Smoke Signals from the Swamp: The fall of Flynn
For the first article in the Smoke Signals from the Swamp series, click HERE:
When last we saw General Michael Flynn, fresh off his “lock-her-up” success at the Republican convention, he was named to serve as President Trump’s National Security Advisor.
Alex Finley in his Politico article, “The Recruitables: Why Trump’s Team Was Easy Prey for Putin,” offers some interesting guidance: “As a former officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, I can tell you that Russian security services would have been derelict not to evaluate the possibility of turning someone close to Trump … Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which — in true government style — the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it … From the heights of JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] to being fired — wrongly fired, no less, in his view — Flynn at this point would have made any foreign intelligence officer salivate.”
As one of Trump’s right-hand men Flynn might have imagined he had finally bested Obama and Hillary. But the report that Trump wanted to bring Flynn back to the government so alarmed former President Obama that, according to NBC News, on November 10, 2016 he “warned President Donald Trump against hiring Mike Flynn as his national security adviser …
“A senior Trump administration official acknowledged Monday that Obama raised the issue of Flynn, saying the former president made clear he was ‘not a fan of Michael Flynn.’ Another official said Obama’s remark seemed like it was made in jest.”
Armed with classified information, former President Obama obviously knew something about Flynn’s unacknowledged involvement with Russian and other authoritarian interests. We may never know exactly what the former President told President Trump about how the Russians may have compromised Michael Flynn. But we do know President Trump disregarded the advice. On November 18, 2016, he named Michael Flynn his National Security Advisor, an appointment that did not require Congressional approval.
On December 29, 2016, more than a month after the election, the Washington Post reported: “The Obama administration announced sweeping new measures against Russia … The response, unveiled just weeks before President Obama leaves office, culminates months of internal debate over how to react to Russia’s election-year provocations. In recent months, the FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened repeatedly in the 2016 election, leaking damaging information in an attempt to undermine the electoral process and help Donald Trump take the White House.
“ … it can be undone by the next administration. But Obama’s last-minute measures put pressure on Trump, who has largely waved off the allegations against Russia, to make a decision about whether to keep the punitive measures in place.
“The new measures include sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The two agencies named are the GRU, Russia’s military spy service, and the civilian spy agency FSB, a successor to the KGB. The administration has also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and will shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island in New York believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.”
Over the years we’ve gotten used to the familiar pattern to U.S./Russian disciplinary actions, a very reliable and reciprocal retaliation. But Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider reported: “Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said the Kremlin ‘will not resort to irresponsible “kitchen diplomacy”’in response to new US sanctions for Russia’s suspected meddling in the US election process. ‘Although we have the right to retaliate,’ Putin said, Russia would instead ‘plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump administration.’”
Here, then, are so many strands of this story. The intelligence agencies acknowledgment that the Russian interference was effective. The imposition of yet more sanctions on both Russian individuals and institutions. Then the uncharacteristic patience of the Russians, and Putin’s strategic decision to wait and see whether President Trump would enforce these sanctions. And to see what Trump’s policy would be toward Russia in these days to come.
On December 30, 2016, President-elect Trump took to Twitter to praise Putin for his restraint: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart.”
On January 6, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and National Intelligence Council declared: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments …” (Emphasis DNI)
Think about what we know about General Flynn’s agenda in the context of this conclusion: “Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine. Putin publicly contrasted the President-elect’s approach to Russia with Secretary Clinton’s ‘aggressive rhetoric’ … Moscow also saw the election of President-elect Trump as a way to achieve an international counterterrorism coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” (Emphasis added)
Two things were happening simultaneously. The Obama Administration was increasingly alarmed by Russian cyber activity and attempts to cultivate, possibly recruit those involved in the Trump campaign. And while our Intelligence Community was increasingly aware this was happening, those within the Trump campaign and the candidate, soon to be the President-elect, were vociferously denying any contact with the Russians.
In mid-January 2016, General Flynn applied for a renewal of his security clearance. We learned from a May 22, 2017 letter sent by Rep. Elijah Cummings to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that during that process General Flynn offered misleading information to investigators:
“Specifically … General Flynn told security clearance investigators that he was paid by ‘U.S. companies’ when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The actual source of the funds for General Flynn’s trip was not a U.S. company, but the Russian media propaganda arm, RT.”
In July 2016, when asked about his appearance in Moscow General Flynn told Yahoo News: “I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.”
Thanks to some judicious leaks the public began to learn bits and pieces of some of what our Intelligence Services knew. And as official stories began to unravel, we began to better appreciate incidents misremembered.
We learned from The New York Times on May 24, 2017 about critically important intercepted phone conversations: “American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.
“The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia. Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort …
“Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign. The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.”
General Flynn first met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on an official DIA trip to Moscow in 2013. The New York Times on March 2, 2017 reported on a meeting between General Flynn and Jared Kushner with Ambassador Kislyak in December 2016 at Trump Tower: “Michael T. Flynn, then Donald J. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to ‘establish a line of communication’ between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday.
“Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. But among Mr. Trump’s inner circle, it is Mr. Flynn who appears to have been the main interlocutor with the Russian envoy — the two were in contact during the campaign and the transition, Mr. Kislyak and current and former American officials have said.”
On January 12, 2017, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote: “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.”
On February 9, 2017, the Washington Post told us more: “National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
“Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.” (Emphasis added)
It’s clear that communications with the Russian Ambassador were being monitored and members of the intelligence community were deeply concerned. On February 13, 2017, the Washington Post reported: “The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
“The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.”
We learned the details of that exchange when Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney-General testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May: “The first meeting occurred on January 26, called Don McGahn first thing that morning and told him that I had a very sensitive matter that I needed to discuss with him, that I couldn’t talk about it on the phone and that I needed to come see him. And he agreed to meet with me later that afternoon.
“We met in his office at the White House which is a skiff so we could discuss classified information in his office. We began our meeting telling him that there had been … a number of press accounts of statements that had been made by the vice president and other high-ranking White House officials about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue. And we told them how we knew this — how we had this information, how we had acquired it, and how we knew that it was untrue.
“… and the first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself. Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn’t true. And we wanted to make it really clear right out of the gate that we were not accusing Vice President Pence of knowingly providing false information to the American people …
“We told him the third reason was — is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done. And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.
“And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.”
Sally Yates testified about a second meeting with the White House Counsel: “One of the questions that Mr. McGahn asked me when I went back over the second day was essentially, why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official? And so we explained to him … that every time this lie was repeated and the misrepresentations were getting more and more specific, as — as they were coming out. Every time that happened, it increased the compromise and to state the obvious, you don’t want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians.”
On February 14, 2017 the Washington Post reported that twenty-four days in as National Security Advisor, General Flynn resigned his post: “Flynn stepped down amid mounting pressure on the Trump administration to account for its false statements about Flynn’s conduct after The Washington Post reported Monday that the Justice Department had warned the White House last month that Flynn had so mischaracterized his communications with the Russian diplomat that he might be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.”
In his resignation letter, Flynn explained that: “In the course of my duties as incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice-President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice-President and they have accepted my apology … I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.
“I am also extremely honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world …
“I know with the strong leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence and the superb team they are assembling, this team will go down in history as one of the greatest presidencies in U.S. history, and I firmly believe the American people will be well served as they all work together to help Make America Great Again.”
A more cynical observer might wonder if General Flynn’s choice to resign – rather than mount a vigorous defense of what I imagine he could argue were merely legitimate attempts to create détente between the United States and Russia and forge a more effective and unified response to Islamic terror – was both a signal of his uncompromised loyalty to President Trump and his soldierly willingness to take a fall for the rest of the team in the hope he could stop further investigation into, and meddling with, the larger agenda. And perhaps the sense that in return for such selflessness he would ultimately receive a Presidential pardon.
We learned even more about the timeline of events when former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, 2017: “Following an extensive intelligence reporting about many Russian efforts to collect on and influence the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama asked us to do this in early December and have it completed before the end of his term …
“These Russian activities and the result and assessment were briefed first to President Obama on the 5th of January, then to President-elect Trump at Trump Tower on the 6th and to the Congress via a series of five briefings from the 6th through the 13th of January.”
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was clearly far more concerned with General Flynn’s Russia connections than the Trump administration. And concerned that the Trump Administration hadn’t taken prompt action. On March 16, 2017, the Committee wrote President Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and FBI Director James Comey to note that U.S. intelligence agencies had been warning that RT was “an instrument of the Russian government, and that RT had paid Flynn more than $45,000. That he had “also received $11,500 from a Russian charter cargo airline and $11,250 from a top Russia-based cybersecurity corporation.” That $11,250 came from Kaspersky Government Security Solutions Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Labs, the “top Russian cybersecurity company,” and “the foremost researcher uncovering Western government spyware for the past several years.”
The committee noted that “Eugene Kaspersky, the corporation’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, reportedly ‘was educated at a KGB-sponsored cryptography institute, then worked for Russian military intelligence.’ Over the past several years, the company reportedly has been replacing high-level managers with ‘people with close ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services,’ although Mr. Kaspersky denies these allegations.”
(It’s worth noting that on September 13, 2017, the New York Times reported that the federal government began “to wipe from its computer systems any software made by a prominent Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab … The concerns surrounding Kaspersky, whose software is sold throughout the United States, are longstanding … The F.B.I. has also been investigating whether Kaspersky software, including its well-regarded antivirus programs, contain back doors that could allow Russian intelligence access into computers on which it is running. The company denies the allegations.”)
The Committee continued: “On February 13, 2017, the President fired General Flynn for concealing information about his communications with Russian officials. On March 7, 2017, General Flynn’s company made a ‘retroactive’ filing with the Department of Justice disclosing that he served as an agent of a foreign government while advising then-candidate Donald Trump. The filing disclosed lobbying work worth $530,000 from August through November 2016 that ‘could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey.’”
The New York Times on March 10, 2017 wrote that General Flynn “filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States … On behalf of his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, Mr. Flynn signed a contract on Aug. 9 with Inovo, a Dutch firm owned by Ekim Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. Mr. Flynn’s firm was to receive $600,000 for 90 days of work …
“The White House said that Mr. Trump did not know that Mr. Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when Mr. Trump appointed him national security adviser, a position that gave him access to classified meetings and materials. But a person briefed on the matter, who insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations, said Mr. Flynn’s lawyer contacted a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s transition team before the inauguration to ask whether Mr. Flynn should register given his work for Inovo.
“The transition lawyer offered no advice, saying it was up to Mr. Flynn. After the inauguration, the person said, Mr. Flynn and his lawyer each raised it again with a White House lawyer, only to be told once more it was up to him.”
It’s worth taking a moment to think about Inovo and General Flynn and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who recently crushed a coup, instigated by young Army officers concerned by the increasing authoritarian actions of the government. Tens of thousands of students and faculty and soldiers and Kurds have been arrested. For years people have taken to the streets of Turkish cities to protest the corruption and concentration of power in the hands of Erdogan and his associates.
A 2015 article by Foreign Policy explains the roots of the unrest in Turkey: “On Dec. 17, 2013, police officers raided several homes, including two belonging to the families of the ruling elite. In the course of the investigation the police confiscated some $17.5 million in cash, money allegedly used for bribery: $4.5 million was found at the residence of Suleyman Aslan, the director of state-owned Halkbank, and $750,000 at the home of Baris Guler, son of the former minister of the interior.
“At the heart of the probe was businessman Reza Zarrab, who was reportedly involved in a money laundering scheme as part of a strategy to bypass United States-led sanctions on Iran. All of the 52 people detained that day were connected in various ways with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Prosecutors accused 14 people — including Aslan, Zarrab, and several family members of cabinet ministers — of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering, and gold smuggling. The whistleblowers who tipped off the police claimed that the son of then-Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan was next in line. A firestorm was sparked by the release on YouTube of audio recordings in which Erdogan was reportedly heard telling his son, Bilal, to urgently get rid of tens of millions of dollars.”
Just imagine: money-laundering, bypassing United States sanctions, and a corruption scandal involving family.
The New York Times continues: “Mr. Flynn was assigned to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and was blamed by Mr. Erdogan for helping instigate the failed coup. Mr. Erdogan has demanded the United States extradite Mr. Gulen, which the Obama administration refused to do.
“The forms filed this week indicate that Mr. Flynn’s firm was ‘to perform investigative research’ on Mr. Gulen and ‘develop a short film piece on the results of its investigation.’ In the end, the video was never completed, and Mr. Flynn’s firm received $530,000 before the contract terminated in November. But on Election Day, Mr. Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill, a newspaper serving Congress, calling Mr. Gulen ‘a shady Islamic mullah’ and ‘radical Islamist.’
The Wall Street Journal on March 25, 2017 suggested just how far General Flynn might have been compromised by his work for Turkey: “Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.
“The discussion late last summer involved ideas about how to get Fethullah Gulen, a cleric whom Turkey has accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed military coup, to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, according to Mr. Woolsey and those who were briefed. Mr. Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal he arrived at the meeting in New York on Sept. 19 in the middle of the discussion and found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, General Flynn not only neglected to reveal his work on behalf of Turkey but his efforts to promote “a controversial private-sector nuclear power plan in the Middle East that had once involved Russian companies.
“While working at the White House, Mr. Flynn advocated for a group of former senior U.S. military officers with whom he had worked while in the private sector. The project, which the former military officers were helping promote on behalf of several U.S. companies, envisions building and operating dozens of nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East, the people familiar with it said.
“The sprawling construction project was valued at hundreds of billions of dollars and described as a Marshall Plan for the region, according to the people familiar with it. Mr. Flynn, as a private citizen before entering the White House, had advised U.S. companies that aimed to provide security for the project.
“White House disclosure forms indicate that Mr. Flynn’s year-and-a-half work on the project ended in December 2016, but Mr. Flynn in fact remained involved in the project once he joined the Trump administration in January, discussing the plan and directing his National Security Council staff to meet with the companies involved, the former staffers said.”
And in what proved to be one of the final Flynn White House episodes involving Russia, the New York Times reported on February 19, 2017 that “a week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.”
The Times continued: “Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort …
“Mr. Artemenko said he saw in Mr. Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine — and help advance his own political career. Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.
“The Ukrainian ambassador, Mr. Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind. ‘It is a gross violation of the Constitution,’ he said in written answers to questions from The Times. ‘Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.’ The reaction suggested why Mr. Artemenko’s project also includes the dissemination of ‘kompromat,’ or compromising material, purportedly showing that Mr. Poroshenko and his closest associates are corrupt. Only a new government, presumably one less hostile to Russia, might take up his plan.”
We’re learning more and more about how the Russians used social media like Facebook, Google and Twitter to influence the election. And we’ll be talking more about similar efforts waged by the Trump Campaign. But, in yet another interesting intersection, we learned from General Flynn’s revised disclosure form that he was connected to these efforts. The Associated Press reported: “President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, disclosed a brief advisory role with a firm related to a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign, according to a filing Flynn submitted to the White House.
“The amended disclosure filed Friday by Flynn lists him as an adviser to SCL Group, a Virginia-based company related to Cambridge Analytica, the data mining and analysis firm that worked with Trump’s campaign.”
General Flynn is inextricably woven into the story of Donald Trump and Russia. And nothing reveals the important role he has played more clearly than the efforts President Trump made to convince FBI Director James Comey not to dig too deeply into what Flynn might have done.
On Tuesday May 9, 2017 President Trump fired Director Comey. On June 8, 2017, former Director Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In his prepared statement, he wrote: “The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. …The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away … I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not ‘reliable’ in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.
“A few moments later, the President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence …
“On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President …The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.
“When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about Mike Flynn.’ Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.
“The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a good guy and has been through a lot.’ He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’
I’ll leave you with one last slightly bizarre twist to the Russia puzzle. Remember how often we heard about the 33,000 missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server? Remember when candidate Trump declared during a press conference in Florida on July 27, 2016: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
The UK Guardian recently told the story of Republican operative Peter Smith who had hoped to find and release those emails before the election. Former British secret service cyber expert Matt Tait wrote about his dealings with Peter Smith: “He mentioned that he had been contacted by someone on the ‘Dark Web’ who claimed to have a copy of emails from Secretary Clinton’s private server, and this was why he had contacted me; he wanted me to help validate whether or not the emails were genuine …
“I never found out who Smith’s contact on the ‘Dark Web’ was. It was never clear to me whether this person was merely someone trying to dupe Smith out of his money, or a Russian front, and it was never clear to me how they represented their own credentials to Smith.”
And now the part that’s most relevant to our story: “It was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well. Smith routinely talked about the goings on at the top of the Trump team, offering deep insights into the bizarre world at the top of the Trump campaign. Smith told of Flynn’s deep dislike of DNI Clapper, whom Flynn blamed for his dismissal by President Obama. Smith told of Flynn’s moves to position himself to become CIA Director under Trump, but also that Flynn had been persuaded that the Senate confirmation process would be prohibitively difficult. He would instead therefore become National Security Advisor should Trump win the election, Smith said. He also told of a deep sense of angst even among Trump loyalists in the campaign, saying “Trump often just repeats whatever he’s heard from the last person who spoke to him,” and expressing the view that this was especially dangerous when Trump was away …
“A few weeks into my interactions with Smith, he sent me a document, ostensibly a cover page for a dossier of opposition research to be compiled by Smith’s group, and which purported to clear up who was involved. The document was entitled “A Demonstrative Pedagogical Summary to be Developed and Released Prior to November 8, 2016,” and dated September 7. It detailed a company Smith and his colleagues had set up as a vehicle to conduct the research: “KLS Research,” set up as a Delaware LLC “to avoid campaign reporting,” and listing four groups who were involved in one way or another.
“The first group, entitled “Trump Campaign (in coordination to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure)” listed a number of senior campaign officials: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, Lt. Gen. Flynn and Lisa Nelson.”
On November 5, 2017 NBC News reported that “Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation …
“The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
Mueller’s team is also examining whether Flynn attempted to orchestrate the removal of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, two officials said.”
Which brings us back to MICE.
Where this stuff comes from:
“The Recruitables: Why Trump’s Team Was Easy Prey for Putin”
Alex Finley, October 26, 2017, Politico Magazine
“Obama Warned Trump Against Hiring Mike Flynn, Say Officials”
Kristen Welker, Peter Alexander, Dafna Linzer, and Ken Dilanian, May 8 2017, NBC News
“Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference”
Missy Ryan, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung, December 29, 2016, The Washington Post
“Trump adviser Michael T. Flynn on his dinner with Putin and why Russia Today is just like CNN”
Dana Priest, Washington Post, August 15, 2016
“Russia’s response to Obama ‘is frankly the most damaging and embarrassing answer we could receive’”
Natasha Bertrand, December 30, 2016, Business Insider
“Trump adviser Flynn paid by multiple Russia-related entities, new records show”
Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, March 16, 2017, The Washington Post
March 18, 2017 Letter House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to President Trump
“Interactive Timeline: Everything We Know About Russia and President Trump”
“Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says”
By Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo
March 2, 2017
“The Disruptive Career of Michael Flynn”
Dana Priest, The New Yorker, November 23, 2016
Steele, Fusion GPS Dossier:
“Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say”
By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker February 13, 2017 Washington Post
“National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say”
Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, February 9 2017, Washington Post
“Trump team issued at least 20 denials of contacts with Russia”
John Kelly and Steve Reilly, USA Today, March 2, 2017
“Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser”
By Greg Miller and Philip Rucker February 14, 2017, Washington Post
Flynn Resignation Letter
Full transcript: Sally Yates and James Clapper testify on Russian election interference
“Kaspersky Lab Antivirus Software Is Ordered Off U.S. Government Computers”
by Matthew Rosenberg and Ron Nixon, September 13, 2017
“Ex-CIA Director: Mike Flynn and Turkish Officials Discussed Removal of Erdogan Foe From U.S.”
By James V. Grimaldi, Dion Nissenbaum and Margaret Coker, March 25, 2017, Wall Street Journal
“Flynn Promoted Nuclear-Plant Project While in White House”
By Christopher S. Stewart, Rob Barry and Shane Harris, September 13, 2017, The Wall Street Journal
“A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates”
Megan Twohey and Scott Shane, February 19, 2017, the New York Times
“Michael Flynn details tie to controversial data firm, Trump transition team pay”
Chad Day and Stephen Braun, August 4, 2017, The Associated Press
“Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”
The New York Times June 8, 2017
“The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians”
Matt Tait, June 30, 2017, Lawfare
“Mueller Has Enough Evidence to Bring Charges in Flynn Investigation”
Julia Ainsley, Carol E. Lee, and Ken Dilation, November 5, 2017