High Fives At the WaPo As They Claim A Scalp

High fives abound at the Washington Post Bureau in DC.  They got the scalp of a man that they had been after for months.  General Michael Flynn has resigned as head of Trump's National Security Committee.

A brief summary:

The Washington Post reported on February 9, 2017 that General Flynn discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak sanctions imposed on Russia on December 29, 2016 by the Obama Administration.   The sanctions were imposed for the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta emails, which while authentic, contained negative content that the Democrats and media believe influenced people to not pull the vote lever for Hillary and instead not vote, vote third party, or vote Trump.  General Flynn was under suspicion because Russia declined to respond to Obama's sanctions and rather stated that they would elect to wait for Trump to assume office to discuss things then.  This drew the ire of intelligence agencies:

Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the announcement.

The Administration denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russia.  Mike Pence did it on CBS:

“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.”


Sean Spicer denied it as well:

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer said Jan. 13 that Flynn had “reached out to” the Russian ambassador on Christmas Day to extend holiday greetings. On Dec. 28, as word of the Obama sanctions spread, Kislyak sent a message to Flynn requesting a call. “Flynn took that call,” Spicer said, adding that it “centered on the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and [Trump] after the election.”


So did a third official:

Other officials were categorical. “I can tell you that during his call, sanctions were not discussed whatsoever,” a senior transition official told The Post at the time.


However, the Washington Post got 9 anonymous sources to insist that Flynn was dishonest:

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.


Flynn denied it on Wednesday February 8, but on Thursday, General Flynn retreated from his initial statement:

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.”


With that, the media rampage was off.  General Flynn was in hot water for apparently lying to Pence which led Pence to lie on television.  They had been gunning for General Flynn for months, and they were after him like a dog with a bone.  On Monday the 13th, it was reported that the Justice Department warned Trump's team last month that Russia had compromising evidence on General Flynn because they could blackmail him over these calls.  The Administration bounced between "full confidence" and "evaluating the situation," and General Flynn ultimately resigned while still praising Trump in his resignation letter.

Game over, right?  Well, I have some things I'd like to point out.

First - On January 23, the Washington Post wrote the following in an article (republished in Chicago Tribune):

FBI finds nothing illicit in Michael Flynn's calls with Russian ambassador


The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn - national security adviser to then-President-elect Donald Trump - but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government, U.S. officials said.

The calls were picked up as part of routine electronic surveillance of Russian officials and agents in the United States, which is one of the FBI's responsibilities, according to the U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterintelligence operations.


http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-fbi-michael-flynn-russian-ambassador-20170123-story.html

If the calls were listened to in December, wouldn't they know whether or not he discussed the sanctions? What changed regarding the calls from the time they occurred, the time this article was printed (weeks ago), and now? The transcripts couldn't have changed.  So what did?  The FBI investigated further?  How many ways can you listen to the same calls or read a transcript?

Second - The liberals are howling that this violates The Logan Act.  However, even The Washington Post conceded in its original article that this would be very difficult to prove:

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.


Officials also cited political sensitivities. Prominent Americans in and out of government are so frequently in communication with foreign officials that singling out one individual — particularly one poised for a top White House job — would invite charges of political persecution.


Third - the report in the New York Times is that Pence wanted him out for lying (there is a BUT after I cite this):

Officials said Mr. Pence had told others in the White House that he believed Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy — and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office — represented a remarkable breach of protocol.


(Snip)

Few members of Mr. Trump’s team were more skeptical of Mr. Flynn than the vice president, numerous administration officials said. Mr. Pence, who used the false information provided by Mr. Flynn to defend him in a series of television appearances, was incensed at Mr. Flynn’s lack of contrition for repeatedly embarrassing him by withholding the information, according to three administration officials familiar with the situation.


Mr. Flynn and Mr. Pence spoke twice in the past few days about the matter, but administration officials said that rather than fully apologize and accept responsibility, the national security adviser blamed his faulty memory — which irked the typically slow-to-anger Mr. Pence.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/us/politics/donald-trump-national-security-adviser-michael-flynn.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Here is the BUT from the NYT.  The conversation was "ambiguous" enough where Trump could either have kept or fired Flynn:

But the conversation, according to officials who saw the transcript of the wiretap, also included a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia after intelligence agencies determined that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government tried to interfere with the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Still, current and former administration officials familiar with the call said the transcript was ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.


Also, there was NO classified information discussed on the call.  It said he "appeared to be reassuring" the ambassador that Trump would adopt a softer tone and asked them not to retaliate for the sake of better cooperation, but they said there was no "explicit" promise of sanction relief but rather an "impression".

Officials said classified information did not appear to have been discussed during the conversation between Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, which would have been a crime. The call was captured on a routine wiretap of diplomats’ calls, the officials said.


But current Trump administration officials and former Obama administration officials said that Mr. Flynn did appear to be reassuring the ambassador that Mr. Trump would adopt a more accommodating tone on Russia once in office.


Former and current administration officials said that Mr. Flynn urged Russia not to retaliate against any sanctions because an overreaction would make any future cooperation more complicated. He never explicitly promised sanctions relief, one former official said, but he appeared to leave the impression that it would be possible.


My question, I suppose was how long was the call?  How much of the call was dedicated to Flynn discussing these sanctions without "explicitly" promising relief and "appearing" to reassure the ambassador and "appearing" to leave the "impression" he would lift sanctions?  If that was a brief part of the call, I could see why he would have either characterized it in his mind as no big deal and told Pence as such.

The Washington Post's original article written days before the new NYT article said:

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.


Again, they use the word "impression."  They use the word "explicit," but the NYT article doesn't.  Even though they say "explicit," they still don't say he "explicitly" promised to life the sanctions but rather said the matter would be "reviewed" and "revisited" when Trump got in.  If that was all he said, I could see how he felt he wasn't lying to Pence.

The WSJ is even less damning to General Flynn.  Here is the relevant paragraph linked to Twitter because I don't belong to the WSJ:

U.S. intelligence officials routinely intercept and monitor conversations with Russian diplomats, officials have said.  The transcripts of the conversations don't show Mr. Flynn made any sort of promise to lift the sanctions once Trump took office, the officials said.  Rather, they show Mr. Flynn making more general statements about the relations between the two countries improving under Mr. Trump, people familiar with them said.


https://twitter.com/shaneriderMA/status/831369320034926594

He never promised to lift the sanctions!

To recap, after a talk with General Flynn, Russia refused to negatively retaliate against the U.S., hoped for better relations under Trump, and was told things would be discussed when Trump got in office.  Obama's late sanctions could have been done much sooner but were done right before Trump got in office to stymie his efforts to forge a better relationship with Russia.  Preventing negative retaliation is a good thing, wanting to start off on a good foot to build a relationship is a good thing, and of course things will be reviewed under a new administration.  I fail to see a danger in any of this.  For the record, the sanctions have never been lifted! 

I wish we could see the transcript of the phone call to put this to bed once and for all.  Trump's Administration has seen it, but Trump wasn't sure what he was going to do about General Flynn.  He was going to wait and see according to The Washington Post.  General Flynn resigned.  The media was out for his scalp.  They have been since they attacked in the transition for past statements, Twitter, etc. doing anything they could to prevent him from being named head of the NSC.  Based on what I posted above, it would be hard for him to be prosecuted (never done), and what was said in those calls, even per the Trump hating WaPo and NYT, didn't seem very damning to me.  Even the NYT had to admit it was "ambiguous" enough where Trump could keep him.

Trump has the transcript.  It has no classified material.  Russia has the transcript.  Release it or the relevant parts.  Let's see for ourselves.

General Flynn was a loyal ally to Trump, getting behind him in February 2016, advising him, and supporting him when no one was giving him a chance to win.  Despite gaffes in the campaign, through multiple campaign managers, despite the tape, despite the lack of support of Trump's own fellow Republicans, and despite high profile national security people that came out against him, General Flynn never wavered.  He signed on because he truly believes in Trump's vision for America - which is more than we can probably say for some of the others in the administration.  The left hates him with a passion because he truly does support Trump and believe in his vision.  He also was a firm Obama critic:

According to what Flynn had told in one final interview as DIA director, he felt like a lone voice in thinking that the United States was less safe from the threat of Islamic terrorism in 2014 than it was prior to the 9/11 attacks; he went on to believe that he was pressed into retirement for questioning the Obama administration's public narrative that Al Qaeda was close to defeat.[31] Journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that "Flynn confirmed [to Hersh] that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings ... about the dire consequences of toppling [Syrian President] Assad." Flynn recounted that his agency was producing intelligence reports indicating that radical Islamists were the main force in the Syrian insurgency and "that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria". According to Flynn, these reports "got enormous pushback from the Obama administration," who he felt "did not want to hear the truth". According to former DIA official W. Patrick Lang: "Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria ... they shoved him out. He wouldn't shut up."[32] In an interview with Al Jazeera, Flynn criticized the Obama administration for its delay in supporting the opposition in Syria, thereby allowing for the growth of Al Nusra and other extremist forces: "when you don't get in and help somebody, they're gonna find other means to achieve their goals" and that "we should have done more earlier on in this effort, you know, than we did."[33]


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_T._Flynn

Prominent Trump supporter Mike Cernovich claims that General Flynn's scalp is only the beginning.  He says Trump's opponents want to peal away his core group of Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and General Flynn - four people who truly believe in his vision with no ulterior motives.  Well, they got one, and they aren't going to stop.  Michael Moore said on Twitter those three are his next targets.  A cursory review of Twitter shows many #Resistance members saying the same thing.  They are going to continue investigating Flynn.  They also are going to shift into investigating Trump to find out what he knew and when. 

The NYT says:

But on Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.


When was this warning?  Was this before or after the article was written on January 23rd.  Per The Washington Post, as of the 23rd, the FBI had found no issue with the calls.  By the way, this warning was issued by Sally Yates - fired by Trump.

Anyway, the media talking point is that Trump was warned by Yates last month.  Therefore, why didn't the administration react then?  Why is Pence shocked to learn he wasn't honest now?  Based on the info in the WaPo and NYT, I still fail to see the big deal in what he said and can see why he answered Pence the way he did as he never "explicitly" (per the NYT) promised sanctions would be lifted (WSJ says same) and they haven't been.

I think the big issue is that there continue to be leaks.  Nine current and former officials released this to The Washington Post.  Sally Yates obviously "warned" Trump about General Flynn.  I would not put it past the fired Sally Yates to be one of the leakers.  The media may be celebrating these leakers because they hate Trump and because they feel that General Flynn was a threat or secret KGB agent, but I don't find General Flynn to be a threat.  What I find is a threat is government officials that are leaking confidential information, including information about the President's calls to foreign leaders, all for their own political purposes.  That is dangerous.  When intelligence agencies are a threat to your Presidency, what can you do?

Christina Wilkie (Huff Post reporter)
People are cheering right now at both the Pentagon and the CIA, I’m told.
https://twitter.com/christinawilkie/status/831363560928337921

Eric Gellar (Politico reporter)
A small group of current and former national security officials just leaked Mike Flynn out of a job. Does anyone think they'll stop there?
https://twitter.com/ericgeller/status/831355092896972800

See this article:

‘Flynn’s resignation victory for mainstream media & Democrats’ – ex-Pentagon official to RT
https://www.rt.com/usa/377271-flynn-resignation-msm-democrats/

My recommendation for Trump would have been to let this thing blow over.  Yes, there will be negative press, but there always will be.  The media will never be kind, nor will you receive credit from them.  Don't sacrifice your ally for them.  They won't rest.  Like sharks, they won't drop this, and they smell blood and figure if they got one, they can get two.  I see them saying that across the Twittersphere - people with little blue check marks next to their name who think they accomplished something great.  Ride it out.  Eventually, the news cycle has no choice but to move on.  Right now,  however, I turn on CNN and see jubilation and euphoria.  Those people don't deserve it. 

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