DECEMBER 4, 2017
To the surprise of absolutely no one, President Trump’s former national security adviser, Gen. Michael T. Flynn, on Friday flipped like a crackhouse mattress and pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI about conversations that he had with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition period last December.
As if you needed any more proof that Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, citing Flynn on a single count instead of the myriad of crimes with which he could have been charged almost guarantees that Flynn has given testimony under oath that implicates bigger fish in the Trump administration, possibly including Trump’s family members or even the President himself.
Flynn’s guilty plea is a major development in the Russia investigation, as it brings the Mueller probe now inside the Oval Office. Flynn was thought to be at the center of the administration’s outreach to Russia, and if there were bodies that were buried in the Russia scandal, Flynn would be the one who knew where they were. It’s not a shock that Flynn, who was kicked to the curb by Trump after less than a month serving as national security adviser, preferred to save his own skin (as well as that of his son Michael Jr., who was also being investigated by the Mueller team) rather than serving a long jail term to protect the President.
The next day, Trump tried to interfere and, as he has done so often, made things worse for himself by picking up his phone and tweeting this:
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Almost immediately, legal experts jumped all over Trump’s tweet, citing it as Trump admitting to the textbook definition of obstruction of justice, being aware of a felony and firing the person (James Comey) who was investigating it. Perhaps sensing that perhaps he had gone a step too far, Trump denied that he was the author of the tweet, and it was up to Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, to be the fall guy, saying that he tweeted it in Trump’s name and that the President knew nothing about it.
The claim by Dowd is ludicrous on the face of it. Why would a lawyer hired to protect the President tweet an admission that implicates him in a crime? Plus Dowd’s explanation that this was his very first tweet and that he would choose to say this in his first one doesn’t pass the laugh test. And, to be picky, those who know Dowd’s work have stated that he is very precise in his language, and a lawyer would never use the word “pled” in place of the more legalese “pleaded.” (That kind of grammatical sloppiness is vintage Trump.)
Since no one was buying the “Dowd wrote it” ruse, on Monday, the Trump legal team tried a new argument, trotting out a variation on the old Richard Nixon chestnut, “If the President does it, it’s not illegal.” This time it’s that Trump did not obstruct justice in firing Comey, but even if he did it, it wouldn’t be illegal. This is just Trump flailing — it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.
Still, the most tantalizing question out of this whole Flynn affair is, now that Flynn is officially flipped, whom did he rat out to be able to get the light sentence? Is it Donald Jr.? Is it Jared Kushner (who should be very worried)? Or could it even be Vice President Mike Pence? And how would they react? Possibly facing long prison sentences, would any of them flip and squeal?
Get out the microwave popcorn, kids. This show is just beginning.