Tip of the Iceberg: Michael Flynn Is Only a Piece of the Russia-Trump Connection

Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo.

–Hannibal Lecter

The Russian Presidency–domestic, not foreign–is back in the news with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The early Trump supporter, former Defense Intelligence Agency chief, analyst for Russia Today, and pal of Vladimir Putin apparently ”sought to hide from his colleagues and the nation a pre-inauguration discussion with the Russian government about sanctions that the Obama administration was imposing.”

Conducting foreign policy when another president is in office probably violates the Logan Act, but no one’s particularly worried about that. The law has never been tested. The concern has more to do with 1) the cover up, and 2) the Trump Administration’s troubling connection to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Electoral-vote.com has good synopsis of the issue:

During the campaign, then National Security Adviser-designate Mike Flynn chatted with officials in the Russian government, most prominently Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This was a no-no, but Flynn brushed it off, and said that nothing of substance was discussed. He specifically denied that there had been any discussion of the sanctions the Obama Administration imposed on Russia; a denial that was then angrily reiterated by members of the Trump team, most notably Mike Pence. Flynn repeated his denials as recently as Wednesday of this week. Then, the Washington Post published a story in which nine different intelligence officials, speaking off the record, said that Flynn had indeed discussed the sanctions with the Russian government (presumably making a promise that they would be overturned by Trump). Shortly after the publication of the Post story, Flynn changed his story, and said he simply could not recall what he and Kislyak had discussed.

When first reported, Flynn’s pre-election discussions came off as just another part of the Trump Administration’s abnormalization of American politics. Now,

The very best case scenario here is that Flynn broke the rules, had a months-long brain cramp thereafter, and then conveniently got uncramped in short order when it became absolutely necessary. This seems implausible. The more likely explanation is that he lied, multiple times, until he was caught—very possibly ensnaring an unwitting Mike Pence in the process.

NSA Advisor Michael Flynn seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Jill Stein (for good measure) at the 10th Anniversary Gala for Russia Today.

One way or another, Flynn will be gone. MSNBC just reported that Flynn’s departure that NOT “imminent,” according to the White House. Talk about a non-denial denial. It’s one thing to lie to the public in the Trump Administration, but it’s another to your colleagues, which is apparently what Flynn did to VOTUS Mike Pence.

The weirdness of all this is that the Intelligence Community (IC) is all over this. The FBI, CIA, NSA, and a couple of IC members are presently investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Flynn is certainly part of the investigation.

Even weirder, as one former NSA analyst notes, is that “Our spy services conduct signals intelligence—SIGINT for short—against the Russian embassy in Washington, just as the Russians do against our embassy in Moscow.” They may already know what Flynn said and when he said it.

Democrats aren’t lying down for this, judging by the flood of leaks and multiple corroborations of the Flynn flap. California Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that, “if General Flynn secretly discussed with Russia undermining U.S. sanctions, and misled American people, he can no longer serve.”

This week, the CIA made clear its opinion Flynn by denying clearance to one of his top aides.

It’s All About the Sanctions

Trump’s involvement with Russia and Putin remains a question mark. As Steve Benen notes about the Flynn fiasco, “The question, ‘What did the president know and when did he know it’ may be a Watergate-era cliché, but in this case, it’s also an important line of inquiry.”

In his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, former CIA deputy and acting director Mike Morrell wrote, “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

Putin could have developed Trump for several purposes. Our president needn’t have a specific purpose to prove useful to the Russian dictator, but it seems unlikely that Trump would do anything without there being an advantage to himself. Mental health aside, Donald Trump’s narcissism is clear, his behavior and responses predictable. He is not a man who makes friends with a Russian autocrat for nothing. He doesn’t end up surrounded by Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn by accident. So what does Trump get out of it lifting sanctions with Russia?

We know that the Russians worked hard on the behalf of the Trump campaign. The now infamous Russia Dossier, which is proving more reliable than some commentators gave it credit for, alleges that Russia has compromising information on our president. Somewhere in the Kremlin there may indeed be video evidence of Trump watching Russian hookers pee, but evidence of Trump’s financial shenanigans in foreign countries is more likely and potentially criminal. The carrot and stick aren’t mutually exclusive. Russia stands to make a lot of money–enough to share with Trump–if sanctions are lifted.

There’s no way of knowing if Carter Page and his associates were allegedly offered the brokerage of the 19% stake in Rosneft (the recently privatized Russian oil company), as the Russian Dossier alleges. Rosneft signed a deal on December 7 to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is Glencore’s largest shareholder. The percentage of shares mentioned in the dossier and eventually sold to Qatar are curiously similar to the alleged offer made to Page.

Michael Flynn may be part of the fire, but this scandal is smoke. The important question is, what is the motivation for Trump’s involvement with Putin and Russia? Is it a carrot (a Russian oligarch purchased a Florida mansion that he has never stepped foot in for more than twice the $40 million price Trump paid for it) or a stick in the form of some sort of kompromat or both? Trump is a quid pro quo guy. Even if he sometimes skips the quid. 



Discuss

14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Flynn is also grossly incompetent

    From a fascinating (and disturbing) Times profile of the NSC dysfunction:

    Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.

    Jesus Christ. I wrote transfers requests for an entire summer at the State Department and can tell everyone here that they have to be certified by a Colonel level staffer in the Defense Department, certified by the State Department, and then approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being authorized. Additionally, the receiving party has to also approve of the transfer and send over corresponding documents. Third parties also have approval in the case of two allied recipients that might not see eye to eye on everything (think Israel and Egypt). How did he not know this?!

    This is looking more and more like Iran-Contra every day. And we are only three weeks in.

    • His success came from his work

      with JSOC. According to Dana Priest,

      The greatest accomplishment of Flynn’s military career was revolutionizing the way that the clandestine arm of the military, the Joint Special Operations Command (jsoc), undertook the killing and capture of suspected terrorists and insurgents in war zones. Stanley McChrystal, Flynn’s mentor, had tapped him for the job. They were both part of the self-described “Irish mafia” of officers at the Fort Bragg Army base, in North Carolina. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Flynn ordered jsoc commandos to collect and catalogue data from interrogations, captured electronic equipment, pocket trash—anything that could yield useful information. By analyzing these disparate scraps of intelligence, they were able to discover that Al Qaeda was not a hierarchical group after all but a dynamic network of cells and relationships. As I learned while doing research for my book “Top Secret America,” Flynn and McChrystal dramatically increased the pace of jsoc attacks on enemy hideouts by devising a system in which commandos on missions transferred promising data—cell-phone numbers, meeting locations—to analysts, who could then quickly point them to additional targets to hit. Multiple raids a night became common.

      If you read the entire article, Priest says McChrystal had to look out for Flynn, who, as the record shows, doesn’t play well with others.

      • Another sobering piece

        Some more food for frightening thoughts:

        it was also the time he gave classified information to NATO allies without approval

        He considers Russia an American ally, so this behavior would likely cross apply.

        Islam is not a religion, Flynn and Ledeen wrote, but a political ideology bent on destroying Judeo-Christian civilization. Flynn began saying that he had been fired because President Obama disagreed with his views on terrorism and wanted to hide the growth of ISIS. I haven’t found anyone yet who heard him say this while he was still in the military. In the past, I’ve asked Flynn directly about this claim; he has told me that he doesn’t have any proof—it’s just something he feels was true.

        “it’s just something he feels was true” applies to a lot of the statecraft, if we can even call it that, that has guided the Trump Administration thus far.

        Flynn can’t be fired since he’d turn informant. Michael could whack Fredo, and Putin has had subordinates killed before, something our President says ‘everybody does’; but more likely he gets demoted to a less public position to keep his mouth shut.

        • Or get impeached

          There seems to be more solid evidence against him than Trump.

        • He's going, one way or another.

          I’ll bet money on it. I just read a review of Flynn’s book in the New York Review of Books. The reviewer didn’t say he was nuts, but it was clear.

          If the IC has enough info on Flynn, they’ll get him out at the very least. Trump could also succumb to them if they continue to speak on the condition of anonymity. The Intelligence folks are worried about their lives as well as their work. Once Trump becomes a complete liability, the GOP will have to consider impeachment, if there are grounds.

          The leaks will continue. We’re only three weeks into the administration, and it looks like Flynn, Spicer, and Priebus are being reviewed.

  2. Just saw on FB...

    …that intel agencies are withholding info from Trump in part because, “We’ve assumed since January 20th that the Kremlin has ears in the Situation Room”:(

  3. Flynns gone

    Good on the Democrats for continuing to press for investigations and for linking this back to the election hacking. I am also glad to see Democrats questioning which country Donald Trump is loyal too. As I said in the summer-it’s not McCarthyism if it’s true.

  4. Good-more Democrats should have that kind of cajones

    I think too many Democrats, including too many here, consider calling your political opponents traitors as something intrinsically immoral and dishonest. It’s not when its true.

    Flynn has committed treason by violating the Logan Act. That is a textbook definition of traitor and even many Republicans like Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and Norman Podhoretz are making that case. It’s time for Democrats to do that.

    Just because Congressional investigations into the Clintons were partisan witchhunts doesn’t mean that investigations into Trump are partisan witchhunts. Just because the Republicans did it doesn’t mean we are wrong to do it-especially when the facts are begging us to do so.

    • Not convinced...

      …that Logan Act violations are automatically treason. In fact laws like the Logan Act exist precisely so acts that fall short of the narrowly and constitutionally defined crime of treason with a higher burden of proof can still be prosecuted. There have been times I’ve been more tempted to call Trump a traitor than for any other President or candidate, but that comes from a place of political rhetoric. If I were a member of Congress or in any way responsible for enforcing the law I’d be a lot more careful. Treason against the United States shall consist only of levying war against them, or adhering to their enemies (in context that seems to be wartime opposition and we aren’t at war), giving them aid and comfort. One can only be convicted upon confession in open court or the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act. I’m all for investigations, but I’d much prefer to leave over-the-top rhetoric to the other side.

« Blue Mass Group Front Page

Add Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sun 26 Mar 10:30 AM