Lawyer takes blame for trump tweet

It has often been claimed that Donald Trump tweets against the best advice of those who try to manage his presidency and his PR, so it is unusual to see his personal lawyer take responsibility for a tweet that some say could put Trump at legal risk.

The tweet:

Newshub in Trump denies pressuring FBI director Comey to end Flynn probe:

The tweet raised eyebrows, with some in the legal community saying if Mr Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI and then pressured Mr Comey not to investigate him, that would be problematic.

Mr Trump’s tweet “absolutely bolsters an obstruction of justice charge”, said Jimmy Gurule, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Notre Dame University.

“It is evidence of the crucial question of whether Mr Trump acted with a corrupt intent.

In an unusual move:

Mr Trump’s personal lawyer has since taken responsibility for the tweet.

In an interview on Sunday with news site Axios, John Dowd said the tweet was “my mistake” and that he drafted the tweet that raised more questions about whether there had been attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation.

“I’m out of the tweeting business,” Mr Dowd told Axios. “I did not mean to break news.”

It is unusual that Trumps lawyer is taking responsibility for drafting the tweet, especially given the content of the tweet.

Trump has inevitably responded to the uproar his tweet created with another tweet:

I presume his lawyer did not draft that tweet.

This is a typical Trump denial, claiming anything he doesn’t like as fake news and lies.

He risks, amongst other things, becoming known as the Fake President.

The Flynn plea agreement

The Michael Flynn plea agreement promises full cooperation with Robert Mueller’s Special FBI Investigation. It requires extensive disclosure from Flynn. In return it promises no further criminal charges – but there’s a big out clause. If Flynn breaches the agreement in any way then the whole deal is off.

2. Factual Stipulations

Your client agrees that the attached Statement of the Offense fairly and accurately describes your client?s actions and involvement in the offense to which your client is pleading guilty. Please have your client sign and return the Statement of the Offense as a written proffer of evidence, along with this Agreement.

3. Additional Charges

In consideration of your client?s guilty plea to the above offense, your client will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office for the conduct set forth in the attached Statement of the Offense.

The agreement gives sentence indications but doesn’t make any guarantees.

7. Court Not Bound by this Agreement or the Sentencing Guidelines

Your client understands that the sentence in this case will be imposed in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), upon consideration of the Sentencing Guidelines. Your client further understands that the sentence to be imposed is a matter solely within the discretion of the Court.

The requirements for cooperation are extensive.

Rights are limited.

C. Trial Rights

Your client understands that by pleading guilty in this case your client agrees to waive certain rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States and/or by statute or rule. Your client agrees to forgo the right to any further discovery or disclosures of information not already provided at the time of the entry of your client’s guilty plea. Your client also agrees to waive, among other rights, the right to be indicted by a Grand Jury, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to a jury trial.

And if Flynn fails to fulfill completely ever obligation as stipulated by the agreement then the deal is off.

Even the ‘Government’s Obligations’ are stacked against Flynn.

12. Government’s Obligations

The Government will bring to the Court’s attention at the time of sentencing the nature and extent of your client’s cooperation or lack of cooperation. The Government will evaluate the full nature and extent of your client?s cooperation to determine whether your client has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.

If the Government determines that your client has provided such substantial assistance, this Office shall file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines, which would afford your client an opportunity to persuade the Court that your client should be sentenced to a lesser period of incarceration and/or fine than indicated by the Sentencing Guidelines.

The determination of whether your client has provided substantial assistance warranting the filing of a motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines is within the sole discretion of the Government and is not reviewable by the Court.

In the event your client should fail to perform specifically and fulfill completely each and every one of your client’s obligations under this Agreement, the Government will be free from its obligations under this Agreement, and will have no obligation to present your client’s case to the Departure Guideline Committee or file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines.

If Flynn doesn’t deliver fully all his knowledge of the Trump campaign, all his financial information and any evidence of any crimes of which he is aware then the deal can be ditched.

If Flynn commits any crime or breaches any law prior to sentencing then the deal is off, and he cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

This proves nothing about Russian collusion, but if Flynn knows anything about any collusion then it’s going to be be revealed, or he risks some very severe legal repercussions.

Court filings: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/01/politics/michael-flynn-court-filing/index.html

Developments and implications of Flynn’s guilty plea

A long thread from US attorney Seth Abramson on Twitter, as the news of Michael Flynn pleading guilty and helping the FBI investigation into Russia/Trump and it’s implications.

…is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

And later as more was revealed:

This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon.

So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

And later:

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency.

1/ First, it’s important to understand that Mueller has entered into a plea deal with Flynn in which Flynn pleads guilty to far less than the available evidence suggests he could be charged with. This indicates that he has cut a deal with Mueller to cooperate in the Russia probe.

2/ We’ve already seen Mueller do this once before in the probe, with George Papadopoulos—who was charged with the same crime as Flynn, Making False Statements, to secure his cooperation with the Russia probe. The Papadopoulos plea affidavit emphasized facts were being left out.

3/ Flynn is widely regarded as dead-to-rights on more charges than Making False Statements—notably, FARA violations (failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey under the Foreign Agent Registration Act). There’s recently been evidence he was part of a kidnapping plot, too.

4/ Getting charged with just one count of Making False Statements is a great deal for Mike Flynn—it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll escape incarceration, but a) it makes that a possibility (depending on what the parties and judge say and do), and b) any time served may be minimal.

5/ What this suggests is Flynn brings substantial inculpatory info (info tending to incriminate others) to the table. Unlike Papadopoulos, Flynn was going to be—because of his position in the administration—a primary target of the probe. So he had to offer a lot to get this deal.

6/ Deals like this are offered *only* when a witness can incriminate someone “higher up the food-chain” than them. In the case of the nation’s former National Security Advisor, the *only* people above him in the executive-branch hierarchy are the President and the Vice President.

7/ There may be other targets in the Russia probe—such as Attorney General Sessions—at Flynn’s same level in the hierarchy, but unless he could incriminate two or more of them, a deal like this would not be offered to him. And there *aren’t* two or more at his level in this case.

8/ What this indicates—beyond any serious doubt—is the following: Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the former Director of the FBI, believes Mike Flynn’s testimony will *incriminate* the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, or both of these two men.

9/ For this reason, what’s about to happen in 50 minutes is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

10/ The Papadopoulos plea paled in comparison to this because Papadopoulos was a top national security advisor to Mr. Trump, but still at nothing like Flynn’s level of access and authority. The Manafort indictment pales in comparison because it was just an indictment, not a plea.

11/ The range of crimes for which Flynn can incriminate the president is unknown, but we have *some* sense of what could be involved. The first thing to understand is that Flynn had access to—and influence with—Trump on national security issues beginning in the Summer of 2015.

12/ The last *known* contact between Trump and Mike Flynn was late April 2017—meaning the two men were in contact for approximately one year and nine months. Given that these twenty-one months make up almost the entirety of Trump’s political career, this is a huge swath of time.

13/ During their last known contact—April 2017—we know Trump told Flynn (at a minimum) to “stay strong,” after which Flynn stopped cooperating with investigators. So the first thing Flynn can tell Mueller is all Trump said—and if he obstructed justice—during that April 2017 call.

14/ But of course the “story to tell” that Flynn’s attorney bragged the ex-NSA had—back in late March of 2017—goes *well* beyond Obstruction allegations. Flynn was at the center of numerous contacts with Russia that he can report the president knew about and perhaps even ordered.

15/ Flynn met with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner in early December 2016 to discuss a “Kremlin back-channel” that some have argued would have constituted an act of espionage. Did Mr. Trump know about this? Did he direct Flynn and/or Kushner to pursue this back-channel?

16/ This December 2016 event underscores that Flynn’s a threat not just to Trump but to others. It’s easy to forget that, just because Flynn—it appears—can incriminate the president, doesn’t mean he can *only* incriminate the president. Many others are at risk, including Kushner.

17/ Indeed, today’s plea coming so close on the heels of Mueller asking Kushner to come in and talk about Flynn suggests Kushner is also a target of the Russia probe. Perhaps Mueller didn’t think Kushner would flip on family, so he set him up to Make False Statements about Flynn.

18/ This is critical: Flynn pleading guilty today means he was cooperating with Mueller *before* this. You don’t offer value to a prosecution *after* you plead, you offer it beforehand—via what’s called a “proffer” of info (that incriminates others). That’s what earns you a deal.

19/ So it’s entirely possible that when Mueller called Kushner in to talk about Flynn, he already had everything Flynn planned to give him—meaning he was *testing* Kushner to see if Kushner would lie about events Mueller was already fully informed about via Flynn’s prior proffer.

20/ That proffer may have incriminated not just Trump and Kushner and—perhaps—Pence, but any number of Trump NatSec (or simply “top”) aides: Manafort, Sessions, Clovis, Hicks, Lewandowski, Page, and Gordon, to name a few. We may not know, however, until someone else is indicted.

21/ Mueller isn’t obligated to tell the public what Flynn told him. We’ll first learn of it (for all but Trump) via future indictments of those Flynn incriminated. As for Trump, he can’t be criminally tried as POTUS, and probably can’t even be indicted, so it’ll work differently.

22/ What Flynn told Mueller about Trump will first appear in an indictment of a third party—quite possible, if the third party was/is close enough to Trump—or else in the final report Mueller is tasked with giving Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ (though that may take a while to come).

23/ How long it will take Mueller to issue indictments based on Flynn’s proffer? It’s hard to say: it depends on what evidence was given, what evidence Mueller already had, what additional investigation he wants to do on that person (perhaps to bring further charges), and so on.

24/ But Mueller may act on Flynn’s proffer at any time, which means—and here’s another critical point—the daily, harrowing watch to see if Trump will attempt to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller begins in earnest *now*.

If Trump moves to fire Mueller, all hell will break loose.

25/ I’ve long said that Trump *will* move to fire Mueller—simply because doing so would quickly become one of his only options for self-preservation when/if Mike Flynn or another top associate entered into the cooperation deal with the Special Counsel. Well, we’re finally here.

26/ As I’ve said, we now have reason to believe—to a near-certainty—Flynn can incriminate Trump. And as noted, the range of potential crimes is vast. Did Flynn tell Trump and/or Pence the truth about his Russia contacts as they were happening—despite what the White House claimed?

27/ Remember, besides a long course of conduct involving both Obstruction of Justice and Witness Tampering—of Sally Yates, of Comey, of Jr., of Flynn himself, of Sessions, and of various Congressional investigators—Trump is being looked at for Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes.

28/ In the Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes probe, the question is a) when Trump knew Russia was committing crimes against the United States, and b) whether and how Trump offered Russia anything of financial or political value ostensibly for “free” after he had this knowledge.

29/ If Donald Trump learned Russia was committing crimes against America and subsequently offered—unilaterally—policy shifts of political or financial value directly to Russian agents either himself or through intermediaries, he’s guilty of a crime as great as the underlying one.

30/ We know Trump knew there was a “high likelihood” (the legal standard in this case) Russia was committing crimes against America as of August 17, 2016, when he received his first security briefing as a presidential candidate. A speech in late July suggests he knew it earlier.

31/ But given that Mike Flynn dined with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in December of 2015—after he’d been a key Trump campaign foreign policy and national security advisor for four months—it’s possible Trump had this knowledge as early as the fall of 2015 or the winter of 2015-2016.

32/ This is the key information Mike Flynn can offer: what Trump knew about Russian crimes, and when; and also, what actions he directed his national security advisory apparatus to take—possibly in response to this knowledge—and when. For instance, secret sanctions negotiations.

33/ We know Flynn was engaged in secret sanctions negotiations with Russia that Trump—rather oddly—said he “would have told him” to engage in throughout December of 2016. But we’ve *no* idea if this was the first time such negotiations occurred. Flynn will have this information.

34/ Flynn will also know exactly what occurred as the White House tried to cover up these illicit December 2016 sanctions negotiations—or any earlier ones—including what Trump and Pence knew of them, and when, and how and when they coordinated lying to American voters about them.

35/ Remember that Trump *not only* tried to get Comey to drop the case against Flynn—suggesting he was scared about what that case could uncover—he *also* tried to convince his aides to let him *re-hire* Flynn after his firing and *then* called Flynn to tell him to “stay strong.”

36/ While Trump also exhibited some fear about what Manafort could reveal to investigators—keeping him on as an unpaid advisor through February 2017 after “firing” him as an unpaid Campaign Manager in the summer of 2016—he’s shown much *more* concern about Mike Flynn’s situation.

37/ A quick pause while I read the court documents for today’s plea—they’re just coming out now.

38/ One thing is clear: Mueller charged Flynn with the most innocuous lies he could to shield from the public—and far more importantly, from President Trump and his allies (at least for now)—the extent of what Flynn has told him. A longer charging document would reveal too much.

39/ The first allegation in the single-count charging document is that Flynn lied about asking Russia to moderate its response to the US decision to level new sanctions in December 2016. Presumably, Flynn made this request on a representation Trump would undo those new sanctions.

40/ The second allegation, dating from 12/22/16—the first was from 12/29/16—involves Flynn asking Russia to take a particular stance on a UN resolution. While both these acts violate the Logan Act—private citizens can’t negotiate with foreign governments—they’re just appetizers.

41/ For Mueller to be *so guarded* in what information he’s willing to reveal in his single-count indictment—as we know Mike Flynn lied to the FBI about far more serious things than Mueller has disclosed—confirms, indirectly, that Flynn’s proffer to the FBI was *quite* explosive.

42/ That said, the UN resolution had to do with Israel—and we know Israel had reached out to Kushner about that same resolution, so there’s a possibility that the second allegation against Flynn will give the lie to things *Kushner* told the FBI about his contacts with Israel.

43/ But remember, when the FBI sat down to discuss Flynn’s Russia contacts with him, they would have asked him about *all* his recent Russia contacts—including, for instance, his December ’15 trip to Moscow to dine with Putin. So the topics Flynn lied about could date back years.

44/ (When I get a number of new readers—as today—people ask me to restate my bona fides: Harvard Law School, 2001; public defender for eight years in two jurisdictions; trained at Georgetown/Harvard as a criminal investigator; represented 2000+ defendants in cases up to homicide;

45/ have worked at 3 public defenders since 1996—one federal—and have testified in federal criminal cases as a defense investigator; current member in good standing of the New Hampshire bar and the federal bar for the District of New Hampshire; I now teach legal advocacy at UNH.)

46/ Another key point many will forget: Flynn was so scared about the extent of his criminal liability as Trump’s pre-election advisor and post-election NSA that in March 2017 his lawyer took the *extraordinary* step of *publicly* offering to cooperate with federal investigators.

47/ Usually, this sort of offer is made privately—and usually it’s made somewhat further along in a federal investigation than was the case with Flynn, who made the offer just a few weeks after he was fired by Trump. It was after that offer that Trump told him to “stay strong.”

48/ At the time, Flynn’s lawyer said he had “a story to tell.” It was clear Flynn and his attorney believed enough *other* potential witnesses had similarly inculpatory information about Trump that they needed to “race to the courthouse” (as we say) to get a deal *before* others.

49/ It can’t be overstated that Flynn had been assumed to be one of the primary targets of the Trump-Russia probe—so him being given a sweetheart deal by federal law enforcement means the “story to tell” that he had was a very, very good one in Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s view.

50/ UPDATE: CNN confirms Flynn has now plead guilty. Technically, he pled to *four* false statements, though they were paired—he lied about two statements he made to the Russians *and* their responses to those two statements, one about U.S. sanctions policy and one about Israel.

51/ It’s *very* telling that U.S. media has received *no official response* from the White House about this. Remember how quickly they came out with a party line about Papadopoulos’ plea, and even the Manafort and Gates indictments? This is so bad there’s nothing for them to say.

54/ *Don’t* listen to the White House if it claims the only thing Flynn is offering the Special Counsel is evidence that Trump ordered him to violate the Logan Act (which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments) pre-inauguration. This is *far* bigger.

55/ I’ve been saying for many months now that the publicly available information we have *strongly* suggests that Trump ordered certain of his subordinates to make contact with Russia *pre-election*—which is an entirely different matter than making such contact *post-election*.

56/ With the plea Flynn just entered minutes ago, something significant has died in public discourse: *any possibility* that the Trump-Russia probe is, as Trump and his allies have long claimed, either a “witch hunt” or “sour grapes” or a “nothingburger.” This is all 100% real.

57/ Those of us in the “reality-based community” always knew this was real, and all the media reporting on it confirmed it was real, but it now becomes unthinkable that the White House—the world’s foremost bastion of “fake news” right now—could keep claiming this is all bollocks.

58/ Minutes ago, someone connected to the White House was, CNN reported, saying that Flynn was acting on his own. Even *fewer* minutes ago, ABC reported that Flynn was acting on Trump’s orders. *That’s* how quickly this administration’s network of implausible lies is unraveling.

59/ What Flynn pled to carries a maximum penalty of 1 to 5 years—very light for the federal system, again suggesting a “sweetheart” deal. He could’ve been charged with more; could’ve faced *more* counts of the same charge; and he could still be eligible for a “downward revision.”

60/ Mueller allowed argument on a downward revision for George Papadopoulos—due to his lack of a prior record—and it appears that could allow Papadopoulos to do six months in a federal prison or even no time at all. So we don’t know what Mueller and Flynn agreed to on that score.

61/ While Flynn is getting a substantial benefit by being deliberately *under*-charged, if his evidence is very strong Mueller may also have made an agreement regarding the amount of prison time the government will ask the judge for and how much time it’ll allow Flynn to ask for.

62/ Another reason the government *under*-charges a witness it intends to use at trial is to give a future defendant’s defense team less material to work with on cross-examination. Obviously Flynn is shown to be a liar—but you don’t want him weighted down with *many* convictions.

63/ The next move for the White House is this one: to try to convince the American media, and American voters, that the only thing Mueller has on Flynn is what Flynn just pled to. Don’t be deceived; that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this (cooperation deals) work.

64/ UPDATE: Court documents show Flynn now says he was in contact with top officials on the transition team as he was discussing US sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution on Israel with Russia. All the information we have says one of those officials was *Jared Kushner*.

65/ Kushner was working with the Israelis on the Security Council resolution and—in early December—with multiple Kremlin agents on (it now appears) the sanctions issue. And Kushner was the one who brought Flynn onto the transition—so he’d have been Flynn’s critical contact there.

68/ Note that the events of today *further confirm* that Mueller brought Kushner in to talk about Flynn a couple weeks ago as a ploy to see if he (Kushner) would make (additional) false statements to federal investigators—a felony.

69/ So what we’ve learned today is (a) Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is a target of the Mueller probe (as I and many attorneys have long said); (b) Jared Kushner is almost certainly also a target; (c) Kushner needs a new lawyer; (d) Pence may also be a target.

70/ Pence was nominally the head of the transition, and Flynn is now saying he was in contact with members of the transition—high-level members—about his conversations with Russia. If Mike Pence was one of them—and he lied about it publicly—he could face Obstruction charges, too.

71/ It’s too early to know *all* the dominoes that will fall as a result of what just happened with Michael Flynn, but we know (a) there will be international effects and consequences, and (b) the Trump presidency (including *all* his policy initiatives) is now gravely imperiled.

72/ While we can’t know what they will do, to legal observers I think the idea that the Republicans would push forward with Trump’s political agenda as though he *isn’t* now the *known target of a federal criminal investigation* is almost unthinkable. But we’ll see what happens.

73/ But as I say this, understand something else—this is the beginning of the end for Trump, but it is *not* the end. The number of additional shoes that will be dropping in the days, weeks, and even months to come will cause substantial alarm to all Americans of good conscience.

74/ UPDATE: U.S. media has just televised the perp walk of the former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

75/ BRIEF MEDIA UPDATE: I’m expecting to be on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio, and Sky News (UK) later on this evening to discuss today’s breaking news.I will post audio and/or video when or as available. I’ll update this list of appearances as things are added/changed during the day.

76/ Many will forget that Rep. Conaway (R-TX) yesterday said he expected to finish his probe of Trump-Russia ties in February—and implied the findings were already known: that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. Now Flynn (per ABC) says Trump secretly told him to talk to Russia.

80/ This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon. So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

81/ Putin’s election interference, as Harding notes, was part of a years-long campaign to destroy the EU, NATO, and, yes, the United States. Complicity in that campaign is complicity in an attempt by Putin to reinstate the Cold War and demolish Western democracy. It’s that big.

82/ Trump, Flynn, and many others had—as late as August 17, 2016, but certainly much earlier than that—clear knowledge of what Putin’s ambitions were. And they not only played footsie with him after that but *actively conspired with him* and his agents in secret. It’s *that* big.

83/ Before this ends, the GOP will have no choice but to disavow Trump as one of the greatest traitors in our history—we’re getting only the first inkling of that eventuality today. But Trump won’t go quietly—he’ll take about half the GOP with him to form a new political party.

84/ So yes, the Roy Moore situation is very much about certain members of the GOP, Trump particularly, apologizing for and/or enabling a pedophile. But understand this: Roy Moore will also be a key leader in the political party Trump eventuality forms once the GOP kicks him out.

85/ I won’t go too far down this line of analysis now, but suffice to say that when I say today’s plea is the beginning of the end for Trump’s presidency—though we’ve a long way to go (well into ’18)—it’s also the beginning of the end for many other things. And the start of some.

86/ More immediately, we have to talk about Pence. If Flynn told Pence anything about his Russia contacts and Pence then lied to America to cover it up, I hope it goes without saying neither Congress nor America will stand for Pence assuming the presidency. This is *that* big.

87/ We know Pence ran the transition; we know he discussed Flynn’s Russia contacts with Flynn; we know Pence has lied about big things before; we know Flynn said he revealed his actions to a “top transition official”; we’ve no reason to think Trump or Flynn hid things from Pence.

88/ So we must consider that Flynn’s full proffer—the one we have barely an inkling of so far—imperils the political and possibly legal future of *both* the President of the United States *and* the Vice President of the United States. So we’ll eventually have to talk succession.

89/ I want to underscore: we should *not* get ahead of this story to that degree. But anyone reading this thread and understanding the full implications of today’s news has to *begin* thinking about (and preparing emotionally for) some possible (and quite historic) eventualities.

90/ These eventualities are *so* encompassing that for the moment we must say this: (a) many people in the White House appreciate them, and therefore (b) literally *nothing* that comes from the White House on Russia going forward can be credited *in the slightest*. And I mean it.

91/ The correct action for the White House to take—as a matter of *national security*—is to say absolutely nothing about what’s happened. Anything else a) threatens to destabilize the nation, and b) immediately becomes possible evidence in impeachment and/or criminal proceedings.

92/ The amount of disinformation coming from Fox News and Trump allies right now will be written about in history books for years to come as constituting an infamous domestic disinformation campaign. Americans of good conscience in the White House must *refuse* to participate.

93/ If you are in the media right now saying this isn’t a big deal, or at the White House or other political venues saying that, you are deliberately impeding the orderly administration of justice the nation will rely upon to expose this presidency for what it is and always was.

94/ Every attorney with experience in criminal law now presumes—and factors into their analyses—that Mueller has sufficient information to indict the POTUS. He wouldn’t have given Flynn this sort of deal otherwise. All of us should be acting carefully, with that thought in mind.

95/ None of us know for certain what will happen, but legal experts can certainly tell us what is *likely* to happen—and it’s likely *enough*, now, that those in positions of responsibility in the media and in government must think *very* seriously about what they do and say now.

96/ If you’re reading what people like Andrew McCarthy are saying now in National Review—people who have been *wrong* at *every stage* of this investigation as to the direction it was going in—you’re not preparing yourself or your family/friends for any future political upheaval.

97/ Sadly, we’re at a point at which those inclined to read National Review would do better to listen to anonymous Trump allies than read articles by named conservative columnists.

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

98/ I don’t think people like McCarthy believe what they’re writing; I think they suspect this presidency is disintegrating. What I think they want is for as much of Trump’s radical political agenda to slip through Congress without debate as possible—and as *quickly* as possible.

99/ This, then, is the key *political*—rather than legal—debate of our moment and perhaps our time: conservatives trying to squeeze as much political value as possible out of a presidency that will end in not just disgrace but public acceptance as the worst America has ever seen.

PS2/ This means that—during a presidency legally established via national vote—Jared Kushner was working secretly with a hostile foreign nation to stop the proper operation of that duly-elected president and presidency. This on its own would be harrowing. But it’s just the start.

PS5/ No word on how Flynn Sr.’s deal affects potential charges against Flynn Jr., but I’d have to say—contra Star Wars—”this deal is getting better all the time” if Flynn gets 1 charge, a chance at no jailtime, and no charges for his son. That’d mean he had a *big* story to tell.

101/ The Statement of the Offense recently released on the Flynn case is astounding. Flynn made *multiple* phone calls to “senior” officials (“officials,” plural) on the transition team about his sanctions negotiations and he received clear marching orders from those “officials.”

102/ It’s already been reported that Kushner is one of the senior transition officials who secretly instructed Flynn to participate in clandestine sanctions negotiations with Russia and then never revealed those orders to anyone outside the campaign. The other could be Pence.

103/ Or, there could be more than two. Just as Trump Jr. met Kremlin agents in Trump Tower and says he never went upstairs to tell his dad, we now have transition officials *at Mar-a-Lago* while Trump was there who will presumably claim they didn’t inform Trump of their actions.

104/ Obviously no one will believe *multiple* transition officials who were with the president at Mar-a-Lago gave orders to Flynn on how to negotiate with the Russians on sanctions and *didn’t* tell Trump—that’s not at all consistent with what we know of Trump’s management style.

105/ But in any case, we can note that Mike Pence was the head of the transition, and that the Statement of the Offense says Flynn told *someone* at the top of the transition team *besides* Jared Kushner what he was doing. The list of people that could be is vanishingly small.

106/ Flynn and Kushner knew what they were doing was wrong—they would *not* have widely spread information about their secret (and illegal, under the Logan Act) negotiations with Russia. So the second (or third and additional) “senior” officials had to be *very* senior indeed.

107/ If you imagine for a moment that Kushner told his father-in-law what was going on—spoiler alert: everyone knows that we’ll discover he did—this means that, *at best*, Trump lied to the Vice President and to the nation about his (illegal) actions regarding Russian sanctions.

108/ It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency. I was asked on Bloomberg TV what I would offer as Trump’s best defense and I said, “remain silent.” Which is the advice you give a guilty person who’s dead-to-rights and about to be charged.

109/ I’ll be taking a brief break to appear on BBC Newsnight (for those in the UK or those who have it on cable). I’ll return immediately thereafter to further analyze what’s going on right now.

Again, this is a *historic* day in the United States that will be long remembered.

110/ (I do want to briefly note that—as to the lies Flynn told about the Security Council resolution—the Statement of the Offense said he spoke to “very senior” rather than merely “senior” transition officials. And the Statement *does* reference lies Flynn told relating to FARA.)

Michael Flynn pleads guilty for making false statements to FBI

Michael Flynn, who served for a short time as the Trump administration’s National Security Adviser before being fired, has pleaded guilty to a charge of lying “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced the charge this morning.

Fox News: Michael Flynn charged in Russia investigation

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been charged in the special counsel’s Russia investigation with making false statements to the FBI — and told a federal judge Friday he plans to plead guilty.

Flynn arrived at federal court in Washington, D.C., for the hearing Friday morning, shortly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a one-count charging document.

The false-statements charge pertains to Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador in late December — specifically discussions about sanctions and other matters he apparently claimed never happened.

Updated:

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI, becoming the latest Trump associate ensnared by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Flynn is accused of “willfully and knowingly” making the false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration.

The false statements were:

“On or about Dec 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and FLYNN did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request; and … On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution; and  that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to FLYNN Russia’ response to his request.”

The single charge of lying to the FBI has raised speculation that Flynn has ‘flipped’ and is now helping the FBI with their inquiries. Earlier this had been seen as an aim of the Mueller investigation.

The fact that he’s facing just one count prompted immediate speculation Friday that Flynn could be cooperating and offering information to Mueller’s team.

“We simply don’t know” whether Flynn is giving “deliverables” to Mueller on other Trump associates, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

A Flynn plea deal had been rumored ever since his attorneys informed President Trump’s legal team they could no longer discuss the investigation.

The move prompted speculation Flynn might be cooperating with Mueller’s investigators and discussing a deal.

Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI just days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

A few days earlier from Fox: White House Should Be ‘Very Concerned’ About Flynn’s Lawyers Not Sharing Info

Judge Andrew Napolitano said he believes the White House should be “very concerned” about reports that lawyers for Gen. Michael Flynn, formerly President Trump’s national security adviser, are no longer sharing information with Trump’s attorneys.

Flynn’s lawyers, according to reports in recent days, told the president’s legal team that they can no longer discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

The reports have led to speculation that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s investigative team.

Judge Napolitano, who often features on Fox News, also said:

‘Monumental’ reduction of charges doesn’t come for free.

In other words, a deal has been done on charges to get Flynn to testify against the Trump campaign team.

This makes the Russian investigation more serious for Trump and his administration. If past behaviour is any guide it is likely to be strongly countered and criticised publicly.

White House Lawyer Ty Cobb:

“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Cobb said that Flynn’s false statements to FBI ‘mirror the false statements to White House officials’ that led to his resignation

AN UPDATE ALREADY:

ABC News: Flynn has promised Special Counsel ‘full cooperation’ in Russia probe

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, and is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

A few furious tweets are unlikely to fix this.

 

 

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.