Special Counsel Robert Mueller has released the sentencing guideline memo against General Michael Flynn (full pdf below). Within the sentencing recommendation the special counsel recommends leniency:
Here’s the full court filing, along with CTH review and opinion therein.
Notice the primary legal risk/emphasis is not directed to the *lying* issue surrounding the FBI interview with Flynn, but rather is focused on the issues surrounding the unregistered lobbying for Turkey; the FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) violation.
There’s about a page on the FBI interview, and two pages on the Turkish lobbying issues.
The Turkish lobbying was the teeth that Mueller used to keep General Michael Flynn on the ropes. Long time CTH readers might remember how we warned about this issue even before Flynn was selected for National Security Adviser [PLEASE SEE HERE]. So it does not come as a surprise to see this issue at the epicenter of Mueller’s leverage against Flynn.
Secondly, CTH warned again in August 2017 about how this issue was likely to be used against Flynn. [AGAIN SEE HERE FOR THE SECOND WARNING] The FARA issue was the preeminent leverage used by Mueller, exactly as expected.
We knew even before the election this could be a problem. As far as we could surmise at the time – the Trump Campaign and subsequent President-Elect transition team, had no idea that campaign advocate and campaign adviser Michael Flynn was also being paid to lobby in DC on behalf of the government of Turkey, and Recep Erdogan.
The entire Flynn lobbying arrangement was beyond sketchy. Before the election Flynn penned an op-ed advocating heavily for Recep Erdogan –SEE HERE– The content was entirely disconnected from the assembled foreign policy outlook of Candidate Donald Trump. The Flynn Op-Ed was actually counter to candidate Trump’s policy views. (more)
♦Now, on the issue of Flynn lying to the FBI – this is the primary focus of the media’s entire narrative construct and is part of the Mueller sentencing memo. However, if you look at the recommendation for no-incarceration; in my opinion, there’s an angle to this that has always been FUBAR.
This is complex, so please bear with me.
Many people have asked the question why would Michael Flynn have lied about talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the first place?
It’s a great question.
The Occam’s Razor answer is the toxic political environment that existed in January 2017, where the administration was being hammered by a tsunami of media narratives and political opposition claiming that any scintilla of contact with anything Russian meant that Putin and Trump were “colluding BFF’s”,…. and Flynn didn’t want to fuel that nonsense.
If you look at the timeline, there was always a sketchy set of circumstances.
JOHN DICKERSON: But there’s a distinction between that feeling about the press and legitimate inquiry, as you say, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing. Just to button up one question, did any advisor or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE: Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy. (link)
*NOTE* Notice the incoming administration was under a false-narrative siege created by the media. At the time (early Jan, 2017) ‘any contact’ with Russians was evidence of meddling/election-collusion with Russians. VP-elect Mike Pence poorly answered the question from Dickerson from a very defensive position.
That toxic media environment and Mike Pence speaking poorly during a Face The Nation interview was the issue. Once Vice-President Mike Pence made the statement that Flynn had no contact with anyone from Russia etc. any contradictory statement from Flynn would make Pence appear compromised; so Flynn had to stick to Pence’s false point without clarification. Flynn was interviewed by the FBI on January 24th, nine days after Pence made his comments.
•Tuesday January 24th – Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was interviewed at the WH by the FBI.
During this ambush interview, disguised as a meeting, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Agent Joe Pientka were contrasting Vice-President-elect Pence’s statements to CBS against the known action of Mike Flynn. [Flynn has three options: either (1) Flynn contradicts Pence, or (2) he tells a lie; or (3) Flynn explains Pence misspoke, those were his options.]
How Flynn responded to the line of inquiry and explained/reconciled the difference between Pence’s statement on Jan 15th, and what actually took place, is why the FBI ended up with the conclusion that Flynn wasn’t lying.
I have long believed it is within this dynamic where the FD-302 reports, written by Strzok and Pientka, then became the subject of political manipulation by Asst. FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Stay with me and think about this carefully.
The FBI knew the content of the Flynn call with Sergey Kislyak because they were listening in. The FBI were intercepting those communications. So when Pence said no-one had any contact on January 15th, the FBI crew IMMEDIATELY knew they had a bombshell issue to exploit.
We see the evidence of the FBI knowing they had an issue to exploit, and being very nervous about doing it, in the messages between Lisa Page and FBI Agent Peter Strzok who would end up doing the questioning of Flynn.
The day before the Flynn interview:
♦January 23, 2017, the day before the Flynn interview, Lisa Page says: “I can feel my heart beating harder, I’m so stressed about all the ways THIS has the potential to go fully off the rails.” Weird!
♦Strzok replies: “I know. I just talked with John, we’re getting together as soon as I get in to finish that write up for Andy (MCCABE) this morning.” Strzok agrees with Page about being stressed that “THIS” could go off the rails… (Strzok’s meeting w Flynn the next day)
Why would Page & Strzok be stressed about “THIS” potentially going off the rails? The answer is simple: they knew the content of the phone call between Mike Flynn and Sergey Kislyak because they were listening in, and they were about to exploit the Pence statement to CBS. That’s why they were so nervous. They were planning and plotting with Andrew McCabe about how they were going to exploit the phone-tap.
I’m not convinced that Flynn lied. There’s a good possibility Flynn was honest but his honesty contradicted Pence’s national statement on CBS; and he likely tried to dance through a needle without being overly critical of VP-elect Pence misspeaking. Remember, the alternative, if Flynn is brutally honest, is for the media to run with a narrative about Vice-President Pence is now a national liar in the media.
That’s why the issue of how the FBI interviewers write the 302 summary of the interview becomes such an important facet. We see that dynamic again playing out in the messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok with Andrew McCabe providing the guidance.
♦February 14th, 2017, text messages – here is a note about the FBI reports filed from the Flynn interview. Peter Strzok asks Lisa Page if FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is OK with his report: “Also, is Andy good with F-302?”
Lisa Page replies: “Launch on F 302”.
That would be Flynn’s 302. The FBI interpretation of the Flynn interview, is now the way the FBI can control the interview content…. and, specifically because the only recourse Flynn would have to contradict that FBI interpretation would be to compromise the Vice President… Flynn cannot challenge the structure of the narrative within the 302 outline.
See what happened?
Does it all make sense now?
Do you see why there are reports of the second FBI agent, Joe Pientka, saying he didn’t believe Flynn lied to them in the interview. Likely because Flynn didn’t…. but the McCabe crew jumped on the opportunity to frame a lose/lose. Either Flynn accepts a version of the 302 report where he lied; or, Flynn has to take the position that Vice President Mike Pence lied to the nation in the CBS Face The Nation interview.
See how that went down?
That’s also the likely reason why FBI Agent Joe Pietka has been kept quiet.
FUBAR !! All of it.