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Mike Flynn Seizes the Rope to Hang Himself With: Probation for Petraeus

The government and Mike Flynn submitted several motions today:

Eventually, I’ll hit them all in this post. But for now, I’m going to address just the government reply to Flynn’s sentencing memo, because I read it very very differently than virtually everyone who has read it.

A number of people are shocked by what seems to be the government’s deference to Mike Flynn in the memo, particularly their recommendation for a guidelines sentence — which might include probation. It’s true, the memo mentions probation over and over.

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]

Here, the applicable Guidelines range already encompasses a potential penalty of probation and there is no lower possible penalty for the offense of conviction.

[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.

The memo then goes on to nod to the issues Flynn raised. It acknowledges, then rebuts, Flynn’s complaints about what he claims is the government asking him to lie about FARA. But, the government notes, regardless of who is right, it wouldn’t change the guidelines sentence.

Importantly, regardless of whether or not the Court considers the defendant’s FARA false statements in fashioning its sentence, the applicable Guidelines range is still 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

It notes Flynn’s apparent backtracking on acknowledgement of responsibility. But, the government notes, regardless of who is right, it wouldn’t change the guidelines sentence.

But again, this makes no difference to the applicable Guidelines range – a two-level reduction in his base offense level would still result in a range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

Thus far, the government is doing precisely what it did in its own sentencing memo, emphasize that the government position has not changed. It asked for a guidelines sentence in December 2018, it asked for a guidelines sentence earlier this month, and it is recommending a guidelines sentence here. Anything outside those guidelines is Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision.

Where the memo is absolutely fucking genius, though, is where it addresses Flynn’s emphasis that because he was a General forever, he should get probation. Every memo Flynn has submitted of late has basically argued that because he gave his life to the country, he should get special treatment.

As the government notes, in the very last words of their memo, that has happened in the past.

In terms of comparative sentences in cases involving arguably similarly-situated defendants, we note that there are several cases involving high-ranking government officials where probationary sentences were imposed. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stole classified information from the National Archives, destroyed that information, and then lied to the government about his conduct. At the government’s recommendation, based in part on Berger’s cooperation with the government, he received a probationary sentence. See Gov’t Sent’g Mem. at 9, United States v. Berger, No. 05-mj-00175 (D.D.C. Sept 6. 2005) (Doc. 13); see also Factual Basis for Plea (D.D.C. Apr. 1, 2005) (Doc. 6). Likewise, after General David Petraeus pleaded guilty to the unauthorized retention and removal of classified documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924, he received a probationary sentence. United States v. Petraeus, No. 15-cr-47 (W.D.N.C.). Here, the Court should consider these and other arguably analogous cases, along with all of the other relevant facts in this case, in fashioning a sentence that is “sufficient but not greater than necessary” to satisfy the statutory sentencing requirements under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3553(a).

Boy oh boy do these prosecutors look reasonable, huh, noting that powerful people sometimes get probation for things the little people go to prison for.

Except we know how Emmet Sullivan feels about Generals who think they should get special treatment because they’re high-ranking Generals, because he said so explicitly when Rob Kelner raised David Petraeus back in December 2018.

MR. KELNER: In addition, I would note there have been other high profile cases, one involving a four-star general, General Petraeus.

THE COURT: I don’t agree with that plea agreement, but don’t —

[snip]

THE COURT: All right. Let me just say this. I probably shouldn’t. Having said that, I probably shouldn’t. I don’t agree with the Petraeus sentence. I’m sorry. I don’t see how a four-star general gives classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and then is allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, but I don’t know anything about it. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. I don’t know. It’s none of my business, but it’s just my opinion.

And that has no impact — I would not take that into consideration in whatever sentence I impose here. Just based upon what I know about that case, I just disagreed with it. That’s all.

Yes, the prosecutors look totally docile in this memo. They’re disputing Flynn’s point, but ultimately they’re recommending the same thing they’ve always recommended, a guidelines sentence. They’re doing that because it inoculates them against any claim that their decision not to have Flynn testify affected his sentence, and they’re doing so to make clear that what Flynn is doing, in requesting to blow everything up, he’s doing even though the same guidelines sentence remains on the table. What comes next will be entirely his own fault.

And, yes, they mention probation, just like Flynn did. But in doing so, they almost certainly did so in a way that only exacerbates Sullivan’s innate disgust with powerful people who ask for special treatment.

Shorter the Neocons: Let Our General Go!

Neocon scribes Eli Lake and Josh Rogin published a piece asserting that the man whose COIN theories failed in 3 different war theaters is making a comeback undermined only by his extramarital affair.

By all outward appearances, David Petraeus appears to be mounting a comeback. The former general landed a job at powerhouse private-equity firm KKR, has academic perches at Harvard and the University of Southern California and, according to White House sources, was even asked by the President Barack Obama’s administration for advice on the fight against Islamic State. Yet it turns out that the extramarital affair that forced him to resign as director of the Central Intelligence Agency is still hanging over him.

Yet that’s not actually what their article describes. Instead, it explores why it is that the FBI investigation into David Petraeus for leaking information to his mistress, not fucking her, is ongoing.

Curiously, these two journalists exhibit no shred of curiosity about why the GOP Congress continues to investigate the Benghazi attack, an investigation that started exactly contemporaneously with the Petraeus leak investigation — or, for that matter, why all the investigations have avoided questions about Petraeus’ training failures in Libya.

Instead, they see in this particular 2 year counterintelligence investigation a conspiracy to silence the fine General.

[Retired General Jack] Keane questions whether the Petraeus FBI probe lasting this long may be driven by something other than a desire to investigate a potential crime. “It makes you wonder if there is another motivation to drag an investigation out this long,” he said.

[snip]

Petraeus allies both inside and outside the U.S. intelligence community and the military express a concern that goes beyond a criminal probe: that the investigation has caused Petraeus to trim his sails — that one of the most informed and experienced voices on combating terrorism and Islamic extremism is afraid to say what he really thinks, a sharp juxtaposition to Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, two former defense secretaries who have not been shy about criticizing Obama’s national security team.

[snip]

But what does seem surprising, to many who know and have worked with him, is that the views he has been expressing are so at odds with what he has said and implied in the past.

For example, when Petraeus was inside Obama’s administration in his first term, he advocated for more troops inside Afghanistan and made the case for arming Syrian moderate forces. But when asked this summer about that effort, Petraeus demurred and focused on Obama’s new $500 million initiative in 2014 to train Syrian rebels. “I strongly support what’s being done now,” he said. “Half a billion dollars is a substantial amount of resourcing to train and equip.”

Petraeus’s rhetoric on Iraq and Syria differs sharply not only from his past positions, but from that of many retired generals of his generation and of his biggest supporters.

To support their conspiracy theory, they not only cite noted leaker Pete Hoekstra, but Lake and Rogin ignore a whole load of other details, such as how long leak investigations normally take. Even the investigation into and punishment of Sandy Berger — which they cite — took 18 months from leak to guilty plea, plus another two years until he relinquished his license. The investigation into Donald Sachtleben — or rather, the UndieBomb 2.0 leak that Sachtleben was singularly held responsible for — took 15 months, even with his computer  in custody and Sachtleben on bond most of that time. John Kiriakou was charged almost 4 years after his leaks, and two after Pat Fitzgerald was appointed to find a head for the CIA. Thomas Drake was indicted over 4 years after the investigation into Stellar Wind leaks started and almost 3 years after the FBI raided the homes of those associated with Drake’s whistleblowing. Jeffrey Sterling was indicted 7 years after FBI first started looking into leaks to James Risen.

Leak investigations can take a long time. That’s not a good thing, as they leave the targets of those investigations in limbo through that entire time. Petraeus is, comparatively, doing better off than most of the others I named above. Indeed, in paragraph 7, Lake and Rogin reveal that Petraeus, in fact, has gotten preferential treatment, in that his security clearance hasn’t been stripped.

To wit: Petraeus is ostensibly being investigated for mishandling classified material and yet he retains his security clearance.

Even Hoss Cartwright had his security clearance stripped for allegedly leaking details of StuxNet to the press. Heck, based on this detail, one has just as much evidence to support a counter-conspiracy theory that Petraeus is getting lax treatment because he’s got damning information on Obama (not one I’m adopting, mind you, but it does illustrate what one can do with an absence of evidence).

If warmongers like Jack Keane want to make drawn out leak investigations a cause, they would do well to make it a principle, not a singular conspiracy theory used to explain why David Petraeus isn’t being more critical of Obama’s efforts not to escalate into another failed counterinsurgency.

Is it possible, after all, that Petraeus is silent because he realizes what a hash he has made of the Middle East?

The National Security Advisor Exception Under the Espionage Act

When the FBI found sensitive — though it turned out, unclassified — documents in Thomas Drake’s basement, he was charged under the Espionage Act. When the Army found hundreds of thousands of classified — but not Top Secret — cables on Bradley Manning’s computer, they charged him with Espionage and Aiding the Enemy.

But when the FBI found Top Secret documents on Sudan — our actual enemy, if sanctions count — in Reagan National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane’s basement, it decided to investigate him for illegal lobbying.

The FBI has searched the apartment of former Reagan administration national security adviser Robert McFarlane for evidence of whether he lobbied for the government of Sudan, in violation of federal law.

The search warrant is on file in federal district court in Washington. It shows agents seized items this month including handwritten notes about Sudan and White House documents with classifications up to Top Secret.

From this I can only assume that McFarlane is being subjected to the same double standard that Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was (represented, it should be noted, by former Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer), when he snuck 9/11 related documents out of the Archives, yet only plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

When National Security Advisors take top secret documents, they’re called lobbyists, not spies.

I can’t wait to find out what Condi Rice will be called if she’s ever caught with sensitive documents in her basement.