Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Strikes For Mike, Overnight

If all the massive news stories that happened yesterday involving Trump and Russia weren't enough for you, with the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel and GOP House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy caught on tape saying he thought Trump was getting paid off by Putin, this morning we have three more separate stories on former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on the docket, and none of them are good news for the Trump regime in any way.  

First up: from the NY Times that Mike Flynn told the Trump team he was under FBI investigation before he was hired, and Trump hired him anyway.

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

This means that White House Counsel Don McGahn knew full well that Flynn was dirty, and most of all it makes a giant liar out of the person that Trump had to head hiring for his transition team: VP Mike Pence, who in February said he found out more than two weeks after Trump did that Flynn was under investigation, and that Flynn mislead them on his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.  Flynn should have never been hired in the first place, and Pence, as transition head, would have had to have known what Flynn told McGahn about Turkey.

Oh, but it gets worse, specifically on Flynn''s relationship as a paid agent of Turkey and President Erdogan, as McClatchy News dropped this story late last night on Flynn.

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.

Ahh, but this story about the Raqqa operation coupled with the NY Times story means that the Trump team knew Flynn was under investigation for his ties to Turkey, and was still allowed to make decisions about anti-ISIS operations involving Turkey anyway.  And that folks, is a serious, serious problem for McGahn and Pence, oh and Trump too.

But what about Russia?  Ahh dear reader, that brings us to Strike Number Three as it turns out Flynn's undisclosed contacts with Ambassador Kislyak happened quite often as Reuters dropped this gem this morning:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race
, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

And this is now the starting point of the Mueller special counsel probe into Trump and Russia.  Flynn is the keystone, looks like.  It's why he was the first thrown overboard.  Cracking him wide open leads to Trump, Pence, and possibly Paul Ryan.  Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein will brief the entire US Senate today on the probe, and folks, I'm betting this is going to start moving quickly here, as if this week's breakneck pace was somehow pokey.

Stay tuned, folks.

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