Putin is ‘in like Flynn’ in the Trump White House

The lesson from Watergate is that “it is not the crime, it is the coverup” that will bring you down.

National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who previously worked as a commentator on Russia Today (RT), Vladimir Putin’s propaganda network, lied about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition.  How Flynn ever got a security clearance is beyond me.  Robin Townley, the senior Africa director on the NSC, a Top Flynn aide was rejected for a key security clearance on Friday.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday, National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say:

National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”

On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” [The Ollie North defense: “I don’t recall” (wink, wink).]

Officials said this week that the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Several officials emphasized that while sanctions were discussed, they did not see evidence that Flynn had an intent to convey an explicit promise to take action after the inauguration.

Flynn’s contacts with the ambassador attracted attention within the Obama administration because of the timing. U.S. intelligence agencies were then concluding that Russia had waged a cyber campaign designed in part to help elect Trump; his senior adviser on national security matters was discussing the potential consequences for Moscow, officials said.

The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. In a recent interview, Kislyak confirmed that he had communicated with Flynn by text message, by phone and in person, but declined to say whether they had discussed sanctions.

The emerging details contradict public statements by incoming senior administration officials including Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect. They acknowledged only a handful of text messages and calls exchanged between Flynn and Kislyak late last year and denied that either ever raised the subject of sanctions.

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said in an interview with CBS News last month, noting that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence also made a more sweeping assertion, saying there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said, “is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.

“Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said a former official.

A third official put it more bluntly, saying that either Flynn had misled Pence or that Pence misspoke. An administration official stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn.

The nature of Flynn’s pre-inauguration message to Kislyak triggered debate among officials in the Obama administration and intelligence agencies over whether Flynn had violated a law against unauthorized citizens interfering in U.S. disputes with foreign governments, according to officials familiar with that debate. Those officials were already alarmed by what they saw as a Russian assault on the U.S. election.

U.S. officials said that seeking to build such a case against Flynn would be daunting. The law against U.S. citizens interfering in foreign diplomacy, known as the Logan Act, stems from a 1799 statute that has never been prosecuted. As a result, there is no case history to help guide authorities on when to proceed or how to secure a conviction.

The Post’s national security columnist David Ignatius explains, When it comes to his contacts with Russia, Michael Flynn has bigger problems than the Logan Act:

Michael Flynn’s real problem isn’t the Logan Act, an obscure and probably unenforceable 1799 statute that bars private meddling in foreign policy disputes. It’s whether President Trump’s national security adviser sought to hide from his colleagues and the nation a pre-inauguration discussion with the Russian government about sanctions that the Obama administration was imposing.

“It’s far less significant if he violated the Logan Act and far more significant if he willfully misled this country,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a telephone interview late Friday. “Why would he conceal the nature of the call unless he was conscious of wrongdoing?”

Schiff said the FBI and congressional intelligence committees should investigate whether Flynn discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December the imminent imposition of sanctions, and whether he encrypted any of those communications in what might have been an effort to avoid monitoring. Schiff said that if some conversations were recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies, “we should be able to rapidly tell if Gen. Flynn was being truthful” when he told Vice President Pence and other colleagues that sanctions weren’t discussed.

Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak were first disclosed in my Jan. 12 Post column, so I have a window on the events surrounding that disclosure. I reported that, according to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn had phoned Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Kremlin’s hacking attack during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?” the column asked. We still don’t know the answers to those questions — but new reporting has made them more pertinent than ever. Flynn needs to clarify what happened, or risk losing his credibility with National Security Council colleagues and the public.

* * *

Why did the Trump team give slow, initially conflicting and apparently incomplete accounts of the conversation? A Trump campaign spokesman forwarded my request for comment to Flynn’s team on Jan. 12, about seven hours before the column appeared. But there was no response until the next morning, when a colleague of Flynn’s said the retired lieutenant general had talked with Kislyak sometime between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29.

About an hour later, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the Flynn-Kislyak contacts in a public briefing, but said they had come in texts on Dec. 25 and in a phone conversation Dec. 28, when it was widely reported sanctions were imminent. Sources continued to tell the Associated Press that day that there had been a call on Dec. 29.

The crucial question is what Flynn and Kislyak discussed. The Flynn associate told me initially that the two explored timing of a future conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A Trump campaign spokesman told me several hours later that Kislyak had also told Flynn that a Trump representative should attend a peace conference on Syria that would take place after the inauguration in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Various Trump team members said Flynn hadn’t talked to Kislyak about the sanctions that were being announced near-simultaneously with the communications, whichever date you choose. That’s apparently what Flynn told Pence, too. But this denial became inoperative Thursday, when a spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

A national security adviser’s success depends on maintaining trust, especially with his White House colleagues. After Flynn’s changing statements about a sensitive issue, he has a trust deficit that can only be filled with a full accounting of what happened — one that is consistent with any record that was compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies of his calls with Kislyak.

CNN reported on Friday that US investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier:

For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, [Christopher Steele], multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump’s inauguration.

None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs.

But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials. CNN has not confirmed whether any content relates to then-candidate Trump.

The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement “greater confidence” in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.

* * *

US intelligence officials emphasize the conversations were solely between foreign nationals, including those in or tied to the Russian government, intercepted during routine intelligence gathering.

Some of the individuals involved in the intercepted communications were known to the US intelligence community as “heavily involved” in collecting information damaging to Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump, two of the officials tell CNN.

Until now, US intelligence and law enforcement officials have said they could not verify any parts of the dossier.

Officials who spoke to CNN cautioned they still have not reached any judgment on whether the Russian government has any compromising information about the President.

Officials did not comment on or confirm any alleged conversations or meetings between Russian officials and US citizens, including associates of then-candidate Trump.

One of the officials stressed to CNN they have not corroborated “the more salacious things” alleged in the dossier.

CNN has not reported any of the salacious allegations.

And how did the Trump White House respond to this CNN report? You guessed it: Reached for comment this afternoon, White House Press Secretary “Baghdad Sean” Spicer said, “We continue to be disgusted by CNN’s fake news reporting. Spicer later called back and said, “This is more fake news.”

The under-reported story here is that the intelligence agencies are leaking like a sieve to the media, as are people within the Trump Whitehouse. No White House Leaks Like This … Until Now.

11 responses to “Putin is ‘in like Flynn’ in the Trump White House

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    So far, Trump has:

    Refused to say Putin is a thug.
    Pitched a hissy fit over inauguration attendance.
    Lied about voter fraud.
    Lied about the popular vote.
    Whined about Mark Cuban on Twitter.
    Whined about Saturday Night Live on Twitter.
    Forced Baghdad Shaun Spicer to lie to the press.
    Call factual news stories fake news.
    Called fake news stories factual.
    Started a fight with Australia.
    Started a fight with Mexico.
    Fasted POTUS ever to go golfing. Several times now.
    Picked winners and losers on Twitter, causing American companies stocks to drop.
    Said the design was almost finished for the wall, then a week later said he hadn’t started the design yet.
    Trump, a draft dodging coward, continues to insult McCain and soldiers and veterans.
    Said that so called judges are responsible for future terrorist attacks.
    Said he knows and has met Putin and has a great relationship with Putin, then says he doesn’t know Putin, then… oh, forget it.
    Calls any negative polls fake news. Only polls he likes are real news now.
    Said Mexico would pay for the wall, only to have the US taxpayer put the money up front, then the US consumer will pay the US taxpayer back by paying more for Tequila, wait, this doesn’t make any sense….
    Doesn’t know what the START treaty is.
    Threatened to defund sanctuary cities, even though those cities provide 80% of the countries tax revenue.
    Treated his SCOTUS nomination like an episode of The Bachelor.
    Forgot to check if his muslim ban was legal, forget to tell the agencies that would need to enforce the ban, causing major issues at airports around the world.
    Cries about the NT Times daily on Twitter. Poor poor Donnie.
    Threatened to illegally send federal troops to Chicago.

    I’m missing a lot of other fun stuff, like Flynn’s violating the Logan Act or Kellyanne “Propaganda Barbie” Conway’s “alternative facts” debacle, and we’re not even a month into POTUS45!

    Hey GOP, for years, maybe decades, Trump is the face of your party, and his incompetence, ignorance, and pettiness will be your parties legacy.

    Well done, GOP, you own this!

    • ROFL!!!!!!!!! Let’s not forget that the GOP is responsible for Trump and agrees with everything he does including all legal and illegal actions. They put him in power, they can take him out, but he is not rogue, he is theirs.

    • “Hey GOP, for years, maybe decades, Trump is the face of your party, and his incompetence, ignorance, and pettiness will be your parties legacy.”

      No…I give it 5, maybe 6 years tops. The ability of the average American to forget things quickly cannot be overstated. YOU may remember for years, but your next door neighbor won’t. That guy in the car next to you in the morning won’t. That person who got your coffee won’t. Not everyone is so politically aware and as angry as you are, Tom. This will pass quickly once Trump is out of office and most people won’t remember and won’t care if you remind them about it. Both Parties depend on that short memory every time there is an election.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        The stink of Nixon lingered well into the 1990’s, and the late night talk show hosts never, never, stopped doing Clinton jokes.

        So maybe the American people are as forgetful and stupid as you.

        As you think, I meant to type “as you think”.

        • “So maybe the American people are as forgetful and stupid as you. As you think, I meant to type “as you think”.”

          Tom, if you want to think of me as stupid that’s okay with me. I have no problem with it.

          But as to thinking the American people are stupid, I never said that. wWhat I did say is that the average American doesn’t think about, or worry about, politics unless it is election time. They have lives to lives, concerts to attend, things around the house to fix, children to raise, dope to smoke, games to watch, and a million other things that really matter. Politics is wa-a-a-ay down on list of things for them to worry about. As an example of what I mean, I expect these demonstrations and marches currently going on are going to get smaller and smaller with the passage of time. Right now, people are fired up and enthusiastic, but over time, they will lose that enthusiasm and things will begin to trail off. Give it a year…

          “The stink of Nixon lingered well into the 1990’s, and the late night talk show hosts never, never, stopped doing Clinton jokes.”

          Yes, Nixon and Clinton were in the comedy routines for years after they served, but only as the butt of jokes. Nixon rebuilt his image and once again was thought of as a Statesman before he died. Clinton was still active in democrat politics as late as this last election. And neither one was viewed as “the face of his Party” by anyone except diehard political junkies.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            You don’t think a reality TV Show star who conned and bullied his way to POTUS, who’s worshipped by the KKK, who has a golden showers sex tape in Russia will be remembered for long?

            The guy that’s sent cable news and SNL’s ratings skyrocketing? The guy who’s IMDB page is a mile long with sitcom and movie credits as an actor?

            The guy who’s trying to ban an entire religion?

            President Pussy Grabber? PPG is not going to be remembered?

            The guy’s a fame whore and you think people will forget him like he’s Gerald Ford?

            The guy that has his name in 15 foot tall gold letters on dozens of 50 story buildings in countries all around the world? On golf courses and resorts?

            That guy won’t be remembered for long?

            This is why I have trouble taking conservatives seriously. They live disconnected from reality.

          • “Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, etc., That guy won’t be remembered for long?”

            Please pardon the use of the word “Yadda” to describe the long list of things you say Trump did. No offense is intended, but I wanted to acknowledge the list you prepared.

            Tom, I really wish you would actually read what I write and not look at it through the prizm of what you think I meant. Of course, Trump is going to be remembered. He is not the type of person you can ignore. He won’t stand for it.

            I am simply saying that Trump will not be the face of the Republican Party for more than 5 or 6 years after he leaves office. After that, he will just be “the Donald” again as far as the average person is concerned. Your original premise was that the GOP owned Trump forever and Trump would be the face of the GOP forever. I disagree. You will remember him that way. I will remember him that way. But we are dyed in the wool political junkies. It just isn’t that important to most people, Tom.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            Nope, you’re doing that thing you and other conservatives do, redirect and deflect.

            What I said was that the GOP owns Trump and will for years and maybe decades to come, and you said nuh-uh, people forget in 5 or 6 years.

            Read the thread and repent!

          • “What I said was that the GOP owns Trump and will for years and maybe decades to come, and you said nuh-uh, people forget in 5 or 6 years.”

            Well, dang! So it was! Sorry about that, Tom. I confused myself which, sadly, gets easier with each passing year. ;o)

          • For Sure Not Tom

            You’re pretending Trump is a normal politician with a normal administration.

            He’s not, and President Bannon is going to be remembered as the anti-FDR.

            Your party owns Trump and will for a long, long time.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            I’m sorry, I just can’t believe this.

            The guy who had maybe a million people across the country attend his rallies? Those weren’t political people, those people treated Trump rallies like rock concerts.

            Those are regular folks, not political junkies. Those people are going to forget?

            The guy with his name in 10 foot tall letters on a Boeing 757? No one will remember him?

            The guy in the WWE wrestling Hall of Fame? The guy with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

            The failed casino owner, a failure that will probably be studied in business school for years to come?

            The guy who owned the New Jersey Generals and gave Steve Young his first paycheck as a pro quarterback?

            This guy:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_things_named_after_Donald_Trump

            He won’t be remembered for long?

            I’ve read a lot of nonsense from you and Huppenthal, but you usually admit when you’ve been rash, so please think this one through a little.