“This memo is more blacked out than Brett Kavanaugh on a school night.”
— Trevor Noah, The Daily Show, tweet (12/4/18)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (12/6/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The former Trump National Security Adviser and retired 3-star U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to a single charge of lying to the FBI following investigation of influencing U.S. foreign policy to benefit Turkey and coordinating in secret with Russia to negotiate a quid pro quo deal related to U.S. sanctions against Russia; these sanctions were in place prior to those related to Russian influence in the election to benefit Trump.
There is more, but let that sink in a moment: Flynn sold out his country. Russpublican outcry is… silent, except for criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn took an oath to protect his country and sold it out. Hold that up against Russpublican silence.
There is an even deeper puzzling layer to this story. Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with then Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about U.S. plans to soften sanctions. Given Flynn’s background in Army Intelligence and as Obama’s assistant director of national intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, his simultaneous role as commander of the , and chair of the it is a certainty that Flynn knew his conversations were monitored.
Meaning Flynn violated his oath and U.S. policy, likely breaking the law, lied about it, all the while knowing he was highly likely if not certain to be found out.
We of course bring this up because on Tuesday night [12/4] special counsel Robert Mueller filed a sentencing memo with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recommending no jail time for Flynn. The memo is here. Sentencing is scheduled for later in December.
Other Trump cronies should be worried: Mueller’s Sentencing Memo For Flynn Doubles As A Warning To Manafort.
Sub-head should cause Manafort some sleepless nights in his jail cell: A heavily redacted document cites the former National Security Advisor’s “substantial” cooperation as a reason for him to avoid jail. Trump’s former campaign chief may not be so lucky.
The sub-head for Natasha Bertrand’s article in The Atlantic is the perfect summary. The message per Bertrand is, “testify honestly and completely, and you could be spared prison time”.
As the sub-head points out:
“In the memo, Mueller asked a judge that former national security adviser Michael Flynn serve no prison time for lying to the FBI in early 2017 because of his “substantial” cooperation with the Justice Department since last December. But the memo was just as notable for what it didn’t say as what it did—details about Flynn’s cooperation with Mueller’s team as part of the investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Trump’s campaign and Russia are blacked out, as are details about an ongoing criminal investigation to which Flynn is providing assistance. Among the redactions: what Flynn told the special counsel about the Trump transition team’s interactions with Russian government officials.”
As we reported, Manafort was found to be lying to prosecution after signing a cooperation deal and there is a Friday [12/7] court hearing for prosecutors to “detail the alleged lies”. In very short order we may see the difference in treatment by cooperation or lying by the special counsel.
There are some remarkable disclosures in the sentencing memo beyond the redactions: Four Takeaways From Mueller’s Sentencing Memo For Michael Flynn.
While the article highlights how the special counsel values Flynn’s cooperation. The extent is eye-opening as Flynn “participated in 19 interviews” starting soon after pleading guilty.
But the main take-away is:
The special counsel appears to write in a partially redacted passage that there are three investigations Flynn is helping with.
A criminal investigation, the topic of which is redacted
The Mueller investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign
Another redacted investigation (even the type of this one is redacted)
For that first investigation, the criminal one, Mueller writes that Flynn has
“provided substantial assistance,” but then entirely redacts the three-paragraph long section explaining how.
That third investigation appears to be described in one brief paragraph near the end of the memo, but it is fully redacted.
There was some expectation that the Flynn sentencing memo would explain a good deal of the breadth, depth and timing of Mueller’s investigation. To which Vox concludes, “It’s a reminder of how little we know about what’s going on behind the scenes at the Justice Department — and how much, it seems, remains unresolved.”
There is yet another trial targeting Trump that is now ramping up: D.C., Maryland Begin Seeking Trump Financial Documents In Case Related To His D.C. Hotel.
This suit is brought under a constitutional provision referred to as the emoluments clause, which is a “ban on gifts and payments from foreign governments”.
“The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia issued subpoenas for financial records and other documents from as many as 13 of President Trump’s private entities Tuesday as part of an alleging that his business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments.”
The goal is to bring sunshine to the shrouded secrets of how much money foreign governments have spent at “Trump’s D.C. hotel – the records include “marketing materials to foreign embassies, credit card receipts and restaurant reservation logs””.
This is in addition a “second emoluments case, by 198 congressional Democrats, could open the president’s company to discovery beyond the D.C. hotel. A district judge in Washington has so far allowed that case to proceed.” And different from “a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos”.
The Justice Department is defending Trump saying, “the President will suffer the very burdens from which absolute immunity is supposed to shield him”.
Others, like us, feel we have a right as citizens to know far more about the way Trump and his administration are co-opting U.S. policy for their private enrichment.
Are you tired of winning yet?
Speaking of Trump’s compromised foreign policy, the Russpublicans have, at the moment, offered a rare public break from a Trump position: Senators Accuse Saudi Crown Prince Of Complicity In Khashoggi’s Killing.
The Saudi’s killed journalist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump and his allies, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have taken the position that “no single piece of evidence irrefutably links Mohammed to the killing”.
After a briefing of senior Senators by CIA Director Gina Haspel, the Senators broke with Trump. Here’s one example:
“It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince,” Graham said. (Sen. Lindsey Graham R-SC)
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports: ‘Chaos breeds chaos’: Trump’s Erratic And False Claims Roil The Globe. Again.
The point to be made is that Trump’ erratic behavior and often bizarre behavior sows chaos at every turn. Specifically, after flipping and flopping, praising and damning his own actions — especially a purported trade war with China — he has confused everyone:
“President Trump announced that they had reached an “incredible deal” to temporarily suspend his trade war. But days later, Trump declared, “I am a Tariff man.””
If you have a retirement plan, Trump’s chaos just hit your net worth:
“The whiplash nature of Trump’s economic policies and pronouncements bore tangible consequences on Tuesday, when U.S. stock markets cratered amid investor skepticism of Trump’s China talks. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 799 points, or 3.1 percent, while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 3.2 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 3.8 percent.”
Here’s a perfect reflection on the price we are all paying for Trump’s rambling bizarre-fest:
“Brian Gardner, director of Washington research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said three factors are conspiring to spook investors: confusion over what was accomplished at the Buenos Aires dinner, Trump’s “Tariff Man” tweet that suggests his administration’s trade hawks may be ascendant, and signs of a possible coming recession.
““Individually, those are all negatives,” Gardner said. “Collectively, it’s an unholy trinity, and that’s what we have today.””
A foul tide
Has the tide turned? Is Trump finally on a downward-slope? It’s best to not jump ahead. Whatever we are witnessing, we’re not at the end. But it’s safe to say it’s been a very bad week for Trump, but sadly, a very bad week for us all as a nation.
Let’s circle back to the Mueller Flynn sentencing memo and take a look at one view of just how bad things might be for Trump: ‘My lord’: MSNBC’s Mika gasps when ex-FBI official explains Mike Flynn may have worn a wire with Trump.
“Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, walked the “Morning Joe” hosts through the heavily redacted sentencing memo issued by Mueller’s office, which shows disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn had offered “substantial assistance” to three separate investigations.
““I think, in fact, that underneath these redactions, if we were to lift these black magic marker points out, we would see people with the last name Trump or Kushner,” Figliuzzi said. “That’s my gut, that’s how this reads. I believe the extensive redaction is a reflection of that level of sensitivity.””
Figliuzzi suggests Mueller’s redactions may be aimed at protecting the investigation should Mueller “possibly be taken out”.
But here is what elicited the “my lord” from co-host Mika Brzezinski:
“We see reference here to quick cooperation by Flynn,” Figliuzzi said. “What does that mean? Did it happen in what we call the golden hour, where you could even wire somebody up and have him share communications in real time?”
Wow, Flynn wearing a wire in the presence of Trump? It’s not the first time the question of a wire has come up through the investigation. Former Trump national security adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI was also thought to wear a wire after it was disclosed he had been a “proactive cooperator”. In spite of his cooperation, things did not turn out as well for Papadopoulos. He is now on a stay-cation as a guest at the lovely “federal prison camp in Oxford, Wisconsin”.
Karmic payback and other unknowns
Many are speculating on what will happen next. We do know tomorrow [12/7] Mueller’s team will be back in court regarding Manafort. There is a filing due to inform a judge of the ways Manafort lied to prosecutors after pleading guilty and promising cooperation. And Mueller’s team is filing a letter to a different judge responsible for sentencing long-time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who has already pled guilty. The letter is to be an outline of Cohen’s cooperation.
While most would pick ‘speed’ as the most desired attribute with the Mueller investigation, it’s likely not many would pick ‘karma’, but maybe there is:
“The House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the 2018 midterm campaigns, exposing thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three senior party officials.”
The cult of personality vs democracy
But we’ll close with a thought about our democracy. First is commentary offered by Yale history professor and author of ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century’, Timothy Snyder. This on authoritarianism:
“The cult of personality is the worship of something temporary. It is thus confusion and, at bottom, cowardice: The leader cannot contemplate the fact that he will die and be replaced, and citizens abet the illusion by forgetting that they share responsibility for the future.
“The cult of personality blunts the ability to keep a country going. When we accept a cult of personality, we are not only yielding our right to choose leaders but also dulling the skills and weakening the institutions that would allow us to do so in the future. As we move away from democracy, we forget its purpose: to give us all a future. A cult of personality says that one person is always right; so after his death comes chaos.
“Democracy says that we all make mistakes, but that we get a chance, every so often, to correct ourselves. Democracy is the courageous way to have a country. A cult of personality is a cowardly way of destroying one.”
Against this backdrop consider these comments from Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin:
“Moreover, Mueller is ensuring that both Congress and the public get a good sense of the seriousness of the investigation and the evidence out there that might implicate the president. This is both a way of making sure that evidence is squirreled away in the event Mueller is fired, and putting Congress on notice of avenues to pursue (i.e. impeachment) in the event that Mueller’s final report is bottled up. Both the American people and Congress are getting their road map as to potential wrongdoing bit by bit. With each new filing, Trump’s situation looks more perilous. One should not be surprised that his tweets are becoming more hysterical — and riskier. The picture one has is of a desperate man who knows he’s being cornered by an adversary far better armed and utterly resistant to his threats.”
Is Timothy Snyder right?
Is Jennifer Rubin right?
Will we get the chance to correct our democracy for mistakes made?