Is Mueller Closing In?

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Trump Maladministration

It sure seems so

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December, becoming the first senior White House official to pledge cooperation in the special counsel’s wide-ranging inquiry of election meddling.

Documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show that his pre-inauguration discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, about foreign policy were part of a coordinated effort by aides running Mr. Trump’s transition into the White House. In at least one instance, federal prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a “very senior member” of Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team.

So what exactly did Flynn lie about?

He’s charged with lying about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 22nd, 2016 and on December 29th, 2016.

In the first set of conversations, Flynn apparently asked that Russia either delay or defeat a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. Flynn lied to the FBI about whether Russia ever described their response to this request to him, claiming that they did not.

In the second set of conversations, Flynn requested and received assurances that Russia would not respond strongly to President Obama’s announcement that he was placing new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for their meddling in our election. He dishonestly claimed not to remember that Russia had made these assurances to him.

In return for pleading guilty to these charges, Flynn will be expected to cooperate with the investigation. If he doesn’t do so satisfactorily those other charges, including the kidnapping charge which also implicates his son, could be reintroduced.

 Flynn did not make these contacts on his own initiative.

Flynn’s stipulation of the facts underlying his December 2016 conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. At least one of those two conversations Flynn undertook at the direction of a “very senior” transition official, the stipulation says.

The documents do not say who directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak — a conversation Flynn later reportedly lied about to Vice President Mike Pence, a lie that was the stated reason that Trump fired Flynn in February. But Flynn’s statement, following his Friday guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, shows that the transition team, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was informed at every stage of his discussions with Kislyak.

Who was this “very senior” transition official who gave the order? Nobody really knows. Bloomberg speculates that it was Jared Kushner. Others are reporting that it was Trump himself.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to testify that President Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by ABC News.

Flynn is saying that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians,” ABC’s Brian Ross said Friday, just moments after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying about his contact with Russians during the presidential transition period.

Oh, let it be true, please …

Or, it could have been Pence. Josh Marshall:

The first point to note is that Flynn was the person running the Trump foreign policy operation. That is what a modern National Security Advisor does. From everything we know, it’s what Flynn was doing in the latter months of the campaign and certainly during the transition. In other words, it’s not clear that there was anyone in the campaign who outranked Flynn on foreign policy matters. Other than the President-Elect or conceivably the Vice President-Elect, Flynn is the guy who would do the directing rather than getting direction.

Let’s walk through this again.

The “senior official” is the one who talked with Flynn about how to handle his discussions with Kislyak about the sanctions. It was the “very senior member” of the transition who specifically told Flynn to contact foreign governments about the Israel resolution at the UN. The language is very specific about the direction. “On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governments…”

The ‘very’ in “very senior member” seems like an almost over the top effort to convey just who it was the prosecutors are talking about. It’s hard to see that that is not either Pence or President Trump, though it also strikes me as perhaps a bit too coy to refer to the incoming President as a member of transition team.

See also Mother Jones. And there’s more …

Flynn clearly kept the President’s team in Mar-A-Lago fully up to date about his conversations with Kislyak, in more or less real time. There were repeated calls with the “senior official” about Kislyak. Critically, after the full round of calls with Kislyak, Flynn “spoke with senior members [note the plural] of the Presidential Transition Team” about his conversations with Kislyak. …

… The clear takeaway is that basically all of Trump’s top advisors, including the President and almost certainly Vice President Pence, were in the loop about these calls even if they did not themselves speak to Flynn directly.

All this may account for why Trump’s behavior has been more erratic than usual lately.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Gregg Winston  •  Dec 1, 2017 @5:54 pm

    Next Domino: I'd put my money on Jared

  2. Dickeylee  •  Dec 1, 2017 @7:43 pm

    Please let it be Pence. Remember Spiro went first. If they go after Mr Ivanka first it will force Trumps hand to pardon the whole bunch. But I suspect that Mike is expendable…

  3. Dickeylee  •  Dec 1, 2017 @7:44 pm

    We need to drip drip this out thru next Nov…

  4. aj  •  Dec 1, 2017 @10:24 pm

    Is Mueller closing in?

    To paraphrase Mr. Comey " Lordy I hope so"

    And no Ty Cobb this is not the end , it is the end of the beginning.

    I just hope the Congress gets its just desserts after screwing all of us with this tax nightmare( anti education, anti healthcare anti home ownership and pro rule by oligarchy).

  5. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Dec 1, 2017 @11:46 pm

    One thing does hearten me. When Starr was investigating the Clintons, he tried to get a lot of people to flip, and prosecuted them when they wouldn't. Now: you could consider this either of two ways: either the Clintons were, in fact, innocent, there was nothing to flip; or, that these people were so loyal, they wouldn't flip.

    If the Clintons inspired *that* much loyalty, that's a bit worrisome, in point of fact. But Trump?

    "What will it take to make you flip, mister? We've got you cold, and your only hope is to bring us dirt on your good friend Trump. How much is that friendship worth to you, hm?"

    "Okay, okay, at least a day off my sentence and – hey, can I have one of those doughnuts and a cup of good coffee? Then I'll roll on him."

  6. Ed  •  Dec 1, 2017 @11:46 pm

    We cannot make sense of this unless we know the chain of command. Flynn has had too many years in the military not to have chain of command in his bones, so we can be sure that the order came from there. I just am not sure that that chain has been clearly delineated. 

     

    Flynn implied that he had rendered decades of service in the military, so he should be allowed to get away with a felony here and there. I wonder how many years on active duty you  need to qualify for this benefit. If I had two years of active duty as an enlisted man many decades ago, can I get away with a misdemeanor? 

  7. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 2, 2017 @12:04 am

    Expect to be reading about a major tweet storm tomorrow morning when you wake up.

    Then, say a prayer or cross your fingers that the people watching tRUMP are ready to stop him from getting too close to the briefcase with the nuclear codes, in case he decides that 'misery loves company,' and makes North Korea pay for his humiliation.

    Starting WWIII would be a small price for him to pay, to stop further humiliation.

  8. Swami  •  Dec 2, 2017 @12:05 am

    If I had two years of active duty as an enlisted man many decades ago, can I get away with a misdemeanor? 

    Is that a trick question?  I guess the answer would be yes, but that's only if you don't get caught. 

  9. Swami  •  Dec 2, 2017 @2:56 am

    I've spent the whole day scouring the internet reading and listening to any  story pertaining to the recent development in the Mueller investigation. And after processing all information from every conceivable source I've finally arrived at a very sound conclusion. It is my considered opinion that Trump is fucked.

    For Flynn to walk away with a felony conviction that might entail a severe $250. fine and possibly no jail time he's gonna have to sing like Jenny Lind. The tune he's going to be singing will be Bye, Bye Jared, bye bye Sessions and bye bye Junior. If I were in Trump's position I'd be quaking in my boots as I see a reckoning coming at me. The only problem there is that Trump is so delusional that he think's he can shout it down with fake news, fake news.

     It should be fun to watch. I now feel confident that Trump isn't going to slip the grasp of justice. And I hope that anybody who's rubbed up against him comes away the stink of disgrace all over them.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  10. Doug  •  Dec 2, 2017 @11:22 am

    I have been watching the nuances of this. "Fascinating!" This went up the wazoo of everyone who has worked for Trump – before or after he hung the 'Trump' sign on the White House. Because Flynn talked, others are talking. Nobody knows what Mueller knows, but the wall has crumbled and 5 years in jail can be the price for trying to hold back…. hold back what?

    Flynn broke the Logan Act, which nobody has ever been prosecuted for. He was hiding something bigger than a run-in with the Logan Act when he lied. Hiding what? It looks like Kushner directed Flynn. Has Kushner ever lied under oath about directing Flynn? 

    The "very senior member" of the transition team may be – probably is a different person than who directed Flynn to make the first contact with Kislyak . Some of the stuff happened in Mir-A-GoGo. Who else knew? Was this discussed in meetings that included Pence – that blows a hole in the public reason Trump canned Flynn. If Pence knew what Flynn was doing, the lie Trump told about why Flynn was fired proves Trump was in on it. If Trump can be impeached for something Pence participated in, is it a double impeachment? I don't know.

    Paul Ryan would sit on the throne, and it's the House who starts the ball rolling in impeachment. I'm not confident this will happen, but Ryan's ambition can't be discounted – he won't have the chance again.

    Will the GOP impeach? If Mueller can show that Trump was actively using (or being used by) the Russians in the campaign – if the Kremlin was an active partner – Trump can not win in 2020.   If Pence knew what Trump was doing, he can't win in 2020.  If the facts are there – and I said "if" – the GOP can't not impeach and have credibility in the 2020 election. BUT Trump may threaten to run as Independent, which would split the GOP irrevocably. If you had to chose between running aground (doing irreparable harm) or sinking, which do you do?

    If the DNC had a shred of integrity, they'd run the table nationwide in 2018 and 2020.  Democrats have some good candidates, but the party has no honor.

    I'd say Mueller is showing three kings against Trump's pair of aces. IF Trump did not collude with the Russians, Mueller hasn't got Trump  – if Trump didn't offer something to the Russians in exchange for support. If Trump didn't collude, and good sense prevailed during the campaign – why were they all lying?  

    The lying is over now – Trump threw Flynn under the bus by not giving him a pardon. If voter data was exchanged to help the Russians micro-target a Facebook campaign. the techies who sent the files aren't going to jail. There was a server in Trump tower that Trump's business owned that was communicating data with a Russian entity during the campaign. Hmmmm. Kushner's not savvy enough to plug in a laptop charger. 

    Last comment – no tweets this morning. The silence speaks volumes. 

  11. csm  •  Dec 2, 2017 @12:59 pm

    The level of repulican insanity underpinning the passing of the tax bill strongly suggests that under no circumstances would the GOP ever impeach Trump.  The supreme court set the precedent with Bill Clinton that a sitting president can be subpoenaed, indicted etc.  We could be faced with the truly uncharted waters of a scenario wherein the President and/or senior members of his administration are indicted while the president remains in office.  What happens then?  Is the president arrested and booked?  Trial scheduled between presidential duties?  How does a President function while answering criminal charges? What if he is convicted?

    Impeachment in this sense is provided to save the office of the presidency and the country from that scenario, and yet we have a majority republican party so craven and self serving that it would refuse to use the levers the Constitution provides to protect and preserve the government.  

    It increasingly looks as if Mueller has the goods on Trump, and that as this moves up the chain Mueller's vision was to have evidence so overwhelming that there could be no doubt that crimes were committed.   The watershed moment for our "democracy" will be when Trump, his family and/or senior members of his staff are criminally indicted.  That will be the fork in the road for the so called American experiment and possibly the beginning of the end.

  12. grannyeagle  •  Dec 2, 2017 @3:18 pm

    Based on my age and life experience, I am prepared to go out on a limb and state my armchair diagnosis.  I have long thought that once Congress got what they wanted out of Trump, they would get rid of him.  I guess the tax bill is the prize.  I think the senior member is Kushner simply because Trump  gave him so much rope to do whatever he thought was best keeping himself protected by not doing it himself.  Kushner's ego was stroked and he had complete confidence in his own decisions.

      Combine that with his naivety of how the government worked and you get rash behavior. 

    As for Pence, I truly believe he was kept out of the loop.  Trump picked him for his experience and his holier-than-thou attitude.  He just may be savvy enough to sit back and "be pure" and let Trump  hang himself.  Then he can be shocked but step into the Presidency's shoes and the whole GOP will be happy.  As for Trump, he is getting increasingly desperate and one cannot predict what he will do. He is finding out that running a government is a whole lot different from having control in a real estate business.  His main goal is to win and be adored.  He does not have the control he would like to have.  He has said as much and he wants his old life back.  I have observed that lately when in meetings and taking questions from the press, he crosses his arms.  This is a protective, defensive gesture. 

    In Chinese medicine, all energy in the body is rooted in the Kidney meridian.  The color of this meridian is dark blue or black.  Look at the bags under Trump's eyes and you will see black.  This reflects an imbalance in his Kidney meridian.  Also, the emotion related to the kidney is fear.  His diet is poor, he doesn't get enough sleep and he is 70yo and frustrated.  IMO, anything could happen healthwise.  I think he would love to have a nuclear war.  God help us.

  13. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Dec 2, 2017 @7:45 pm

    CSM, I believe that Clinton left the decision, that "the President can be subpoenaed, deposed (er, forced to give  a deposition, though the other meaning would be nice in Trump's case), even if not actually *tried*" at the circuit court level – not wanting to risk going to the SCOTUS. Which really is infuriating in some ways. It would be appropriate justice if he'd gone to the SCOTUS and they'd gleefully rendered the decision, so Trump had no grounds for his own defense against civil issues.

    Personally, I don't think the President should be allowed to be put under the direction of the courts – as a co-equal branch of government, the courts should not have that authority over him while he's President. But I do think that discovery and the freezing of statutes of limitations should be allowable. (In fact, I've heard it said that if you leave a jurisdiction, it's expected that it freezes the statute of limitations, and being elected President is essentially leaving a jurisdiction.)

  14. Swami  •  Dec 3, 2017 @3:12 am
  15. priscianus jr  •  Dec 3, 2017 @5:28 pm

    Re Josh Marshall's suggestion of Pence as possible suspect for the "very senior member" of Trump's transition team … Pence is in jeopardy for lying, but those lies were to cover up for Flynn. I can't believe Mike Pence was giving foreign-policy orders to Flynn. Kushner is the likely suspect, but then, can Trump be far behind? Was he really not in charge? 

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