President Trump sends antagonistic media into spastic fits, and pearl-clutching circle-running, with a single tweet about Michael Flynn. Epic:
Praetorian professional punditry immediately jump into their “he can’t” routine, filled with protestations about poor judgement and the risk of commenting on an on-going investigation, and such… blah, blah, blah… However, what seemingly never crosses their mind is that: A) Everything asserted is 100% factual; and B) When there’s nothing to hide, there’s no risk. D’oh, dummies.
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the President-Elect’s Transition Team talking to any foreign government, or any official within any foreign government. Ever. Period. Actually, that’s exactly what transition teams are supposed to do; they reach out and receive information from foreign government officials as the starting point to communication with a new administration.
Many people have asked the question why would Michael Flynn have lied about talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the first place?
It’s a great question.
The Occam’s Razor answer is the toxic political environment that existed in January 2017, where the administration was being hammered by a tsunami of media narratives and political opposition claiming that any scintilla of contact with anything Russian meant that Putin and Trump were “colluding” BFFs,…. and Flynn didn’t want to fuel that nonsense.
That’s really the only reason to mislead about Russian contacts.
And/or once Vice-President Mike Pence made the statement that Flynn had no contact with anyone from Russia etc. any contradictory statement from Flynn would make Pence appear compromised; so Flynn had to stick to it without clarification.
•Sunday January 15th – VP-elect Mike Pence appears on Face The Nation. [Transcript Here]
JOHN DICKERSON: But there’s a distinction between that feeling about the press and legitimate inquiry, as you say, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing. Just to button up one question, did any advisor or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE: Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy. (link)
[*NOTE* Notice the narrative questioning at the time (early Jan) was framed that ‘any contact’ with Russians was evidence of meddling/election-collusion with Russians.]
•Friday January 20th – Inauguration
•Tuesday January 24th – Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was interviewed at the WH by the FBI. [Either Flynn contradicts Pence, or he tells a lie, those were his options.]
•Wednesday January 25th – The Department of Justice received a detailed readout from the FBI agents who had interviewed Flynn. Yates said she felt “it was important to get this information to the White House as quickly as possible.”
•Thursday January 26th – (morning) Yates called McGahn first thing that morning to tell him she had “a very sensitive matter” that had to be discussed face to face. McGahn agreed to meet with Yates later that afternoon.
•Thursday January 26th – (afternoon) Sally Yates traveled to the White House along with a senior member of the DOJ’s National Security Division, Mary McCord, who was overseeing the matter. This was Yates’ first meeting with McGahn in his office, which also acts as a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF).
Yates said she began their meeting by laying out the media accounts and media statements made by Vice President Mike Pence and other high-ranking White House officials about General Flynn’s activity “that we knew not to be the truth.”
According to Sally Yates testimony, she and McCord reportedly presented all the information to McGahn so the White House could take action that they deemed appropriate. When asked by McGahn if Flynn should be fired, Yates answered, “that really wasn’t our call.”
Yates also said her decision to notify the White House counsel had been discussed “at great length.” According to her testimony: “Certainly leading up to our notification on the 26th, it was a topic of a whole lot of discussion in DOJ and with other members of the intel community.”
•Friday January 27th – (morning) White House Counsel Don McGahn called Yates in the morning and asked if she could come back to his office.
•Friday January 27th – (late afternoon) According to her testimony, Sally Yates returned to the White House late that afternoon. One of McGahn’s topics discussed was whether Flynn could be prosecuted for his conduct.
Specifically, according to Yates, one of the questions McGahn asked Yates was, “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another?” She explained that it “was a whole lot more than that,” and reviewed the same issues outlined the prior day.
McGahn expressed his concern that taking action might interfere with the FBI investigation of Flynn, and Yates said it wouldn’t. “It wouldn’t really be fair of us to tell you this and then expect you to sit on your hands,” Yates had told McGahn.
McGahn asked if he could look at the underlying evidence of Flynn’s conduct, and she said they would work with the FBI over the weekend and “get back with him on Monday morning.”
•Friday January 27th – (evening) In what appears to be only a few hours later, President Trump is having dinner with FBI Director James Comey where President Trump asked if he was under investigation.
Now, accepting the politicization of the entire Russian Conspiracy Narrative that was leading the headlines for the two months prior to this dinner; and knowing moments earlier your Chief White House counsel informs you that two political operatives (Yates and Priestap) within the DOJ were providing classified intelligence reports about General Flynn; and knowing the prior months (Nov/Dec/Jan) were fraught with leaks from intelligence reports identical to those discussed; wouldn’t you perhaps think that any action you take could be utilized to add fuel to this Russian narrative? And/Or be used by these same leak facilitators to make something seem like something it is not?
Think about it.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged Flynn (full pdf below) with falsely telling FBI agents that he did not ask the ambassador “to refrain from escalating the situation” in response to the sanctions.
According to the plea, while being questioned by FBI agents on January 24, 2017, Flynn also lied when he claimed he could not recall a subsequent conversation with Kislyak, in which the ambassador told Flynn that the Putin regime had “chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of [Flynn’s] request.”
Furthermore, a week before the sanctions were imposed, Flynn had also spoken to Kislyak, asking the ambassador to delay or defeat a vote on a pending United Nations resolution. The criminal information charges that Flynn lied to the FBI by denying both that he’d made this request and that he’d spoken afterward with Kislyak about Russia’s response to it.
There was nothing wrong with the incoming national-security adviser’s having meetings with foreign counterparts or discussing such matters as the sanctions in those meetings. However, lying to the FBI is the process crime that has led to Flynn’s admissions herein:
As we have shared from the beginning – this is all about DC politics, not judicial crimes in the same vein as everyone else would be charged.
You cannot view the current action through the transactional prism of modern judicial proceedings as they relate to you and me. These are political struggles taking place inside the venue of the legal system. The players use the legal system to game out the optics and narrative of political battles for ideological wins and losses.
In essence, this is about leverage for political use.
Nothing about the current dynamic is factually encompassing President Trump; it is all about optics, narratives and political leverage. However, everything about this dynamic is factually encompassing the existential threat that outsider Trump represents to the established way of life in the DC Swamp.
Again, if you drop the legal prism and review everything from the perspective of gaining or losing political leverage it all makes sense.