President Donald Trump, his cronies and conservative media were frolicking in delight when the Justice Department moved earlier this month to dismiss charges of lying to the FBI against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
It was long-due vindication, they screamed in exhilaration, of an American patriot who had been railroaded by a team of Deep State goblins out to get Trump and hammer home “the Russia hoax.”
What they apparently didn’t count on was that the federal judge in Flynn’s case wasn’t just going to rubber-stamp Attorney General William Barr’s latest transparently corrupt attempt to undo the important work of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and Trumpworld’s role in encouraging it.
Now that the bid to “exonerate” Flynn is on hold for a little bit, the indignation in Trumpworld is somewhat amusing to witness.
But beyond Fox News hosts pulling their hair out and the obviously fake “Obamagate” scandal designed to send the media down a rabbit hole of BS, Americans need to be serious about what is going on here with Flynn’s court case and understand that members of the most corrupt administration in modern times are trying to completely rewrite history.
In case anyone needs a refresher or is stuck in the gas-lighting, obfuscating bubble of right-wing media, see Paul Waldman’s May 15 column in The Washington Post for a lengthy rundown on how the perfect angel Flynn had already amassed a dishonorable reputation of shady dealings (including with Russian interests) and built a track record of vigorously promoting truly insane conspiracy theories prior to landing in legal hot water.
On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced overdue sanctions on the Russians for their election interference. That same day, Flynn inappropriately spoke on the phone with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, and discussed Russian response to the sanctions. During that call, Flynn is said to have pressed for a moderated response by the Russian government. Two days later, after Russian Vladimir Putin announced a moderated response and Trump tweeted his thanks, Kislyak followed up with Flynn to let him know the message had been received by the Kremlin.
Almost three and a half years after the call and nearly two and a half years after Flynn’s arrest, we still don’t know what exactly was said in the Dec. 29, 2016 communication between him and Kislyak. That’s because the DOJ has refused to release the transcript of the recorded call. Given Flynn’s consistent dishonesty about the call and his foreign dealings, it’s likely that the release of that call would reveal something far more sinister than his attempt at private diplomacy. It might also explain all of the "unmasking" requests that were made (appropriately, by the way) by alarmed Obama administration officials on communications prior to the Kislyak call that turned out to be Flynn each and every time. It might also provide more context for why Obama warned Trump to his face days after the 2016 election not to hire Flynn.
Whatever was said between Flynn and Kislyak, it was serious enough for Flynn to lie about to incoming Vice President Mike Pence and White House press secretary Sean Spicer (which Pence has claimed led to Flynn’s firing). Flynn then lied about the conversations in an interview with FBI agents four days after Trump was inaugurated.
After then-FBI director James Comey’s refusal to drop an investigation into Flynn amid pressure from the president led to Trump’s firing of Comey in May 2017, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to pick up the Russia investigation. Flynn was indicted later that year for lying to the FBI about his contact with Kislyak.
Flynn has since twice admitted in open court to his crimes and chose to plead guilty to avoid prosecution for secretly lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government while simultaneously receiving classified briefings on behalf of the Trump campaign. He denied any coercion while entering that guilty plea.
In exchange for the crimes Flynn committed against his country, he was given an extraordinarily pleasant deal by Mueller’s team for his cooperation and prosecutors originally argued for no jail time and merely probation. Many of the things Flynn cooperated on were counterintelligence matters that aren’t extensively detailed in the Mueller report but were instead turned over to the FBI, where they are now buried from public view.
Despite the sweetheart deal, Flynn’s posture has changed the last couple of years. His new attorney, Sidney Powell has consistently pushed the conspiracy that Flynn was indeed railroaded, and he has sought to withdraw his guilty plea.
And amazingly, in what has always been an “adversarial” criminal justice system — where the prosecution and defense are on different sides — Flynn and his team have a newfound ally in the U.S. Justice Department, led by Barr, President Trump’s chief obstruction officer.
On May 7, the Justice Department moved to withdraw the charges against Flynn. If granted, that move would negate the need for Trump to issue a potentially politically-damaging pardon. Barr is trying to insinuate that the move to dismiss was done for a legitimate purpose, saying there were not sufficient grounds for the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s crime of lying to federal agents.
But the court filing, signed only by Barr’s appointed interim U.S. attorney after the career prosecutors on the case abruptly withdrew, conveniently ignores that an agent involved in Flynn’s interview said that his notes were taken wildly out of context in order for the DOJ to assert that there was misconduct.
Contrary to what Barr and Flynn apologists claim, anyone who cares to be honest with themselves should be able to tell that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were indeed pertinent to the counterintelligence investigation into Flynn. The idea that the Jan. 24, 2017 interview shouldn’t have taken place because the FBI was already wrapping up its investigation is farcical, and Trump supporters suggesting so are blatantly hypocritical. A certain decision by the FBI in October 2016 related to Hillary Clinton comes to mind.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department argued in its filing that Judge Emmett Sullivan had little grounds to do much else besides go along with this charade and dismiss the case. That turns out not to be true at all.
“There has been nothing regular about the (Justice Department’s) effort to dismiss the Flynn case. The record reeks of improper political influence,” former prosecutor John Gleeson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed he co-authored, arguing that Sullivan has the authority to appoint outside legal advisers to argue the case.
Gleeson in fact has now been appointed by Sullivan to review the case and argue on behalf of the interest of the United States since it seems the Barr DOJ is no longer going to do so.
Sullivan could ultimately dismiss the case. Or he could move on and sentence Flynn, rejecting his withdrawal of the guilty plea.
In the end, Trump will pardon Flynn and there is nothing that can be done to stop him from doing that. But Flynn, Trump and Barr — arguably the most dangerous man in America given his aversion to the rule of law — may still have to wear the stench of it.