December 2nd, 2017

What’s the Flynn investigation all about? [Plus ABC’s “clarification”/correction]

There are several intertwined stories here that fit together to form a fascinating picture. So let’s try to untangle them, starting with the more trivial and leading to the most important.

The first one is about ABC News’ reporting on the Flynn plea yesterday. Here’s how that part went down:

Yesterday it was announced that Michael Flynn was pleading guilty to a single charge that he lied to the FBI about meetings with the Russian ambassador in late December 2016. That meeting and those discussions were not themselves illegal, and interacting with foreign officials in the weeks before a transition of power is routine…

But Brian Ross of ABC News broke a bombshell in connection with the Flynn plea, that an unnamed source told ABC News that Flynn was prepared to testify that Trump himself told Flynn to contact the Russians during the campaign. That news, that Flynn supposedly would implicate Trump himself and the campaign in Russia collusion, dominated the headlines and news cycle more so than the Flynn guilty plea itself.

As a result of that “bombshell” report, the stock market took a nosedive.

Then ABC issued a “clarification” that it later corrected into a “correction”: it was not during the campaign after all. Oopsies. According to CNN, the “campaign” story was based on a single anonymous source:

…[A] spokesperson for [ABC] told CNN that Ross would be issuing a “clarification” on “World News Tonight,” which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET.

“[A] clarification tonight on something one of Flynn’s confidants told us and we reported earlier today,” Ross said on the program. “He said the president had asked Flynn to contact Russia during the campaign. He’s now clarifying that saying, according to Flynn, candidate Trump asked him during the campaign to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other world hot spots. And then after the election, the president-elect asked him to contact Russia on issues including working together to fight ISIS.”

A tweet published by ABC News containing Ross’ initial report had been retweeted more than 25,000 times and embedded in various news stories online before it was deleted. ABC posted a “clarification” on Twitter around 8 p.m.

An ABC spokesperson said the network learned its initial reporting was incorrect at about 6 p.m. The network spokesperson declined to say if any disciplinary action would occur.

ABC’s decision to call its correction a “clarification” prompted immediate criticism…

It wasn’t until 11 PM that AMC changed “clarification” to “correction.”

So the story was issued on shaky grounds in the first place. It took too long to correct it, and then there was another time lag before correcting the Twitter account. But if ABC knew the truth by 6 PM, and announced it on the 6:30 evening news, why wait till 8 PM to issue a Twitter correction? Do they lack access to computers? Or do they want the original story to be spread as far and wide as possible before they take it back?

And why “clarification” rather than the time-honored “correction”? They are wordsmiths and are well aware of what they’re doing: minimizing their own stark error. And why wait still another 3 hours to change that? I guess they decided the complaints were serious enough that they had to do it. But their first impulse was to cover up the seriousness of their mistake (or recklessness, or ill intent).

That’s only part of the story and the media angle on it. Another part is that (at least as far as I can tell from a quick online perusal of more recent MSM coverage of the Flynn plea) the significance of the change doesn’t seem to be emphasized except on the conservative side of the media. For example, this this op-ed piece by a UCLA law professor that appeared in the NY Times yesterday and has of now garnered over 750 comments, and which supposedly has been updated to reflect the correction, still reads as though it is a given (not even worth trying to discuss or prove) that if Trump’s camp had talked to Russia when he was president-elect and awaiting inauguration, this would without question be an impeachable offense. For example:

The repercussions of the plea will be months in the making, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that the events to which Mr. Flynn has agreed to testify will take their place in the history books alongside the Watergate and Iran-contra scandals.

We’re in new — and highly inflammatory — territory…

The charge Mr. Flynn is pleading guilty to is a stunning one.

He is admitting that last December, before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, he asked the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak, to refrain from reacting aggressively to sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. Russia reportedly agreed and Mr. Kislyak told Mr. Flynn later that it had chosen to moderate its response to the sanctions to make nice with the Trump…

Now Mr. Trump and his circle will stand accused by a former member of the administration with plainly unconstitutional meddling in the most sensitive of foreign policy issues. If the Congress and country believe Michael Flynn’s account, it is hard to see what even the staunchest Trump defenders can say in defense.

Really? “Plainly unconstitutional meddling”? Note that the law professor author doesn’t say why he characterizes it that way. But how does this differ from a president elect saying that he will differ in policy from his predecessor? The author assumes all of this action by Flynn is clearly Trump-impeachable, and many of the commenters to the article seem to think it’s not only impeachable but criminal as well. And this includes the recent comments, which were issued after those updates to the piece reflecting the ABC clarification/correction. I don’t have access to the original article, but I imagine it was even more inflammatory, if possible, than the one I did read, and I’m also assuming the corrections are mainly to the candidate vs. president-elect status of Trump at the time, not to the main points of the piece.

And what on earth would be wrong with asking Russia not to react too aggressively to Obama’s sanctions? Are we to conclude that Obama wanted an aggressive reaction? Of course not. Now, if Flynn had asked the Russians to act aggressively in response to Obama’s sanctions, that might be a story worth telling. But what Flynn said to Kislyak was the equivalent of “let’s not make things worse, and maybe some day we can make them better.” And the same is true of the other matter Flynn lied to the FBI about, a request he had made to Kilyak that Russia refrain from joining in a UN condemnation of Israel’s settlements—a condemnation that the Obama administration did not support, either (although it was breaking with US precedent and abstaining rather than voting “no”). It was no secret at all that Trump would be more Israel-friendly than Obama was, but this request didn’t undermine Obama in any way. Nor, by the way, did it influence Russia, which voted for the resolution anyway.

The main point of the Times op-ed piece was, and remains, “Impeach Trump! And Flynn/Mueller will lead us there!” We’ve certainly heard a lot of that before. But let’s look at whether the sort of contact Flynn is alleged to have had during the transition period is either unusual or impeachable: you can find discussions here and here.

That latter piece is in Slate, not an especially Trump-friendly venue, and it concludes that talks by presidents-elect or their subordinates with foreign leaders are not unusual, and that even disagreeing with one’s predecessor in such talks is hardly unprecedented. The article was written back in January of 2017, almost a year ago and shortly before Trump’s inauguration. It says:

David Ignatius of the Washington Post reported in a column on Thursday that Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, held several phone conversations with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including new sanctions and the expulsion of 35 diplomats. The Obama administration says it is aware of the conversations.

Now, that’s certainly interesting. I had forgotten that a great deal of detail about this Flynn story was known and published in the media even back then, right before the inauguration. I also suggest you read this piece (from around the same time) as well. What I get from reading it is that there’s nothing really new here; the only new thing is the plea deal about it. Remember when you read this that this report was issued on January 14, 2017, nearly a year ago:

It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But repeated contacts just as Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed — or even helped shape — Russia’s response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the U.S. for the move, a decision Trump quickly praised.

More broadly, Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador suggests the incoming administration has already begun to lay the groundwork for its promised closer relationship with Moscow. That effort appears to be moving ahead, even as many in Washington, including Republicans, have expressed outrage over intelligence officials’ assessment that Putin launched a hacking operation aimed at meddling in the U.S. election to benefit Trump.

In an interview published Friday evening by The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama’s sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals.

“If Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions?” he asked.

During a news conference Wednesday, Trump highlighted his warmer rapport with the Russian leader.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia,” he said.

The sanctions targeted the GRU and FSB, leading Russian intelligence agencies that the U.S. said were involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other groups. The U.S. also kicked out 35 Russian diplomats who it said were actually intelligence operatives…

[Trump] also publicly urged the U.S. to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, then slammed the Obama administration for abstaining and allowing the measure to pass.

So this was known, and Trump even had made public statements at the time that dovetailed with Flynn’s private statements to Kislyak. So, is it now impeachable for a president-elect to publicly (or privately, for that matter) criticize the foreign policy of his predecessor in the days before inauguration, and to say that he will do it better or do it differently? Of course not; only when that person is Donald Trump. The main reason this was considered important at the time was that it was supposed to point to Russian hacking of the election, and that’s why the question of whether Trump was a candidate at the time or president-elect at the time was and is so very very important. If the former, it could support a suspicion that Russia might have done him some hacking favors in a quid pro quo during the election to help him win. If the latter, it has no particular importance.

Lastly, I urge you—strongly urge you—to read Andrew C. McCarthy’s latest on the Flynn plea and the Mueller investigation in general. He’s been on this from the start, and so far everything he’s said has come true, so I place greater weight on his words than on most. You really ought to read the whole thing, because it’s so tightly reasoned and organized that quotes don’t do it justice. But here are some excerpts:

Mueller’s investigation was not a criminal investigation. It started out as a fishing expedition, under the vaporous heading of “collusion,” into “contacts” between Russian officials and Trump associates — notwithstanding that collusion is not conspiracy and that it was perfectly legal for Trump associates to have contacts with Russia (just like Clinton associates did)…

Only one conceivable crime could have arisen out of the “collusion” that was the pretext for Mueller’s probe: the knowing complicity of Trump associates in Russia’s hacking of Democratic email accounts. Of course, there was never evidence of such a scheme…

…And in the event our aggressive prosecutor can’t find any crimes — which would be no surprise, since the investigation was not triggered by a crime — no matter: The special counsel is encouraged to manufacture crimes through the investigative process. Misleading assertions by non-suspects made to investigators probing non-crimes can be charged as felony false statements.

The end game of the investigation is the removal of Donald Trump from the presidency, either by impeachment (which does not require proof of a court-prosecutable crime) or by publicly discrediting Trump to such a degree that his reelection becomes politically impossible. The latter can be accomplished by projecting the appearance of a critical investigation (notwithstanding that there is no underlying crime), turning administration officials into suspects, and hopefully generating the false-statement prosecutions that help depict the administration as dishonest and icky.

While all that plays out, though, behold the frightening thing Mueller’s investigation has become: a criminalization of politics. In the new order of things, policy differences are the grist for investigation and prosecution. There is no evidence that Flynn or any other Trump associate was involved in Russia’s election interference. Instead, after being elected on the promise of significant policy shifts from the Obama administration, President-elect Trump directed Flynn, his incoming national-security adviser, to make contact with foreign counterparts, including but not limited to officials from Russia. This is standard operating procedure when administrations change — that’s why they call it a transition.

I’ve quoted liberally from McCarthy’s article already. There’s so much more there that you really need to read, and I can’t just quote it all. But I will add this:

The ongoing Mueller probe is not a good-faith investigation of suspected espionage or other crime. It is the exploitation of the executive’s intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement powers in order to (a) criminalize Trump political policies with which the Obama administration disagreed and (b) frame Clinton’s electoral defeat as the product of a traitorous scheme rather than a rejection of Democratic-party priorities.

That’s it, folks. Unless something else emerges from the investigation (always possible), I concur with McCarthy’s assessment.

[ADDENDUM: Now we hear that Brian Ross, who broke the erroneous story, has been suspended by ABC without pay for 4 weeks. Big deal. And why should ABC make him the fall guy? They write:

So maybe they should suspend themselves without pay. Fat chance.

If you want to see Ross’s sorry history of big reporting errors (or “clarifications”) see this.]

21 Responses to “What’s the Flynn investigation all about? [Plus ABC’s “clarification”/correction]”

  1. parker Says:

    Smells like the vast left wing conspiracy. 😉

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The object of ABC News’ false reporting is indeed to spread the misinformation as wide and far as possible. Strong impressions frequently last, despite later contrary evidence. Many will take nothing substantive coming out of Mueller’s “investigation” as ‘proof’ that ‘justice’ has been denied.

    This is about “preparing the battle space” for the 2020 and 2024 elections. And also for building the case against Trump for impeachment, add Flynn’s plea deal to the list of Trump’s ‘misdemeanors’.

  3. Frog Says:

    This is all too peculiar to understand:

    A senior FBI counterintel agent (Strzok) investigating Russia for Mueller was intimately involved with a member of Mueller’s team (Yates), and when this was discovered, Strzok was reassigned to Fibbie HR (!) and Yates apparently disappeared into the Deep State. Strzok had also previously headed the famously minimal investigation of Hillary’s emails! You know, where Huma’s laptop was not retained, but rather returned to her without downloading it all.

    FBI has no comment, and Mueller spokie’s comment is trivial, as in “We didn’t know”.

    What is going on here??

    the entire WSJ story is behind a wall:

    Mueller Reassigned Top Aide on Russia Probe After Anti-Trump Texts
    By Del Quentin Wilber
    Dec. 2, 2017 4:17 p.m. ET

    The former top FBI agent assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election was removed from his post this past summer after a government watchdog launched an inquiry into text messages he sent expressing political opinions critical of then-candidate Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    Peter Strzok, the agent, had also led the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.

    Mr. Strzok, who is considered one of the FBI’s most experienced counterintelligence agents, was reassigned to a supervisory job in the bureau’s human resources division after Mr. Mueller learned about the inquiry into the text messages. The inquiry is being conducted by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, the person said.

    Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr. Mueller, said that “immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation.”

    Spokespeople for the FBI could not immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Strzok couldn’t be reached.

    The inspector general’s office released a statement Saturday saying that in January it had opened a probe of the FBI to determine “whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations and that we also would include issues that might arise during the course of the review.”

    “The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them,” the statement said.

    His reassignment was first reported by ABC News in August; the reasons for his reassignment were reported earlier Saturday by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

    The reasons for Mr. Strzok’s reassignment were tightly held, and his transfer befuddled many in the bureau. Several agents said the reassignmentwas evidence that Mr. Mueller would go to great lengths to protect the integrity of his investigations from any potential criticism.

    The allegations are sure to draw attention from Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump who have criticized the bureau’s handling of its investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server. Mr. Trump has called on the Justice Department to revisit that investigation.

    He has also chafed at the special counsel’s investigation of alleged meddling in the 2016 elections and possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow to help him defeat Mrs. Clinton. He has called the inquiry a “witch hunt,” and Moscow has denied meddling in the election.

    The person familiar with the inspector-general investigation said Mr. Strzok was exchanging texts with another FBI employee with whom he was romantically involved. That person was identified as Lisa Page, a lawyer who also worked briefly on Mr. Mueller’s team on a short-term detail. She left the office in mid-July. Ms. Page could not be reached for comment.

    Mr. Carr, the spokesman for Mr. Mueller, said that she had “completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”

  4. J.J. Says:

    Does anyone feel like we might be living in a Banana Republic? The “right people” aren’t in charge and the establishment is going to remedy that. Mueller is just one of their agents. The MSM, academia, Soros, Obama’s OFA, left wing politicians in blue states, and the GOPe are all hatching plots to take Trump down. I, for one, am glad Trump is a fighter. Most GOP pols under the weight of this onslaught would have surrendered by now. It looks like this is going to get worse. They have no remorse, no shame, and no end to their nefarious plans.

  5. Yancey Ward Says:

    I am cynical, so my working assumption is that the anonymous source is a Democrat, works for Mueller, and depended on Ross not asking the right question when he/she told Ross that Flynn would say candidate Trump told him to contact Kisylak. I write this because several other news outlets got the story right while others, and not obviously citing ABC, got it wrong. I think someone on Mueller’s team was shopping this lie for narrative purposes. Ross was the biggest fish to bite.

  6. Matt_SE Says:

    Ross was punished for this “error.” I imagine because he cost a lot of people in the stock market a lot of money.

  7. S watson Says:

    I wonder if it is possible to sue ABC news seeing that their report caused the stock market to tumble 350 points. It is true that they can print anything they want but if it causes clear harm are they not culpable? Seems to me they could be held liable for loss. Just a thought.

  8. Jeff Brokaw Says:

    Ross is obviously a clown but the next question becomes, how unique is his level of Media Clownishness?

    It’s pretty obviously a systemic issue, and it’s gotten ridiculous just how prevalent these stories – “a single anonymous source says” followed by the lie of the day – have become, yet millions of sheeple continue to reflexively believe them.

    Such people have lost touch with reality. It’s a form of psychosis. They are rewarding the lies with internet clicks and TV ratings and therefore creating incentive to do more of it. So, apparently we will now be forced to watch the whole thing burn out and consume itself. Somewhat entertaining, I guess, but it’s still relentlessly stupid and alarming.

    We need a better class of citizen in this country.

  9. SDN Says:

    From McCarthy’s article:
    “Here’s what I’d be tempted to do if I were President Trump: I’d direct the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, including any Obama-administration collusion in that enterprise.”

    Who, exactly, would President Trump select who isn’t a Democrat Party operative to conduct such an investigation? The FBI has shown that their loyalties are with the Democrat Party, both by their sham investigations into Clinton, and their conduct of those investigations, against their own regulations, in such a way as to ensure that no such crimes as Flynn has been framed for can ever be done. Can’t charge anyone with lying to the FBI when you have refused to take the detailed recordings and notes required by regulations that would allow it.

  10. teo toon Says:

    “…am glad Trump is a fighter.”
    Trump is not fighting hard enough. If the deep state and its so-called law enforcement agencies consider pre-election conversations – even business dealings years before running for office – with foreign powers a crime, then Trump must RICO every living former president and the Ted Kennedy estate. He also must begin the process of putting these former presidents on trial; perhaps before a military tribunal; hell, send to Gitmo to be held until the trials start. The time has come to fight fire with fire.

    In a sane world, Obama, Valerie Jarret and their crew would be charged with the real crime of insurrection.

  11. Mike K Says:

    “the day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, ”

    The Obama retaliation was part of the disinformation campaign by Democrats to explain how Hillary could possible have lost the election that she had been guaranteed to win. The “Russia did it” was made up of whole cloth and was part of the dissemination of the fake “Dossier” cooked up by Fusion GPS.” I still want to see their financial records.

  12. Rachel Says:

    personally, I don’t think people care about the collusion. It is confusing, and does not affect their lives directly like the tax plan might.

    To me, the real goal of the media is to frustrate the populous into voting Democrat just to stop the depressing, Nixon-like atmosphere and bring in a liberal Nirvana (according to the press).

  13. Frog Says:

    We are a mere hair’s breadth away from the media’s simply NOT correcting or clarifying.

    The Left has openly declared its intent of doing a coup d’ etat, bloodless if possible, but bloody if necessary.

    Gentlemen and ladies, arm yourselves. The country of our Founders is dissolving before our eyes.

    The South will indeed rise again.
    Mexico will recover the territories lost in 1848. The Pacific NW will become a haven for the Chinese (like British Columbia), and New England, Wisconsin and Minnesota may turn into additional Provinces of Canada. The Prairie States will have to ally, probably with the South. Texas will naturally become a free Republic once again.

  14. Ray Van Dune Says:

    Thoughts on the Mueller strategy: if this witch-hunt is still going on without real result by next Summer, Trump is going to be able to paint for the voters a very nasty picture of what is effectively a coup and an effort to criminalize politics. Combined with dissatisfaction with Congress, and a likely vibrant economy that is generating actual pay increases, he will be able to say quite convincingly that he has delivered, and done so against the illegal and immoral subversion of the Democrats and many in his own party. It could be an electoral bloodbath.
    Other than by folding his tent, handing a stunning victory to Trump, how can Mueller avoid this? His only hope (assuming he finds nothing substantially impeachable) is to engineer an unwise move on Trump’s part – firing him. This would cement the Russia “gate” in the scandal pantheon for playback by the Dems and the media (Birm) forever. The trick will be to provoke the reaction with increasingly illegitimate indictments, without committing a transgression that he could not be protected from. Given the performance of his guardians so far, he has reason to be optimistic on that front, but the public may tire of repeated DeMedia freak outs over the months.

    In this dynamic it is worth asking: who is running Mueller? That he might be totally self-directed seems beyond reasonable, or at least it is beyond reasonable that he would not be reined in by some Democrats should he continue to provide repeated sensations that prove to be vaporware.

  15. Jenk Says:

    So let’s get this straight–Flynn supposedly “lies” about meetings with the Russians to the FBI, who questioned him about meetings they had already illegally recorded (?) and this throws the stock market into a panic? Do I have this right?

    Kisilyak was the official Russian ambassador. The Russians are masters of the intelligence game; they know better than to use the ambassador for anything other than a mouthpiece and a spokesmodel for their official positions. Unless Flynn met with an FSB or GRU agent using the embassy as cover he could not have done anything wrong; the Russians would have seen to that as a way of covering themselves.

    What to me is more relevant is how this piece of non-news (it doesn’t rise to the level of “fake news”) could affect the stock market. A bunch of political hacks having a knife fight in Washington over essentially nothing is business as usual and has no impact on ordinary Americans, but when that blows up the stock market that’s another matter.

    Are the Democrats so desperate to regain power that they are willing to trash the investments of ordinary Americans–and in many cases those are hedges against Social Security–just to bring Trump down? Are they that recklessly irresponsible? Isn’t the legal term for that “depraved indifference”? And isn’t there a penalty for that?

    This has been a non-story from the moment it was cooked up to deflect attention away from a badly run losing election campaign, and while it’s been amusing to political junkies it stopped being funny when it impacted normal people trying to live normal lives. It’s all fun and games up to a point, but now the question is who will be accountable for the pain inflicted on real people by political games? I’m looking at you, “Resistance”….

  16. AesopFan Says:

    Jeff Brokaw Says:
    December 3rd, 2017 at 8:04 am
    Ross is obviously a clown but the next question becomes, how unique is his level of Media Clownishness?

    It’s pretty obviously a systemic issue, and it’s gotten ridiculous just how prevalent these stories – “a single anonymous source says” followed by the lie of the day –
    * * *
    Fault of the editors, IMO, and some of them should be fired as well. Ross, IIRC, was a serial offender.

  17. AesopFan Says:

    Frog Says:
    December 3rd, 2017 at 11:44 am
    … Texas will naturally become a free Republic once again.
    * * *
    [Waves Lone Star Flag]
    But we will have to deport most of Austin, Houston, and Dallas, and severely deplete the ranks of officialdom in many other once-conservative cities and towns.

  18. AesopFan Says:

    SDN Says:
    December 3rd, 2017 at 8:54 am
    Who, exactly, would President Trump select who isn’t a Democrat Party operative to conduct such an investigation? The FBI has shown that their loyalties are with the Democrat Party, both by their sham investigations into Clinton, and their conduct of those investigations, against their own regulations, in such a way as to ensure that no such crimes as Flynn has been framed for can ever be done. Can’t charge anyone with lying to the FBI when you have refused to take the detailed recordings and notes required by regulations that would allow it.
    * * *
    (1) Some PowerLine comments are suggesting Rudy Giuliani, which would have worked for me a few years ago, but now I don’t know if he is still up to it. How about hiring Andy McCarthy?
    (2) This revelation should have caused heads to roll at the very beginning, Day 1 after the inauguration in my view.

  19. AesopFan Says:

    Worth reading:
    “…The FBI was able to detect that Flynn made false statements about what he said to Kislyak because the Kislyak conversations were being monitored.

    And we’ve known since 23 January that the calls were being monitored, and that the FBI had found no wrongdoing in Flynn’s exchanges with Kislyak. That judgment was reportedly reaffirmed three weeks later, just after Flynn’s resignation in February.

    In other words, if there had never been an investigation of Flynn at all, it would have made no difference to the affairs of our fair Republic, because there was no crime to look into.

    What was unquestionably illegal was someone with a clearance leaking Flynn’s unmasked identity in those phone calls to the media two weeks earlier.

    Meanwhile, for the ignorant who imagine that there was something untoward in Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak during the transition period, consider an event from the Obama transition in 2008.

    Described by Time as “Obama’s first diplomatic test,” it was reported on 13 November 2008, nine days after the presidential election. The issue, like U.S. sanctions on Russia and the UN vote on the anti-Israel resolution in December 2016, carried significant freight:

    Obama’s team didn’t “defer” to the Bush administration with zero contact or silence on the matter – nor is there any reason why it should have. ..It’s even illuminating to ask yourself, if you do it honestly, whether an Obama team member, under questioning by the FBI, might end up months later making a false statement or two about the content of such exchanges – regardless of the reason for such an error.

    Special counsels are themselves a gray area: if we have so little trust in the routine processes of our normal legal system – that is, the normal legal system that said back in January that Michael Flynn had done nothing wrong – the right answer is not to crush individuals under the weight of “special prosecutions” or ” counterintelligence investigations.” It’s to clean our house to begin with.”

  20. AesopFan Says:

    Some voices of sanity still exist.

    The statement cited in the tweet has been attacked as “fake news,” or a desperate maneuver by Trump. But, in fact, on 13 January, State Department spokesman Mark Toner explicitly said that there was no problem with the contacts the Trump transition team was making with foreign officials. I wouldn’t cite that as “authorization,” myself – but then, the State Department was clear that no authorization was required.

    You may remember that 13 January 2017 was the day after the Washington Post ran its first article on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak. The question posed to Mr. Toner during the State Department daily briefing was clearly predicated on the leaked information in that article…
    Regarding the anti-Israel UN resolution, Team Trump floated with the Russians the possibility of preventing the vote from happening.

    So at worst, a vote the U.S. abstained on – and had been expected for weeks to abstain on – might not have happened.

    How is that conceivably sabotaging American foreign policy, or “helping a foreign regime violate international law with impunity”?

    Indeed, just before the UN vote, the State Department had been very clear that the U.S. did not endorse Resolution 2334; that in fact, we were not supporting it, or prepared to vote for it, because its language didn’t stress condemnation of violence strongly enough. The discussion of that at the 22 December 2016 daily briefing is here.

    So we’re supposed to take as a premise that a resolution we weren’t going to vote for simply had to come to a vote, in order for American foreign policy to remain unsabotaged? It was of the utmost importance for our policy that we have the opportunity to abstain from a vote?…”

  21. blert Says:

    We are no longer The World.

    We are The Third World.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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