Michael Flynn, once President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, pleaded guilty on Friday, December 1, to a charge that he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russia.
A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, Flynn has agreed to cooperate with the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller, in Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign of 2016, and the Trump transition organization from November of that year to January of this, and of the connections of both organizations with the government of Vladimir Putin in Russia.
There is a difference of great significance between contacts with Russia (a) during the transition period and (b) during the campaign. During the transition period, the president-elect and his team are expected to make themselves known to their counterparts in various foreign capitals, which is part of what is implied in the term “transition.” Such contacts prior to Election Day, though, may be legally and even criminally suspect. Lying about anything to the FBI, whether it is in itself legal or illegal … never a good plan.
Though most of the “Statement of Offense” filed with the court involved Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials and his lies to the FBI on the subject, there is a final paragraph relating to another foreign country: the Republic of Turkey. That paragraph alleges that Flynn has filed documents pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act that have contained “materially false statements and omissions” regarding Flynn’s connection with Turkey through a corporate alter ego, the Flynn Intel Group Inc.
Left Wing View
Wendy A. Williams tweeted, “Oh happy day the stuff is hitting the fan, time for the big boy to get his umbrella out.”
At Vox, a piece by Andrew Prokop, Zack Beauchamp, and Alex Ward said that this development poses a “direct threat to the Trump presidency itself.” They observe one clear line has been crossed, this is “the first person who … actually served in the Trump White House to admit he broke the law.”
They also quote Asha Rangappa, an authority on criminal law and enforcement, saying, “When you flip somebody, you’re using them to go up the chain.”
Renato Mariotti, a candidate for Illinois Attorney General, tweeted, “investigations don’t die when someone flips. They take on a new life.”
Neal Katyal, a lawyer and law professor who calls himself an “extremist centrist,” believes that there are only three ‘bigger fish’ that Mueller could plausibly have in mind in connection with the Flynn flip: Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or Jared Kushner.
Katyal also writes,”[A]mazing that the President tried to shut investigation down claiming nothing there, while Flynn is pleading guilty of lying to the FBI….”
Right Wing View
Many on the right have fixed on a false ABC News report as the villain of this story. The network’s Brian Ross reported Friday morning that Flynn had told Mueller’s team he is prepared to testify that as a candidate (not yet as a President-elect), Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians.” As Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate observed at once, this was a huge addition to the developing story if true. It would “blow up about a hundred Trump camp denials that there was coordinated high-level campaign contact with Russia.” But ABC had to back off of the story later in the day, issuing a “clarification.” The chastened network said that Ross had misunderstood something one of his “confidants” told him. Trump gave Flynn this direction during the transition period, not during the campaign.
Ann Coulter takes a distinctive view, apparently contending that Mueller investigation is misguided because post-Communist Russia is entitled to some love. “Kennedy was writing mash notes to Soviet leaders … liberals loved THAT Russia,” she tweets, “It’s today’s Christian Russia that liberals hate.”