Pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his conversation with former Russian Amb. Sergey Kislyak, 58-year-old Gen. Michael Flynn becomes the latest Trump associate snared in former FBI Director Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation. Mueller was appointed May 17 by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian meddling and Trump-campaign collusion ia in the 2016 election. Mueller already indicted Oct. 30 former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates for “conspiracy” “money laundering” and “tax evasion,” all related to 2006 work in Ukraine. Mueller’s mandate was not to investigate nefarious activity before the campaign but to hone in on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now Mueller charges Flynn for lying to FBI agents about his conversations with Kislyak.
Flynn rejected out-of-hand Mueller’s early charge of “treason” for speaking to Kislyak or any other Russian officials. Flynn was fired Feb. 13 after 25 days as National Security Adviser for failing to tell Vice President Mike Pence he spoke to Kislyak and other Russian officials. Accepting the charge of lying to FBI agents, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller seeking for the record who gave Flynn the orders to talk to Kislyak. Accepting a plea deal sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting 300 points before recovering today to around 40 points down. Flynn’s plea deal and cooperation with Mueller led investors to conclude that the odds of President Donald Trump facing impeachment got a lot higher. When investors took a breath, markets almost recovered fully. Facing over $1 million in legal bills, Flynn had no choice but to accept Mueller’s deal and cooperate.
Cooperating with the FBI doesn’t mean that Flynn will sing like a canary but give the chain-of-command who instructed him to speak with Kislyak. Recalling the context during the transition before the inauguration, Flynn was expected, as National Security Adviser, to speak with the Russians, especially after former President Barack Obama slapped Russia Dec. 29 with new sanctions, expelling from Washington 35 Russian diplomats. With U.S.-Russian relations hitting Cold War lows, Flynn was asked, most likely by Trump’s son-in-law White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, to make contact.with Russia to improve relations. Trump’s detractors want to charge Flynn with violating the arcane 1799 Logan Act, preventing private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. Flynn may of panicked when questioned by FBI agents but he didn’t violate the Logan Act or commit treason.
Mueller contends that Flynn told FBI agents Jan. 24, 2017 that he had no prior conversations with Kislyak. When Kislyak’s “incidental communication” was unmasked showing Flynn discussing Russian sanctions Dec. 29, 2016, the day Obama slapped the new sanctions on Moscow, Flynn was caught lying to the FBI. When you consider that Flynn’s “unmasked” conversations were obtained illegally, it makes you wonder how he would cop a plea for anything. New questions about Obama administration spying illegally on Trump campaign officials raise serious doubts about the admissibility of Flynn’s unmasked conversations with Kislyak. But whatever Flynn talked about with Kislyak, it was for the purpose of an incoming administration helping to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Trump campaign officials were worried at the time about Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliating.
FBI agents “unmasked” Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversation with Kislyak, asking him to “refrain from escalating the situation.” Flynn was so intimidated by Mueller “treason” charges, he capitulated to a plea deal. Flynn had to fold because of unending legal bills threatening bankruptcy. White House Counsel Ty Cobb must have been apoplectic hearing that Flynn copped a plea with Mueller. Whatever Flynn said to Kislyak, it was nothing related to treason, only doing his job as incoming National Security Adviser. U.S-Russian relations had deteriorated to the point of military confrontation in Syria, sparking concerns, at the time, by former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir, of WW III. How Flynn’s conversations were construed as anything but helpful is beyond belief. Flynn copped a plea because he could no longer afford mounting legal bills.
Flynn’s plea deal was a classic case of folding his cards because he ran out of chips. What Flynn discussed with Kislyak was so inconsequential, so innocuous, so irrelevant that any competent defense attorney could have made mincemeat out of Mueller’s case. Whether or not Flynn points to Trump or Kushner, he had every right as incoming National Security Adviser to discuss anything related to his job with foreign leaders. Today’s Russia hysteria makes it treason to have any conversations with Russian operatives let alone Kremlin officials. Instead of sticking to his mandate to investigate Russian meddling or Trump collusion in the 2016 election, Mueller has decided to go for low hanging fruit—no-brainer charges. While Flynn got snared for lying to FBI agents, there’s noting illegal for Trump to ask Flynn to begin the process of improving U.S.-Russian relations.