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.

US discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag

Fox News: Trump vs. Freedom Caucus: President takes names, starting with Amash

The list of House Freedom Caucus members being targeted by President Trump for sinking Republicans’ ObamaCare overhaul plan grew Saturday when the White House singled out Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash for a primary defeat.

“Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment,” Amash, a Tea Party favorite seeking a fourth term, tweeted Saturday in response to Scavino’s tweet. “Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.”

Daniel Jacobson, a former Obama White House lawyer, argued Saturday that Scavino’s tweet violates federal law about mixing official business with politics.

“This violates the Hatch Act. WH staff can’t use an official or de facto govt Twitter acct (which this is) to call for defeat of a candidate,” he tweeted.

This doesn’t seem to be an isolated warning.

The Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina reported that Trump dared Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., to vote against the overhaul bill.

Sanford, who with Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul has a competing ObamaCare replacement bill, said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told him: “The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run (a primary challenger) against you in 2018,” according to the paper.

Also, more on the Flynn story which reveals Flynn failed to disclose payments involving Russian entities, and he did exactly what he criticised other ex Generals for doing.

Fox News: More Flynn omissions as White House discloses Russia Today payment

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reported payments of at least $5,000 for a speaking engagement with the Kremlin-funded English language network RT, new documents released Saturday by the White House show, though Flynn didn’t originally include the payment when he first filed his ethics forms in January.

That RT payment and two others from companies with Russian ties – for U.S.-based speaking engagements involving the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Government Security Solutions and Volga-Dnepr Airlines – are listed in an amended financial disclosure form Flynn delivered to the White House on Friday, more than a month after he stepped down from his top post under President Donald Trump.

In an interview last summer with the Washington Post, Flynn had criticized fellow retired military officers for taking advantage of the lucrative market for retired military leaders with secret clearances and deep relationships in the Pentagon.

“What do generals do when they get out?” Flynn said. “One of the big companies in Arlington [Virginia] just put out a little call saying, ‘we are looking for two two-stars and two retired one-stars.’”

Asked what point he was making, he continued: “Why? Because people want to use that person for themselves, for their company. That’s why I didn’t go to work for anybody because I wanted to make my decision for what I wanted to do.”

But Flynn appears to have been doing exactly what he said he wasn’t doing.

He was working for a slew of high-tech firms including Palo Alto Network and Adobe Systems Inc. – as well as a variety of military consulting companies and Pentagon contractors, including secretive intelligence firms such as Ulysses Group, a South Carolina outfit, and GreenZone Systems, an Arlington, Virginia-based contractor that makes “military-grade” secure communications systems.


Trump fully briefed on Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador

Donald trumps problems with media reports deteriorate as even Fox News slams him and raises serious issues about Michael Flynns contact with Russia.


And Fox News: Trump fully briefed on Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador, source says

President Trump was given a comprehensive summary of the contents of his former-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador prior to Flynn’s resignation, a source told Fox News.

Trump did not see the actual transcript of the communications, but the summary was delivered by people outside the White House. Trump has maintained that he believes Flynn did nothing wrong.

“Mike was doing his job,” Trump said at a news conference Thursday. “He was calling countries and his counterparts … I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

Flynn was forced to resign Monday over discussions he had with Russian officials before Trump took office.

Flynn denied in an FBI interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, contradicting transcripts of intercepted communications between the two men, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

And someone asked by trump to replace Flynn has turned down the position for ‘personal reasons’.

Fox News: Harward turns down Trump’s national security adviser offer, sources say

President Trump’s first choice to succeed the departed Michael Flynn as national security adviser has turned the job down due to family reasons, sources close to the situation told Fox News late Thursday.

One source told Fox that retired Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harward “really wanted” to do the job, but ultimately decided that he could not.

A senior administration official said that Harward’s acceptance of the national security adviser post was contingent on the agreement of his family. The official said Harward’s wife and other family members wanted him to remain in the private sector.

I’m not surprised his family didn’t want him involved.

The ones achieving the most in the Trump administration are ‘sources’.

Flynn resignation

It seems that lying to the American people is fine but lying to the President of Vice President crosses a line.

Gordon Campbell:  Out like Flynn

So Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn – the guy who had the cosiest links to Putin’s Russia – has been asked by Trump to resign, under pressure on all sides for lying to (a) the American people and (b) his boss. Only the latter is a sackable offence in Washington, and we can safely assume that Trump’s new Attorney-General Jeff Sessions won’t be prosecuting Flynn for committing a criminal offence under the Logan Act.

Presumably, not prosecuting Flynn will be the quid pro quo for Flynn keeping his mouth shut about whether he’d been merely acting under orders from Trump, when Flynn made contact with the Russian ambassador to re-assure Putin that the US sanctions on Russia would be lifted once the new administration had settled into the White House.

RealClear Politics: National Security Council

I haven’t been following things in the US but even the headlines sound not very flash.

Blomberg: The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn

If we are to believe the Trump White House, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn just resigned because he lied about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the vice president. As White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway told NBC’s “Today Show” on Tuesday: “Misleading the vice president really was the key here.”

That sounds about as credible as when the president told CIA employees that the media had invented the story about his enmity toward the spy agency, not even two weeks after he had taken to Twitter to compare the CIA to Nazis. It’s about as credible as President Donald Trump’s insistence that it didn’t rain during his inauguration. Or that millions of people had voted illegally in the election he just won.

The point here is that for a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s “lie” to Pence would get him fired. It doesn’t add up.

In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. Nunes told me Monday night that this will not end well. “First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,” he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.

The Trump train wreck continues.