Donald Dossier: Let's Talk About Something Else
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The tossed-out case of Gen. Michael Flynn is a reminder of a simpler time.
By Daniel Malloy
A locked-down, financially squeezed, virus-panicked nation is desperately in need of something else to think about. The Michael Jordan documentary and the NFL schedule release are substituting for real sports debates. And this week’s blessing for the politico-media-industrial complex was the stunning reversal in the case of Michael Flynn. This, at least, is familiar. Everyone can retreat into our normal corners and yell about abuse of power and Russia, Russia, Russia, rather than pretend to be epidemiologists.
To recap: Flynn was Trump’s first national security adviser. A somewhat kooky former Army general fired from an intelligence post by the Obama White House, who went on to become an influence-peddler for the likes of the Turkish government, Flynn was a valuable Trump campaign surrogate. During the presidential transition, he called up Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. The FBI was wiretapping Kislyak, so agents heard Flynn urge Russia not to retaliate against President Barack Obama’s just-announced sanctions for election interference, because the incoming Trump team would review them. It was ominous given that Russia had just helped Trump win, but nothing really prosecutable — aside from an obscure, rarely enforced law called the Logan Act — would bar such contacts. FBI agents interviewed Flynn, who lied about the calls. Then they prosecuted him for lying.
Under pressure, Flynn pleaded guilty, but later withdrew his plea. Given that he didn’t turn on Trump during the Mueller investigation, the president hinted that a pardon was forthcoming. Instead, Attorney General William Barr preempted Trump by dropping the case Thursday.
By Friday morning, Trump was ready to trigger the libs with everyone’s favorite presidential comparison, telling his pals on Fox & Friends: “I learned a lot from Richard Nixon: Don’t fire people.” This rule, like many others, does not apply to James Comey.
In the Flynn case, the selectively leaked impetus to chuck it was a handwritten note from the FBI’s then-counterintelligence director asking: “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Flynn says he only pleaded guilty because special counsel Robert Mueller’s team vowed to prosecute Flynn’s son if he didn’t. It’s not a good look for federal law enforcement, which, given its conduct in investigating Trump and Hillary Clinton in recent years, doesn’t have many friends left. On Thursday, Trump called the agents who worked on the Russia case “human scum.”
It’s all a delightful trip back to the time before the virus, when everyone was fighting about the Deep State rather than death tolls, and a sign that Trump’s post-impeachment reckoning continues even amid a pandemic. He indicated Friday that FBI Director Christopher Wray could be dumped for being insufficiently critical of the Russia investigation. Look out for pardons for Trump henchmen Paul Manafort and Roger Stone when the time is right. An investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham continues to loom, with possible prosecutions against FBI agents for their Russiagate conduct.
The Fox News home page on Friday morning was dominated by all the ins and outs of this story — such as the juicy nugget that Obama knew about the Flynn call at the time — and the “presidential payback” to come from Trump. You had to scroll down to find the grim new unemployment numbers: 14.7 percent, 20 million Americans out of work, numbers that will continue to grow. “It’s fully expected,” Trump said of figures that are the worst since the Great Depression, vowing a quick bounce-back once America reopens for business.
Goaded along by Trump, more than half the states are loosening lockdown restrictions — even though most do not meet the White House’s own reopening criteria of a “downward trajectory” in the number of COVID-19 cases. Not to mention that we remain hopelessly far from the mass testing needed to have a real handle on the problem, and to track cases going forward. And the news of White House staff getting infected shows that no one is truly safe.
As evidenced from his mask-less trip to Arizona last week, and hints that the coronavirus task force will wind down, Trump is as eager to move on from this hellscape as the rest of us. He’ll at least do his best to revive the controversies of his first three years, the perilous questions of government power and overseas entanglements that seem so quaint now.
- Daniel Malloy, OZY Author Contact Daniel Malloy