US independent investigation and Flynn issues

The appointment of a widely respected Independent Investigator to handle the alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia should stem leaks and give the White House some respite, but new allegations against ex national security adviser Michael Flynn may stoke this week’s furore in Washington.

Fox News: Erick Erickson: Mueller returns and Republicans should rejoice

The Department of Justice has asked former FBI Director Robert Mueller to come out of retirement and run an independent investigation of Russia’s efforts in our 2016 election.  Republicans should rejoice.  Mueller is a consummate professional who has a great reputation on both sides of the aisle.  But there are other reasons the GOP should be thankful.

First, that the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Rod Rosenstein, asked Mueller to come back suggests the Department of Justice and White House are paying attention to growing concerns.

Second, it shows the Department of Justice is willing and able to act independently of the White House to affect justice.

Most importantly, however, it allows some breathing room between scandals.  Now, the White House can say they cannot discuss the matter because of the Mueller investigation.  Likewise, they can claim that any leaks must be false because Mueller would never leak.  They can dismiss a large part of the story out of hand.

All that makes the appointment of Robert Mueller a no brainer, but there is something more important going on as well.  The odds are that the Department of Justice would not launch this sort of investigation if they did not already have an inkling of there being no real issues with the president.  If they were really concerned about the president, they would keep this in house where they could exercise greater damage control.

I’m not sure about Erickson’s speculation that the appointment of Mueller suggests “no real issues”, but at least with an independent investigator in charge any outcome should be difficult for either side to argue against or complain about.

But more problems emerged yesterday. Fox News: Flynn reportedly told Trump team he was under investigation before inauguration

Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, Michael Flynn told the transition team he was under federal investigation for working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, the New York Times reported late Wednesday.

The disclosure by Flynn on Jan. 4 was first made to then-Trump transition team lawyer Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel, two people familiar with the case told the newspaper.

Flynn’s conversation with the transition team came a month after the Justice Department notified Flynn he was under investigation, according to the Times.

The Justice Department investigation was not seen as disqualifying Flynn from the national security adviser position, people close to the retired Army lieutenant general told Fox News.

It should have raised some concerns.

Flynn was fired as national security adviser by Trump on Feb. 13 after the White House said he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Perhaps the most serious allegation so far:

McClatchy:  Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed – after being paid as its agent

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon’s plan to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.’s most effective military partners. Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months.

If Flynn explained his answer, that’s not recorded, and it’s not known whether he consulted anyone else on the transition team before rendering his verdict. But his position was consistent with the wishes of Turkey, which had long opposed the United States partnering with the Kurdish forces – and which was his undeclared client.

Trump eventually would approve the Raqqa plan, but not until weeks after Flynn had been fired.

That Flynn was paid half a million dollars to act for Turkey, while at the same time working for the Trump campaign, doesn’t look great.

But the perception that the advocacy and the payment may have influenced a decision on the Syrian conflict in Turkey’s favour is troubling.

With word that the president may have asked FBI Director James Comey to drop any criminal probe of Flynn – failure to register as a foreign agent is a federal crime – there is renewed focus on getting to the bottom of what Flynn did, and what Trump knew.

Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to downplay the red flags, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the administration was repeatedly warned about Flynn’s foreign involvement.

It’s a mess that will take some time to sort out, and will be a burden on trump and the White House even if they now have an excuse for not talking about it – in fact that may create more problems if Trump can’t resist reacting to media reports.

The US – Trump, the White House, the Senate, Congress, the Department of Justice and the FBI – has a lot of work to do to appear as if they are competent.

54 Comments

  1. It doesn’t look like the pressure is off the White House.

    • Gezza

       /  May 19, 2017

    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 19, 2017

      And hidden in every story about Trump and the Russians once you get past the innuendo and supposition:

      “The people who described the contacts to Reuters said * they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far *.

      But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.”

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/donald-trumps-america/92756231/trump-campaign-had-at-least-18-undisclosed-contacts-with-russians–sources

      • Joe Bloggs

         /  May 19, 2017

        Irrespective of the presence or absence of “evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia”, there’s ample evidence of misleading and deceitful conduct regarding admitting to the contacts.

        • David

           /  May 19, 2017

          What does that mean exactly? They didn’t do anything wrong, but they covered up their lack of wrong-doing and so that means they are bad?

        • High Flying Duck

           /  May 19, 2017

          Or these are the sorts of things every administration does, but they are being twisted into an anti-Trump narrative.

          If Trump was deceitful I’m sure that will come out in the investigation.

          But go the due process guy – even if there’s nothing there they still need to get him!

  2. Inevitably:

  3. High Flying Duck

     /  May 19, 2017

    It will be interesting where the Washington Post and NYT are left when all these investigations don’t result in any issues…

    “Camille Paglia: Democrats are colluding with the media to create chaos

    Camille Paglia is much more worried about the media than about the steady string of Trump-related scandals they claim to be uncovering.

    In a Tuesday interview with the Washington Examiner, Paglia excoriated the press for its coverage of Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and his alleged sharing of classified information with Russian officials.

    Fresh off a spirited panel with Christina Hoff Sommers hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum, the iconic feminist dissident, who serves as a professor of media studies at the University of the Arts, accused journalists of colluding with the Democratic Party in an effort to damage the Trump administration.

    “Democrats are doing this in collusion with the media obviously, because they just want to create chaos,” she said when asked to comment on the aforementioned stories. “They want to completely obliterate any sense that the Trump administration is making any progress on anything.”

    The popular author, whose latest book was released in March, pointed to early struggles experienced by previous presidential administrations to illustrate the media’s bias against Trump. “Obama’s administration for the first six months was chaos,” Paglia recalled. “Bill Clinton’s was chaos for six months. Nobody holds that against a new person.”

    “Those two guys had actually been politicians!” she continued, noting Trump’s relative inexperience with government operations.

    Paglia’s assessment of media bias in the Trump era leaves little room for optimism. “I am appalled at the behavior of the media,” she declared. “It’s the collapse of journalism.”

    As the Examiner reported in April, Paglia, who cast her ballot for Jill Stein last November, is predicting Trump will win re-election in 2020. “I feel like the Democrats have overplayed their hand,” she said at the time.

    Though the news cycle has moved through plenty of additional scandals in the past month, it appears as though Paglia’s assessment of the president’s prospects has not changed.”

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/camille-paglia-democrats-are-colluding-with-the-media-to-create-chaos/article/2623299

  4. Gezza

     /  May 19, 2017

    Fox News: Now, the White House can say they cannot discuss the matter because of the Mueller investigation. Likewise, they can claim that any leaks must be false because Mueller would never leak. They can dismiss a large part of the story out of hand.

    Yeah. Right. Not unless someone else is in charge of the Tweeter-In-Chief’s smartphone.

  5. High Flying Duck

     /  May 19, 2017

    And:

    “Ten months into the FBI’s investigation of the Trump-Russia affair, and four months into a bipartisan probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has decided to appoint a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to investigate the case. Here are several reasons why it is a bad move:

    1) It roils and extends an investigation that, on Capitol Hill at least, was moving toward a conclusion on the allegation at the heart of the matter: whether Donald Trump or his associates colluded with Russians to fix the 2016 election. By the time Rosenstein made his move, Senate investigators were becoming more and more confident that there was no collusion. They couldn’t say for sure — they were cautious to say something could still come up — but the collusion charge was looking like a non-starter. There were also indications that the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation was finding the same thing. Now, the appointment of Mueller essentially pushes the re-start button on the investigation….”

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/byron-york-7-reasons-a-russia-special-counsel-is-a-bad-idea/article/2623451

    • Gezza

       /  May 19, 2017

      I think it’s an attempt to put the whole shambles into the hands of one neutral chief investigator. The involvement of these four different Congressional Committees Plus some subcommittees all investigating various aspects of the same accusations is ludicrous.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  May 19, 2017

        It would appear they were all heading for the same result though, of no charges to answer…although the posted article is from a Fox contributor so maybe he has an agenda in saying that.

        • Gezza

           /  May 19, 2017

          From what I’ve read so far about Mueller he’s not going to waste time. He has access to everything Comey had. He doesn’t seem to be one to waste time & is a pretty action-oriented, outcome-focussed guy. He’ll have a good appreciation of whether anything’s prosecutable or not. Despite what that article says, he’ll end up reporting to & being queried by at least one Congressional or Senate Committee. Probably the House Oversight Committee. If there’s no evidence, or only minor political naivity or stupidity, I think he’ll get to the bottom of it quickly HFD. This shambles needs to be done & dusted. It’s just hamstringing the entire federal government of the USA.

          Trump should be allowed to stand or fall on his programme’s merits. The FBI needs to concentrate right now on finding & stopping the leaks. Mueller can take care of the investigation. Trump should shut up & get on with it. The White House should just say the matter is in the hands of the Special Counsel, we trust his judgement & are confident we will be vindicated, there was no collusion with Russia, we will be making no further comment. We have a country to run.

          Press briefings – yep, after watching the hyena pack for some time now, I’d cut them back. Say the above to any barrage of questions, & just leave the room.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  May 19, 2017

      As much as the Washington Examiner thinks this is bad news, Republicans and Democrats alike welcome the appointment:

      In a striking show of bipartisanship, on Wednesday night Democrats and Republicans alike praised Mueller’s appointment. “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted,” Jason Chaffetz, the Republican head of the House Oversight Committee, wrote on Twitter. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, issued a statement that said, “Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

      http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/robert-mueller-a-most-welcome-special-counsel

      How often do you see Chaffetz and Schumer agreeing like this?

      • High Flying Duck

         /  May 19, 2017

        It was an opinion post, not WE thinking and he wasn’t against the appointment per se. It was more that he believes resolution was close and the process has now been restarted.

        As Gezz posted above, Meuller will be working fast to reach an outcome, so hopefull it can be decided one way or another and either the WaPo and NYT will be highly embarrassed, or the impeachment some are desperate for will become a reality.

        • PDB

           /  May 19, 2017

          Not to mention that Mueller now has a wide ranging ability to look in depth (and to force people to testify) on other matters around the Russia thing that Comey seemed to be avoiding such as who the leakers were inside the dept, and whether the Obama administration were abusing their position to unfairly target the trump campaign.

  6. This has to be fake news, surely.

  7. Is it possible that “American Bridge” SuperPac and Clinton camp may find themselves under the microscope after the leak of Comey’s “note to self”.

    When Comey made his Trump memo public through the NYT leak and the the media sources claimed many more such notes existed in his files, the “open to subpoena by Congress” doors opened. The House of Representatives is still investigating the Clinton email scandal as well as the issue of Russian interference. Congress can now demand the FBI turn over all Comey’s notes over the past three years.

    As context is key here, then Comey’s full memo should be made public. It should follow that the process and meetings and memos resulting in Comey’s Hillary exoneration should be made public.

    As the “Russian Influence” has been under investigation for many months; with the Dems almost demented (Maxine Walters!!) maybe Meuller will widen the scope and access Comey’s notes concerning meetings with Obama/Clinton associates prior to the election.

  8. artcroft

     /  May 19, 2017

    I like this:

    “The odds are that the Department of Justice would not launch this sort of investigation if they did not already have an inkling of there being no real issues with the president. If they were really concerned about the president, they would keep this in house where they could exercise greater damage control.”

    Rape and pillage away Donald. The DOJ’s got your back.

  9. PDB

     /  May 19, 2017

    Comey – May 3rd

    • An interesting scenario PDB. “Lying under oath” if his note to self excerpt is meant to indicate pressure..

      • Gezza

         /  May 19, 2017

        Different issue trav. He said he was never pressured by someone in DoJ to stop an investigation. The issue de jour is whether the President tried to stop one, or suggest they could go easy on him, like they did with Clinton. As you say, the memo & context are important. Trump is very naive about saying nice things about people he likes.

        • PDB

           /  May 19, 2017

          I was waiting for someone to bring up the question wording (was expecting some far-left winger however to do so) – it is obvious that Comey gives a more generic answer to the exact question put to him that if anybody tried to stop an FBI investigation he would see that as a very serious matter, and that it had never happened on his watch.

          If Trump had asked him to shut down the Flynn investigation you also have to believe;

          *That at best – by omission Comey lies under oath in this video.
          *Comey didn’t report the Trump approach as soon as it happened and therefore is in serious legal trouble & his honesty is in question.
          *If his honesty is in question why should we believe his personal notes of any discussion he has? Especially if the reason for writing these notes was to cover his ass if anything occurred later on down the track?

          • Gezza

             /  May 19, 2017

            Nope, PDB. I’ve watched it again. The question was specifically about whether the DoJ could stop an investigation & he said it was possible but that it had never happened that anyone (context is still clearly DoJ) had ever asked them to stop one in his experience. I win – & it doesn’t happen often lately. If you have a longer clip of the exchange I would be happy to reconsider my view. One thing I do think is that Mueller will be straight up about any misleading statements made by anybody involved in his investigation.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 19, 2017

              Very similar to whether Jeff Sessions lied about dealing with Russians.
              He answered the question asked as well and was vilified for it.

              That said, you are right about the answer by Comey.

              The only thing I would add is that he is very clear about the implications of being asked to stop an investigation for political reasons and therefore it implies any such request would be reported immediately.

            • “……had never happened that anyone (context ANYONE) had ever asked them to stop one in his experience”

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              That’s why I agree with trav, HFD. The only way we can tell what the heck occurred in that meeting with Trump according to Comey is by seeing his note & the full context in which the exchange is mentioned. Mueller, I am sure, will look at that. If it implicates both the President & Comey in inappropriate behaviour I reckon he WILL say that. All we are doing is exactly what the anti-Trump media & pro-Trump media are doing – speculating.

              Meantime, the Trump administration is being trashed over Trump’s possible stupid naivety & the FBI is being trashed by unbelievably prolific leaks. It has to be resolved this way. I don’t think it’s Mueller’s role to find the leakers, but it IS to look at the documents whose contents are being leaked. If both Parties have put their faith in Mueller, that’s a good sign. There IS no other way to get to the bottom of this, imo.

            • PDB

               /  May 19, 2017

              The key (as HFD mentions) is Comey’s expansion on his answer to say stopping an investigation for ‘political reasons’ is a very ‘big deal’, and has never happened in ‘his experience’. That’s as clear as a bell.

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              Soz, that should’ve said: “Mueller’s role is NOT to find the leakers … “

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 19, 2017

              That’s what you did say Gezz…
              “I don’t think it’s Mueller’s role to find the leakers,”

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              @ H. Shit. So I did. Bj’s impugned my intelligence & it threw me.😳

        • Come on Gezza , Comey said that in his experience no one had asked him to stop something for a political reason. He was making a general statement about his experience in the FBI, and not the narrow meaning you attribute to him. I don’t expect you to acknowledge there are two sides to this situation given your habit of trashing of sources outside of your commentary.

          • I’d also take issue, not in any definable legal sense, more just a common sense way. When politicians talk about “funding, resources, this line of enquiry etc”, it’s euphemistic broadspeak for “drop it”. 😉

          • Gezza

             /  May 19, 2017

            Pull your head in Bj. Watch the video again. And do some reading up on Infowars & Prison Planet. I’m a great fan of Alex Jones. Quite an entertainer. Paul Joseph Watson not so much.

            • No I won’t pull my head in. I have seen all and done that. Now read this about Comey and weep:
              Former FBI Director James Comey said he was never told to stop an investigation due to political reasons during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, which contradicts his new claim that Trump pressured him to stop the Flynn investigation in February.
              Comey now claims President Trump asked him to to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a reported memo Mr. Comey says he wrote after the meeting.
              The New York Times claims this February memo is the “smoking gun,” but in fact it contradicts Comey’s sworn testimony on May 3.

              During the Senate testimony, Comey confirmed to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) that in theory, the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice could stop a FBI investigation.
              The former FBI director added it would “be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that – without an appropriate purpose.”
              “But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.”
              Remember, he said this on May 3, months after the reported memo he claimed to have written after meeting with Trump.
              This story is developing.””

            • PDB

               /  May 19, 2017

              Comey often goes off message into more generic territory during his testimony, and this is case in point.

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              Link please. All you are doing is quoting something I have already refuted. You need to provide me with more than the few seconds of that clip to persuade me he is speaking beyond the specific context of that question AND We need to see the full memo. Comey is a freaking lawyer, man. He’s not just an ass-covering bureaucrat. You know perfectly well we public servants have to make & keep records of important conversations. If he’s lied, when the full context is known, he’ll be brought down by Mueller, I have very little doubt of that. Mueller will not stand for it. He has too much respect for the FBI & the institution of the Presidency. Trump needs to learn to have respect for the institution of the Presidency. It’s not just a bigger boss job & more photo ops than his last one.

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              Above is @ Bj.

          • Gezza

             /  May 19, 2017

            @ Bj – and of course there are two sides to this situation. I think Trump is completely mishandling this situation. And his people are amateur chumps. FFS: You’ve been a bloody diplomat. When shit like this goes down, you say as little as possible & let the process take its course. Do I think Trump colluded with Russia – no. Can I stand Chuck Schumer – no, what an asshole. Do I think Trump’s making things worse because he’s taking the wrong approach in tackling a partisan media – absolutely.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 19, 2017

              Yep – SOP is to announce an enquiry yourself and sideline the issue. Used by Governments worldwide since the Roman Empire to take the heat out of any potentially embarrassing situation.

              Trump hasn’t helped matters by his obfuscation, but that said, with what he has had to deal with from the media and a multitude of “anonymous un-named sources close to the…” leaking or making up stories it must be hard to remove yourself from the fray. Especially when you are combative by nature.

            • Gezza

               /  May 19, 2017

              If he’s not taping oval office conversations, he should be. And everyone should know it.

  10. The Dark Journalist and Hagman’s report have had a good look at the question. In a measured way and does not have the loudness of Inforwars.
    See “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4vw7bFYg3s”

    • Gezza

       /  May 19, 2017

      Ok, that was good, very interesting analysis.

  1. US independent investigation and Flynn issues – NZ Conservative Coalition