word yet as to whether someone has fried themselves crispy outdoors in an effort to get rid of SARS-CoV-2 using ultraviolet light having relied on the misinfo/disinfo served up by the idiocracy in the White House.

Lysol and UV Rays: Running a Pandemic Like a Reality TV Show

After news outlets wrote their both-sides stories about the President’s musings about ingesting Lysol, and after they mapped out the four different excuses Trump offered on Friday — he told you to check with a doctor (Kayleigh McEnany); he was just joking (Trump himself); Trump was just thinking out loud (Dr. Birx); it’s the briefer’s fault (anonymous officials), several outlets set out to figure out how it came to be that the President of the most powerful country in the world went on live TV and suggested it might be a good idea to ingest cleaning supplies.

The NYT discovered that some of Trump’s advisors claim (anonymously in the NYT version, but named as Mark Meadows and Kayleigh McEnany by CNN) to have realized that allowing acting DHS Undersecretary for Science at William Bryan was going to be a mistake even before it happened. But Mike Pence liked the pretty pictures and good news he offered, so it went into the briefing.

Others inside the administration raised questions about why Mr. Bryan, whose background is not in health or science, had been invited to deliver a presentation. Mr. Bryan, whose expertise is in energy infrastructure and security, is serving in an acting capacity as the head of the department’s science and technology directorate.

Mr. Bryan served 17 years in the Army, followed by yearslong stints as a civil servant at the Defense and Energy Departments. The latter role led to a whistle-blower complaint accusing him, in part, of manipulating government policy to further his personal financial interests, and then lying to Congress about those interests.

The United States Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints, asked the Energy Department last year to investigate the accusations against Mr. Bryan. In January, the Senate returned his nomination to the White House.

Mr. Bryan was invited by the vice president’s office to coronavirus task force meetings on Wednesday and Thursday to talk about a study that his department had done relating to heat and the conditions in which the coronavirus can thrive or be dampened. On Thursday, Mr. Bryan presented a graphic to the room, according to four people briefed on the events.

Mr. Pence’s advisers wanted Mr. Bryan to brief the news media on his findings, but several West Wing staff members objected, partly because they were concerned the information had not been verified.

Before Mr. Bryan took the lectern in the White House Briefing Room, Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force, made a few revisions to his presentation, officials said.

As he listened to Mr. Bryan, the president became increasingly excited, and also felt the need to demonstrate his own understanding of science, according to three of the advisers. So Mr. Trump went ahead with his theories about the chemicals.

CNN described how Trump didn’t attend either of the task force meetings where Bryan presented his findings, but nevertheless ad-libbed a response after Bryan delivered his presentation.

President Donald Trump was absent from the Situation Room on Wednesday when William Bryan, the acting head of science at the Department of Homeland Security, presented the findings of a new study to the White House coronavirus task force.

[snip]

When Bryan arrived Thursday with a camera-ready presentation, Trump again wasn’t at the 3 p.m. ET coronavirus task force meeting, the sources said. But in the minutes before Trump’s planned early evening news conference, Bryan quickly explained his findings to the President in the Oval Office.

Moments later, Bryan was standing at the White House podium explaining how sunlight, ultraviolet rays and disinfectants — such as bleach and alcohol — could shorten the half-life of coronavirus.

But when Bryan’s explanation ended, things went sideways. As his health advisers looked on expressionless, the President started lobbing questions about whether light or disinfectants could be used inside the human body to cure coronavirus.

Trump and the White House spent the next 24 hours trying to rationalize the comments while health departments reminded Americans that ingesting bleach is lethal.

The really important detail from the CNN article, however, is that Trump doesn’t actually attend many of the Task Force meetings, which are held in the Situation Room. He attends maybe one a week, and doesn’t always warn members he’s going to drop in.

While he almost always attends the daily press briefings, Trump rarely attends the coronavirus task force meetings that precede them. The task force doesn’t seem to mind.

According to one person close to the task force, the meetings become more prolonged if Trump attends and often go off script. When Pence is at the helm, aides say, they usually tick through the agenda rapidly. Trump comes to roughly one briefing a week. At times, 10 days or more have passed without him attending.

[snip]

Trump often turns up when he’s not expected. His presence often throws the meeting well off its assigned agenda and frequently centers on how his performance is being viewed in the media or in polling.

That means Trump has been spending upwards of 10 hours a week emceeing briefings, without doing any of the homework to learn about the pandemic.

All the attempts to understand what happened have reminded me of the New Yorker article that described how Mark Barnett made a “skeezy hustler” like Donald Trump into a titan by repackaging the unprepared, impulsive things Trump said after the fact.

He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong. But off the cuff he delivered the kind of zesty banter that is the lifeblood of reality television. He barked at one contestant, “Sam, you’re sort of a disaster. Don’t take offense, but everyone hates you.”

[snip]

“The Apprentice” was built around a weekly series of business challenges. At the end of each episode, Trump determined which competitor should be “fired.” But, as Braun explained, Trump was frequently unprepared for these sessions, with little grasp of who had performed well. Sometimes a candidate distinguished herself during the contest only to get fired, on a whim, by Trump. When this happened, Braun said, the editors were often obliged to “reverse engineer” the episode, scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize the few moments when the exemplary candidate might have slipped up, in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense.

As with the Apprentice, Thursday’s fiasco ended with reaction shot, this time of Dr. Birx realizing in real time what Trump had done.

Burnett has often boasted that, for each televised hour of “The Apprentice,” his crews shot as many as three hundred hours of footage. The real alchemy of reality television is the editing—sifting through a compost heap of clips and piecing together an absorbing story. Jonathon Braun, an editor who started working with Burnett on “Survivor” and then worked on the first six seasons of “The Apprentice,” told me, “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.” He readily conceded how distorting this process can be. Much of reality TV consists of reaction shots: one participant says something outrageous, and the camera cuts away to another participant rolling her eyes. Often, Braun said, editors lift an eye roll from an entirely different part of the conversation.

Of course, this time it’s real. And no one gets to go back and edit Trump’s dangerous comments to make them look like leadership after the fact. By then, people were already drinking Lysol.

On Thursday, after Trump made his comments and had Dr. Birx comment on it, Philip Rucker asked him why he was spreading rumors. For me, it was the most remarkable part of an unbelievable briefing. Trump responded, first, by stating, “I’m the President and you’re fake news,” the kind of comment that might be a ratings hit if it wasn’t getting people killed.

THE PRESIDENT: Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?

DR. BIRX: Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever —

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

DR. BIRX: — is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as — I’ve not seen heat or (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. Okay?

Q But respectfully, sir, you’re the President. And people tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do.

THE PRESIDENT: Hey — hey, Phil.

Q They’re not looking for a rumor.

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Phil. I’m the President and you’re fake news. And you know what I’ll say to you? I’ll say it very nicely. I know you well.

Q Why do you say that?

THE PRESIDENT: I know you well.

Because I know the guy; I see what he writes. He’s a total faker.

Q He’s a good reporter.

THE PRESIDENT: So, are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant, man. He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers. So that’s it; that’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent.

Trump ended, however, the most powerful man in the world rendered helpless by an actual crisis with actual consequences, by claiming, “I’m just here to present talent.”

Update: WaPo catalogued what has been going on in Trump’s COVID rallies, both since March 16 and since April 6. The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s a taste of what they found.

The president has spoken for more than 28 hours in the 35 briefings held since March 16, eating up 60 percent of the time that officials spoke, according to a Washington Post analysis of annotated transcripts from Factba.se, a data analytics company.

Over the past three weeks, the tally comes to more than 13 hours of Trump — including two hours spent on attacks and 45 minutes praising himself and his administration, but just 4½ minutes expressing condolences for coronavirus victims. He spent twice as much time promoting an unproven antimalarial drug that was the object of a Food and Drug Administration warning Friday. Trump also said something false or misleading in nearly a quarter of his prepared comments or answers to questions, the analysis shows.

If my math is correct, there have been almost 47 hours of briefings since March 16, and they’ve been an average of an hour and twenty minutes (the average for the later range is shorter, no doubt skewed by the 22 minute briefing Friday). So for the briefings Trump attends, he can spend over 9 hours a week mouthing off about stuff he knows nothing about.

 

Last Night, Trump Admitted that Jared Kushner — Who Promised Testing in Big Box Parking Lots — Had Failed

Back on March 13, in the same press conference where he first declared an emergency, the Administration made several claims about their plan to roll out testing.

First, the White House said the White House was intimately involved in the effort to increase testing. The effort to expand testing was a public-private initiative, as Mike Pence explained.

Mr. President, I know I join you in saying that every American should be proud of this incredible public-private partnership that’s going to speeding access of testing to millions of Americans in the weeks ahead.

As Dr. Deborah Birx explained, Donald Trump was at the center of this public-private initiative.

DR. BIRX:  Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.

I think you know — at the beginning of this epidemic, HHS, through CDC, proactively developed an assay built on the existing flu surveillance system.  That surveillance system was then converted to diagnostic system.

But last Tuesday, seeing the spread of the virus around the globe, the President realized that our current approach to testing was inadequate to need — to meet the needs of the American public.  He asked for an entire overhaul of the testing approach.  He immediately called the private sector laboratories to the White House, as noted, and charged them with developing a high-throughput quality platform that can meet the needs of the American public.

We are grateful to LabCorp and Quest for taking up the charge immediately after the meeting and within 72 hours bringing additional testing access, particularly to the outbreak areas of Washington State and California, and now across the country.

We are also very grateful to the universities and large hospital systems that took up the charge to develop their own quality tests made available by new FDA guidance.  This has resulted in expanded testing across New York, California, Washington, Colorado, and you see sometimes those drive-thru options that have been made available through these high-throughput options.

Following the meeting last week, major commercial laboratory equipment and diagnostic companies took immediate action to adopt and develop new testing systems.  Last night, the initial company, Roche, received FDA approval, moving from request to development to approval in record time.

This innovative approach centered fully on unleashing the power of the private sector, focusing on providing convenient testing to hundreds of thousands of Americans within short turnaround times.  In less than two weeks together, we have developed a solution that we believe will meet the future needs — testing needs of Americans.

Both Pence …

But today, I trust that people around the country that are looking on at this extraordinary public and private partnership to address the issue of testing with particular inspiration.  After you tapped me to lead the White House Corona Task Force, Mr. President, you said this is all hands on deck, and you directed us to immediately reach out to the American business sector commercial labs to meet what we knew then would be the need for testing across the spectrum.  And today, with this historic public-private partnership, we have laid the foundation to meet that need.

And for Americans looking on, by this Sunday evening, we’ll be able to give specific guidance on a — on when the website will be available.  You can go to the website, as the President said.  You’ll type in your symptoms and be given direction whether or not a test is indicated.

And then, at the same website, you’ll be directed to one of these incredible companies that are going to give a little bit of their parking lot so that people can come by and do a drive-by test.

[snip]

But what the President charged us with, when I was tasked to take over the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was: Open up tests all across the country.  And the President said, a few days ago, that we made it clear that any American that wanted to get a test would be able, clinically, to get a test.  Because I literally heard from the Governor of Washington State, who said the doctors in Washington State were saying that if you were only mildly symptomatic, they would not order a test.  And fortunately, the President directed CDC to clarify that.

Now anyone in consultation with their physician, regardless of their symptoms can request a test and their doctors will contact those agencies, those labs in their state.  But very soon, Americans will be able to go to these — these drive-in sites and be able to obtain and participate in a test.

Dr. Birx…

So we want to also announce this new approach to testing, which will start in the screening website up here, facilitated by Google, where clients and patients and people that have interest can go, fill out a screening questionnaire — move down for symptoms or risk factors, yes.  They would move down this and be told where the drive-thru options would be for them to receive this test.  The labs will then move to the high-throughput automated machines to be able to provide results in 24 to 36 hours.

That is the intent of this approach.

And Trump himself  promised drive-thru testing.

At the same time, we’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-thru tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals.  The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.

The CEO of WalMart, Doug McMillon, even got into the act of claiming to be working towards drive-thru testing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Tony.

If I could, some of these folks we know; they’re celebrities in their own right.  They’re the biggest business people, the greatest retailers anywhere in the world.  And one of them is Doug McMillon from Walmart.  And I’d like to have Doug, if you would, say a few words, wherever you may be.

Doug, please.

MR. MCMILLON:  When we got the call yesterday from the White House, we were eager to do our part to help serve the country.  And given what we’re facing, that’s certainly important to do.  We should all be doing that.

So we’ve been asked to make portions of our parking lot available in select locations in the beginning, and scaling over time as supply increases, so that people can experience the drive-thru experience that the President described.

We’ll stay involved and do everything we can from a supply-chain point of view to be of assistance.

Thank you, sir.

Within days, it became clear that the President’s son-in-law was behind the promises for both the website and the drive-thru testing in the parking lots of Big Box stores.

Following the news conference, it quickly became evident that the announcement, engineered by the office of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, far exceeded the actual preparations.

Asked about the specific plans afterward, representatives of the four companies — Target, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS — said they had few details on how the tests would be administered or where or when they would begin.

And an hour after the president and his aides left the Rose Garden, a Google communications account tweeted a comment from Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet, that suggested the idea of building a broadly available website is preliminary.

Almost a month  and over 10,000 deaths later, the Big Box stores that got the free advertising associated with these planned parking lot drive-thru test sites still have fewer than two dozen sites open.

Walgreens said Tuesday that it plans to open 15 drive-thru testing locations for the coronavirus across seven states, starting later this week.

The sites will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, the drugstore chain said in a news release. They will use Abbott Laboratories’ rapid COVID-19 test.

Walgreen’s expansion of drive-thru testing marks the acceleration of an effort that the White House announced more than three weeks ago. President Donald Trump met with leaders of major U.S. retailers and health-care companies March 13 and announced in the Rose Garden that four companies — Walmart, Target, CVS Health and Walgreens — would host drive-thru testing in their parking lots. The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in the availability of coronavirus testing.

Since then, only about a handful of sites have opened in the retailers’ parking lots. Most are staffed by government health-care workers. Walmart has two drive-thrus and Walgreens has one drive-thru in the Chicago area, but they restrict tests to first responders. CVS has a drive-thru in Massachusetts and said Monday that it would open two new drive-thru locations: one in Atlanta and one near Providence, Rhode Island. These latest sites are not in CVS parking lots, but at larger locations that can support multiple lanes of cars.

Last night, when Trump got asked about the inadequate state of testing in the country, he got snippy.

Kristen Fisher: I know you don’t want to talk about the Inspector General Report, but testing is still a big issue in this country. [Trump sighs audibly.] When can hospitals expect–

Trump [speaking over her]: Can you put that slide up again please

Fisher: When can hospitals expect to receive a quick test of the test results?

Trump [again speaking over her]: Are you ready? Are you ready? Hospitals can do their own testing also. States can do their own testing. [points at her] States are supposed to be doing testing. Hospitals are supposed to be doing testing. You understand that? We’re the Federal government — [reporter tries to restate] Listen [points at her] We’re the Federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors. They go to hospitals. They go to the state. The state is a more localized government. You have fifty of them. And they can go — fifty — within — you also have territories, as you know. And they do the testing. And if you look at the chart, if you take a look, have you put it up? Yeah. Just take a look. And these are testing, and the results are now coming in very quickly. Initially speaking, the tests were old, obsolete, and not really prepared. We have a brand new testing system that we developed very quickly and that’s your result. And you should say Congratulations, great job, instead of being so horrid in the way you asked a question.

There’s a lot that’s bullshit in this comment. There were no “old, obsolete” tests when this started (though it is true that Trump’s Administration was, “not really prepared.” It’s not clear anyone has a definitive count of tests, as claimed in Trump’s chart.

But his key claim here — that the Federal government is “not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing” — is unresponsive to Fisher’s question (which was about turnaround), but was a defense against the observation that Trump and the totally unqualified family member he brought in to this process have utterly failed to deliver something promised 25 days ago, drive-thru testing, the closest thing America could get to standing on the street corner testing people.

It may or may not be the Federal government’s job to stand on street corners testing, but that is what he promised, and that is what Jared Kushner has utterly failed to deliver.

My Corona

Okay, at nearly 350 Comments, Jim White’s excellent post, “PREPARING FOR THE INEVITABLE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 OUTBREAK”, is getting a little long in the comment tooth. So, I am going to add a new post, even if a short one, to allow continuous commentary on this subject that is of such import and interest.

To set the scene, I have had a touch of walking pneumonia for the last, give or take, 10 days. I finally listened to Mrs. bmaz and went to the doctor early last week and got some prescriptions, most importantly steroids and antibiotics. Things are improving, albeit it slowly.

There is a new wrinkle though! Very late Friday night, actually very early Saturday morning, our daughter flew in and is home now. Why, you ask? Well, about eight days ago, she was in Italy for a week and flew out of Milan (a Level 3 containment area) to return to Boston, where she works. Her employer said “Lol, take two weeks off before coming into work again”. So, she came home to visit.

She is asymptomatic to date other than some sniffles and sore throat, which is not uncommon for her generally. No temperature. But she is considering getting tested anyway. Turns out there was literally no real capacity for testing in Arizona until….today. Apparently. The state DHS announced they could start today, but there are no good instructions on how to do it, or if you will get billed thousands of dollars for doing so. It is maddening. The woman who runs the DHS effort here is not bad, this appears to be caused by the lack of competent interaction by the federal government. Will she get tested? We don’t know. Should she even worry about it? We don’t know that either. And trying to talk to somebody about it is impossible, I can seriously get US Senators and Representatives on the phone easier.

We shall see. Thankfully we have a big enough house that we can mostly keep a distance. But there has to be a better way to respond to this than what the Trump Administration has engendered.

So, for all things Corona, have at it some more. You folks have engaged in marvelous discussion so far, keep it up.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

The Mysterious Rapid Reverse Veep with a Press Backflip

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to New Hampshire yesterday. That didn’t happen.

Nearly 24 hours later this still smells really fishy.

Pence was scheduled to speak at 1:20 p.m. EDT at an addiction treatment center about the opioid crisis. Prepared remarks sounded less like an attack on the Sackler family, responsible for manufacturing opioids in the U.S., and more like an excuse for the crimes against humanity perpetrated along the Mexican border (because so many families with babies must surely be carrying fentanyl into the country).

Details are sketchy about when and how Pence’s trip was canceled. There were reports that Air Force 2 was already in the air and called back mid-flight; some of these reports were based on feedback from Pence’s aide Randy Gentry:

White House spokesman Judd Deere told AP that “Something came up and the VP needed to be in D.C.,” “there is no cause for alarm.”

Two more anonymous White House officials told AP that the matter was not national security-related or related to a health issue.

Whatever happened caught the Veep’s staff by surprise based on their flip-flopping messages:

What could have happened at the White House to cancel Pence’s speech on such short notice — the room in which he was to speak was already packed, waiting his arrival — and subsequent confusing press handling?

Some reports noted that Putin had a cancellation of his own nearly simultaneously with Pence, causing a lot of idle speculation and possibly some disinformation.

A fire aboard a Russian research submarine killed 14 aboard the vessel. But the timing of the actual fire and Pence’s reversal don’t sync. The fire was on July 1 and Putin offered remarks about the fatal event yesterday according to the U.S. Naval Institute news outlet.

Yet others attributed the problem to a local problem in New Hampshire after reports of gunfire at Pease Air National Guard Base, located a circuitous 50 miles northeast from where Pence was to speak and 50 miles east of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport where Pence was scheduled to arrive before his engagement at Granite Recovery Center.

None of this adds up and all stinks of manufactured fog. We’ll have to hope the press remembers to follow up with Pence’s chief of staff in a couple weeks.

There was one other key event yesterday that did not affect Pence directly but could easily have triggered a malignant narcissist’s meltdown.

Sometime after 11:00 a.m. yesterday news outlets reported the House Ways and Means Committee had filed suit against the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to obtain Trump’s tax returns.

Complaint via ABC News on Scribd

I imagine somebody in the Oval Office is squirming about Congress crossing the red line.

Another tetchy subject may be the Second Circuit’s order yesterday unsealing the summary judgment record in the Jeffrey Epstein case; additional sealed materials are now subject to a particularized review for release to public.

Is somebody worried their name will come up in the unsealing process?

What other events might have created enough havoc in the White House that forced Pence to reverse his trip and his staff to perform communications contortions with the reason to be known “in a few weeks”?

This is an open thread.

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.

  1. November 16, 2017: Trump appoint Flynn as NSA, first call with Putin, Israel vote, communications with Kislyak, December Kislyak call
  2. 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”
  3. 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
  4. November 20, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius
  5. November 21, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius, meeting with Trump
  6. November 29, 2017: Peter Smith
  7. January 11, 2018: November 30 meeting with Kislyak
  8. January 19, 2018: Flynn did not have specific recollection about telling POTUS on January 3, 2017
  9. April 25, 2018: Peter Smith
  10. May 1, 2018: Peter Smith
  11. 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.

[snip]

“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. 

There’s No Crisis at the Border — There’s a Crisis in the White House

[NB: Whoops — forgot to remind readers to check the byline. This is the other pottymouth broad./ ~R]

Reports say that Vice President Pence and DHS Secretary Nielsen have been laying the groundwork for Trump’s speech tonight in which he is expected to complain about House Speaker Pelosi, Democrats, and the lack of funding for the goddamn wall he claimed Mexico would pay for while he campaigned in 2016. The word “crisis” was used 36 times.

Yet there’s no crisis at the border.

The State Department hasn’t published any documents or statements over the last two years indicating there was a crisis.

While talking about Trump’s speech today, Secretary of State Pompeo laughed — not exactly an indicator of crisis.

Bad numbers have been thrown around over the last couple of weeks, claiming that 4000 terrorists have been stopped at the border. Untrue: the number is somewhere between six and 12, and the designation “terrorist” is as specific as the No-Fly List. This means persons whose names match individuals who are under suspicion for political reasons — like musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens — may be the entirety of the 6-12 individuals stopped at the border. Hardly a crisis.

Secretary Nielsen can’t answer questions put to her by Congress about refugees at the southern border without prevarication; she can’t even say how many people, adults or children, have died in U.S. custody. Seems like a cabinet member would have accurate numbers at their finger tips in a genuine crisis.

That a handful of questionable individuals were halted at the border suggests the current system works. Not a crisis.

If funding has been the problem and the theater of angrily shutting down the government was intended to force funding approval, why didn’t the GOP fund it while they had a majority in the House? Why didn’t they fund it when they were in lame duck? Why didn’t they make a point of knocking down the massive tax cut by enough to fund the “fucken wall“?

If aliens breaching the border is a crisis, why were government services including border security shuttered at all instead of finding an alternative method for funding the wall?

And if aliens crossing into the U.S. was such an emergency, why did Trump’s campaign fund a broadcast TV ad placed during CBS’ 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, bashing Pelosi and the Democrats about wall funding?

Because the border hasn’t been and still isn’t a crisis; it’s a distraction from other issues Trump doesn’t want his base to notice. Because it’s a campaign issue that worked in 2016 with the same base eager to lap up his brand of white nationalist hate.

But you know what is a crisis?

Tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from opioids and Trump has done dick-doodley-squat to work with Congress to shut down opioids. Oh, he’s talked about it? Great — a lot of useless hot air and fapping gestures made as Americans’ bodies pile up.

[Graphic: StatNews – note deaths from opioid variants]

At least 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. But no speech tonight about this real crisis.

Another crisis: the cost of insulin. People who can’t afford the outrageous prices are risking permanent disability and death by rationing their use below prescribed levels. Worse yet, some government employees, contractors, and their families may be going without insulin right now because they can’t afford it while they are going unpaid. Trump is courting Americans’ deaths for the manufactured wall crisis.

[Graphic: The Republic – note prices have only gotten worse since 2017.]

Another crisis being swept under the rug: the government’s gross negligence in responding to Hurricane Maria, resulting in thousands of Americans deaths, and the continued abdication of leadership on climate change, contributing to deadly conditions like California’s wildfires resulting in at least 100 deaths. Who is being held accountable for these fatalities as they mount? How many will die during the next climate change-caused catastrophe?

Who is being held accountable for all the other real crises, like multiple corrupt cabinet members, the collapse of ethics in the White House, the mounting risks to national security posed by officials handling sensitive matters without adequate clearance, or the loss of trust in the U.S. among allies whose relationships have been devalued?

There’s no crisis at the border, but there is a crisis. This country is lead by a lying malignant narcissist who can’t see anyone or anything except for himself; he refuses to accept responsibility and accountability. He is incapable of admitting failure, particularly his failure to uphold his oath of office. He swore to faithfully execute the laws but his manufactured border crisis ignores this very simple and straightforward one:

8 U.S. Code § 1158 – Asylum
(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

His trash talk bashing the press also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which he swore to uphold and defend.

There’s a crisis when broadcast media corporations — after refusing twice to allow the first black president to address the nation on immigration — have allowed themselves to be bullied in to airing pure propaganda.

The networks have in these decisions breached the contract they have as licensed broadcasters, obligated to serve the public interest; they do so with great bias for a man who is a noted racist, having shut out the only president of color on the same issue of immigration. They do so after Trump has encouraged violence against media and elected officials by calling them enemies of state, ultimately resulting in mass bomb and shooting threats.

These media outlets also ignore history — very specific history Trump knows quite well, having read Hitler’s speeches and understanding the aims of Germany’s 1933 emergency Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act — by giving Trump a platform for untruths, defamatory content, and near incitement, none of which serves the public interests.

Lastly, the press also gives preference to an extortive demand for funding labeled by Trump as a crisis — neatly fulfilling Trump’s claim of fake news media — when the only genuine emergency at the border is two-fold: the ongoing violations of U.N. treaties on refugees and human rights, resulting in the deaths of children and adults alike, and the suspension of government services which include border security.

The William Barr Case for Impeaching Donald Trump: From Whom Did Trump Suborn False Statements?

Last month, I argued that a memo William Barr wrote that many say disqualifies him to be Attorney General in fact (or perhaps, “also”) should make him utterly toxic to Trump, because he (unknowingly) makes the case for impeaching Trump.

That’s because of the specific content of a William Barr memo sent to Rod Rosenstein, first reported by WSJ last night. While I’m certain Barr didn’t intend to do so, the memo makes a compelling case that Trump must be impeached.

The memo is long, lacks pagination, and presents an alarming view of unitary executive power. Barr also adopts the logically and ethically problematic stance of assuming, in a memo that states, “I realize I am in the dark about many facts” in the second sentence, that he knows what Mueller is up to, repeating over and over claims about what theory of obstruction he knows Mueller is pursuing.

Yet even before Barr finishes the first page, he states something that poses serious problems for the White House.

Obviously, the President and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function. Thus, for example, if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.

Probably by the time Mueller’s office captured Peter Strzok’s testimony on July 19, 2017 — and almost certainly by the time they obtained Transition emails on August 23, 2017 (perhaps not coincidentally the day after Strzok’s 302 was formalized) showing Trump’s orchestration of Mike Flynn’s calls with Sergei Kislyak — Mueller has almost certainly had evidence that Trump suborned false statements from Mike Flynn. So even before he finishes the first page, Trump’s hand-picked guy to be Attorney General has made the argument that Trump broke the law and Mueller’s obstruction investigation is appropriate.

Today, as part of a rebuttal to Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner’s comments about the memo, Jack Goldsmith reviews an OLC memo they rely on to back my argument.

Barr’s invocation and application of the presidential plain-statement rule, far from shocking, is quite ordinary. It is so ordinary, in fact, that I doubt Mueller is pursuing the theory that Barr worries about, even though press reports have sometimes suggested that he is. (For similar doubts, see the analyses of Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes and of Marty Lederman.) Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein implied that Barr misunderstood Mueller’s theory when he stated that Barr did not have the “actual facts of the case.” One can read Rosenstein’s statement, as Marcy Wheeler does, to mean that Mueller possesses facts—including evidence that Trump suborned false statements from Flynn—to show that Trump has obstructed justice under Barr’s “evidence impairment” theory and that, under the Barr memorandum’s separate discussion of impeachment, Trump can be impeached.

If Wheeler is right, then the Barr memorandum is more likely to be cited in support of an article of impeachment of President Trump for obstruction of justice than it is to be cited, as Hemel and Posner suggest, to immunize Trump from obstruction. We will see if the Democrats presiding over Barr’s confirmation hearings are clever enough not to take Hemel and Posner’s suggestion that Barr’s memo is extreme, and instead use Barr’s memo, as Wheeler counsels, “to talk the incoming Attorney General into backing the logic of the Mueller probe and impeachment in a very public way.”

Given the stakes on all this, I wanted to focus on why I think the public record suggests strongly that Trump suborned perjury (actually, false statements), meaning that Barr has already made the case for impeachment.

Mike Flynn lied to hide consultations with the Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago

First, let’s consider what Mike Flynn lied about, which I lay out in detail here. In addition to lies about being a foreign agent for Turkey and trying to undercut an Obama foreign policy decision pertaining to Israeli settlements, Flynn admitted to lying about whether he discussed sanctions during a series of conversations with Sergey Kislyak. The focus in reporting has always been on the conversations with Kislyak, but as the statement of the offense makes clear, Flynn’s conversations with other Transition Team members — most notably his Deputy, KT McFarland — got almost as much emphasis.

On or about January 24, 2017, FLYNN agreed to be interviewed by agents from the FBI (“January 24 voluntary interview”). During the interview, FLYNN falsely stated that he did not ask Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia. FLYNN also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which the Russian Ambassador stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of FL YNN’s request. In truth and in fact, however, FLYNN then and there knew that the following had occurred:

a. On or about December 28, 2016, then-President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13757, which was to take effect the following day. The executive order announced sanctions against Russia in response to that government’s actions intended to interfere with the 2016 presidential election (“U.S. Sanctions”).

b. On or about December 28, 2016, the Russian Ambassador contacted FLYNN.

c. On or about December 29, 2016, FLYNN called a senior official of the Presidential Transition Team (“PTT official”), who was with other senior ·members of the Presidential Transition Team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian Ambassador about the U.S. Sanctions. On that call, FLYNN and the PTT official discussed the U.S. Sanctions, including the potential impact of those sanctions on the incoming administration’s foreign policy goals. The PIT official and FLYNN also discussed that the members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

d. Immediately after his phone call with the PTT official, FLYNN called the Russian Ambassador and requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. Sanctions in a reciprocal manner.

e. Shortly after his phone call with the Russian Ambassador, FLYNN spoke with the PTT official to report on the substance of his call with the Russian Ambassador, including their discussion of the U.S. Sanctions.

f. On or about December 30, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement indicating that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. Sanctions at that time.

g. On or about December 31, 2016, the Russian Ambassador called FLYNN and informed him that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to FL YNN’s request.

h. After his phone call with the Russian Ambassador, FLYNN spoke with senior members of the Presidential Transition Team about FLYNN’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador regarding the U.S. Sanctions and Russia’s decision not to escalate the situation. [my emphasis]

And the 302 (302s are what the FBI calls interview reports) makes this even more clear: Flynn was not only lying about the content of his calls with Kislyak, he was lying about his consultations with McFarland, and through her, the rest of the Transition Team, almost certainly including Trump. Flynn was lying about using language, “tit-for-tat,” that came right out of those consultations.

He was lying to hide that his interactions with Kislyak reflect a deliberate Trump Transition policy choice, rather than his own choice to freelance foreign policy.

Flynn got other people to lie — to the public and to the FBI

But it’s not just Flynn’s lies. It’s also the lies others in the Administration told. According to the NYT story of the relevant emails, at a minimum both McFarland and Sean Spicer would have known that Flynn got instructions ahead of his call with Kislyak and reported positively afterwards.

Mr. Bossert forwarded Ms. McFarland’s Dec. 29 email exchange about the sanctions to six other Trump advisers, including Mr. Flynn; Reince Priebus, who had been named as chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the senior strategist; and Sean Spicer, who would become the press secretary.

That’s important because both McFarland and Spicer lied to the press about the call in early 2017.

Early on the morning of Jan. 13, 2017, McFarland phoned one of the authors of this article to rebut a column in The Washington Post, which said Flynn and Kislyak had spoken “several times” on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced it was expelling 35 Russian officials and taking other punitive measures.

The column, by David Ignatius, questioned why Flynn was engaging in sensitive foreign policy discussions with Russia when Trump had yet to take office.

McFarland insisted in an on-the-record conversation that Flynn and Kislyak had never discussed sanctions and that they had actually spoken before the administration’s announcement on Dec. 29.

[snip]

McFarland’s earlier account from the on-the-record conversation also matches public statements from Sean Spicer, the transition team’s spokesman and future White House press secretary.

Spicer said that Flynn and Kislyak spoke Dec. 28, before the sanctions were announced, and that “the call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in.”

“That was it, plain and simple,” he said.

Most of the focus on public statements about the Kislyak calls has been on Mike Pence, but there’s no public record that he was in the loop on discussions about the Kislyak call (nor is there a record of him being interviewed by either the FBI or Mueller, which is one of the reasons I keep saying there’s no public record of him doing anything for which he could or should be indicted).

With McFarland and Spicer, however, we can be sure they both knowingly lied when they told the press that sanctions had not come up.

That’s why I keep pointing to two passages from the addendum to Flynn’s sentencing memo describing the significance of his cooperation. This passage makes it clear there’s some significance to the fact that Transition Team people repeated Flynn’s lies.

This passage makes it clear that, in the wake of Flynn’s cooperation, several other people decided to cooperate.

We know that McFarland is included among the people who decided to be forthcoming with Mueller; Sean Spicer probably is too and others (like Reince Priebus) may be as well. Importantly, we know they decided to be forthcoming after not having been at first. McFarland, at a minimum, lied not just to the press, but also in her first interview with the FBI, after which she made a concerted effort to unforget what really transpired.

Note, too, that that redaction is the last line of the Flynn addendum. While we don’t know what it says, it’s likely that the addendum as a whole reflects something that Mueller seems to be doing with his cooperating witnesses: either finding ways to rehabilitate liars (as he did with Michael Cohen) or using their testimony to pressure others to tell the truth, resulting in witnesses who will be more credible on the stand (which is what I suspect he has done with a number of witnesses with Flynn).

Trump has changed stories about what his Administration knew about Flynn’s lies at least twice

The public record doesn’t actually say how it happened that McFarland and Spice lied about something they should have known to be false. As I’ve laid out, it’s clear that Flynn was not free-lancing when he discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but the record is still unclear about whether he was freelancing when he ordered others to lie about it or not.

But two things strongly suggest he was not.

First, nothing yet has come close to explaining Trump’s actions with Jim Comey, first asking for his loyalty, then, after firing Flynn, asking him to let Flynn’s lies go. That’s all the more true if, as is likely but not publicly proven yet, Pence also knew he was lying when he claimed sanctions didn’t come up in the Flynn-Kislyak call, because lying to Pence is the only explanation Trump has offered for firing Flynn.

It is virtually certain Flynn was following orders — Trump’s orders — when he engaged in discussions about sanctions with Kisylak. And so it is virtually certain that Trump knew, from before he was inaugurated, that his top aides were lying to the press. Yet Trump didn’t find those lies to be a fireable offense until it became clear the lies would lead to a sustained FBI investigation into why Flynn had Kislyak hold off on responding to sanctions.

And over the course of the Mueller investigation, Trump has struggled to come up with a credible explanation for why Flynn’s lies became a fireable offense only after the FBI started looking more closely at his plans for sanctions relief.

Don McGahn wrote a report inventing one explanation for the firing just after it happened (akin to the way he later orchestrated a paper trail justifying Comey’s firing). But even when he wrote the report, it was inconsistent with what Sally Yates told McGahn.

Then, after Flynn flipped and it became clear Comey also documented his side of events (and shared those events contemporaneously with others in DOJ and FBI), Trump’s lawyers tried to massage the story one more time.

Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, Sean Spicer, Don McGahn, and John Dowd (at a minimum — possibly Reince Priebus and others, too) have all had to revise the stories they told the press and even, for some, FBI or Mueller after the fact to try to come up with a non-incriminating explanation for why everyone lied, first to the press, and then to the government.

There’s really only one thing that might explain why at least five top Donald Trump aides or lawyers had to revise stories to try to come up with innocent explanations for non-credible stories they were willing to tell the government from the start. And that’s if Trump were involved in all these lies.

It may well be that Trump didn’t formally suborn false statements before Mike Flynn interviewed with the FBI on January 24, 2017. Perhaps he just instructed Flynn to lie to the press and Flynn sustained the story he had been ordered to tell when the FBI came calling (Trump may well be more involved in the lies that Michael Cohen told to Congress).

But there is little else that can explain why so many people were willing to tell bullshit stories about Flynn (both his conversation with Kislyak and his firing) except that Trump was involved in orchestrating those stories.

Mueller’s obstruction investigation was likely always premised on a theory of obstruction that Trump’s presumed Attorney General nominee William Barr has argued does merit investigation and impeachment: that Trump ordered his subordinates to lie to obstruct an investigation.

 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.