Before this nonsense gets too far along, let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (USA, Ret.) admitted under oath—twice—that he lied to the FBI, a federal offense. He lied about a conversation he had before assuming office as national security advisor in which he reportedly told the Russian ambassador to the United States not to worry about the sanctions being imposed on his country by the Obama administration because the presidency was about to change hands. And he apparently said this on the telephone. (Query: Did Flynn know so little about U.S. intelligence gathering that it didn’t occur to him that Uncle Sam was listening in on the conversation)?
Flynn was subsequently “unmasked”, i.e., his identity was made known by the relevant intelligence agency to high government officials in the Obama administration, a not infrequent procedure. Eventually, after Trump was inaugurated, the acting deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, made her way to the White House and informed the White House counsel that there was a problem: The newly installed national security advisory was a potential blackmail subject for the Russians, who knew he had lied to the Vice President.
That, in brief, is apparently the tip of the spear described by Donald Trump as the “Russia hoax,” in which Obama administration officials set out to destroy Trump’s presidency while it was still in the nursery. “Even before,” as Trump claims.
Months and months later, after a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, Flynn was charged and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In the statement of the offense filed by the special counsel, he also mentioned that Flynn had lied in a document filed in March 2017 when Flynn registered as a foreign agent. At one sentencing hearing, the federal judge before whom Flynn entered his guilty plea, Emmett Sullivan, summarized Flynn’s lies to the FBI and to the White House and about his lobbying work for Turkey by saying, “I mean, arguably, that undermines everything this [American] flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out. The court’s going to consider all of that.”
At the end of 2017, Flynn issued the following statement:
“After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, and then my decision to continue to serve the United States, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts. Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.
December 1, 2017”
So, had he been hypnotized and falsely admitted to a crime that he actually hadn’t committed? Was he under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs? Was a member of his family being held hostage to force him to admit to crimes he hadn’t committed?
No one has come forward so far to allege any one of those things.
Instead, we are getting, how shall I say, wild accusations. At a press conference on Monday, Trump referred to “Obamagate”.
Trump tweeted or retweeted about “Obamagate” 14 times in this past week. As The Washington Post reported, when asked on May 11 during a press conference “…what crime he was accusing Obama of having committed, Trump could not say beyond ‘some terrible things happened.’ Pressed a second time, Trump admonished a Washington Post reporter for asking. ‘You know what the crime is,’ Trump said. ‘The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.'”
S0 now, we sort of know. The crime is that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted a conversation in which Michael Flynn told the Russian ambassador things he shouldn’t have and asked him to do other things and then Flynn subsequently lied to the FBI about it. With all due respect to a retired Lieutenant Army general with 33 years of service, including five years in combat away from his family, he should have known better.
And now, William Barr’s Justice Department says “No harm, no foul.”
So, Trump is right. Some terrible things happened. Only not what Trump means. And they’re still happening.