Guest post by Larry C. Johnson
Two and one-half years ago, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller unveiled charges against Michael Flynn for “lying to Federal agents.” At the time I gave Mueller the benefit of the doubt and assumed, incorrectly, that the investigation was fair and honest. We now know without any doubt that the so-called investigation of Michael Flynn was frame-up. It was a punishment in search of a crime and ultimately led the FBI to manufacture a crime in order to take out Michael Flynn and damage the fledgling Presidency of Donald Trump.
It is important to understand the lack of proper foundation to investigate Michael Flynn as a collaborator with Russia as part of some bizarre plot to steal the 2016 Presidential election for Donald Trump.
Flynn was perceived as a threat to the CIA and refused to cook the intelligence for the Obama Administration while he was Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In 2010, Flynn co-authored an important analysis, Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. Flynn’s key conclusion warned that the U.S. intelligence effort in Afghanistan was failing:
The paper argues that because the United States has focused the overwhelming majority of collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, our intelligence apparatus still finds itself unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to protect and persuade.
Flynn’s work did not sit well with Jim Clapper and John Brennan. John Schindler, a rabid anti-Trumper, wrote a hit piece on Flynn in December 2017, that highlights the Deep State anger at Flynn. Schindler characterizes Flynn’s work in unflattering terms and claims that Flynn:
lambasted American intelligence performance in Afghanistan. . . [It] pulled no punches, using words like “marginally relevant,” “ignorant,” “hazy,” and “incurious” to describe U.S. intelligence work in Afghanistan in a scathing fashion.
Flynn’s honesty in that assessment did not derail his next promotion–he was sworn in as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in July 2012. Once in that position he refused to cook the intelligence. I saw this firsthand (at the time I had access to the classified intelligence analysis by DIA with respect to the war in Syria). During 2012=2013, DIA provided honest, objective analysis about the success of the Syrian Army in fighting against ISIS and Al Qaeda. If you go back and look at the media reporting at the time, there were dire reports claiming that the rebels were on the verge of ousting Syrian leader Assad and sweeping to power. Members of Congress, such as Senators McCain and Graham, were busy cheerleading the Syrian rebels progress.
Few knew at the time that the CIA was running a massive arms and training program to support some of the Syrian rebels. The program was a failure and the attack on the CIA base in Benghazi, Libya came close to exposing the covert effort. What the media was not reporting is that the rebels the U.S. backed were inept. The only rebels achieving some success were the radical jihadists aligned with ISIS and elements of Al Qaeda (e.g. Al Nusra).
This earned Michael Flynn the lasting enmity of DNI Director Jim Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan. Flynn would not play ball in down playing the jihadist threat in Syria. If you recall, President Obama referred to ISIS as the “junior varsity” during a January 2014 interview with the New Yorker:
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
But that was not the story that Flynn’s DIA was telling. His refusal to downplay the ISIS threat was on of the contributing factors that led Obama to fire Flynn, who left the DIA position in August 2014.
Michael Flynn did not go quietly into retirement. He became a vocal critic of Obama’s failed policies in the Middle East:
Since taking off his uniform last August, Flynn, 56, has been in the vanguard of those criticizing the president’s policies in the Middle East, speaking out at venues ranging from congressional hearings and trade association banquets to appearances on Fox News, CNN, Sky News Arabia, and Japanese television, targeting the Iranian nuclear deal, the weakness of the U.S. response to the Islamic State, and the Obama administration’s refusal to call America’s enemies in the Middle East “Islamic militants.”
This made him a target of both Clapper and Brennan. When Brennan put together a CIA Task Force in the late summer of 2015, I believe that one of the targets of the intelligence collection from that effort was Michael Flynn.
By March of 2016, Flynn was squarely in the crosshairs of the Obama political/intelligence hit squad:
They question why the retired general, who has earned criticism for his leadership style but has generally been regarded as a well-intentioned professional, would assist a candidate who has called for military actions that would constitute war crimes.
“I think Flynn and Trump are two peas in a pod,” one former senior U.S. intelligence official who knows Flynn told The Daily Beast. “They have this naïve notion that yelling at people will just solve problems.”
Flynn, who was forced out of his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2014 after clashing with other senior officials, has said that “political correctness” has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a “cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.” Flynn has authored a forthcoming book that argues the U.S. government “has concealed the actions of terrorists like [Osama] bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam…” His co-author, Michael Ledeen, is a neoconservative author and policy analyst who was involved in the Iran-Contra Affair.
Thanks to the document release on 30 April, 2020, we know that the FBI opened an unsuccessful investigation of Flynn. Here are the key points from the memo recommending the investigation be closed:
The FBI opened captioned case based on an articulable factual basis that CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime· or threat to the national security.
The FBI predicated the investigation on predetermined criteria set forth by the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE (CH) investigative team based on an assessment of reliable lead information received during the course of the investigation.
The FBI queried the FBI databases and at least two other intelligence community databases for incriminating information but found NO DEROGATORY INFORMATION.
The FBI used a Confidential Human Source (aka CHS probably Stefan Halper) to try to collect incriminating information. The CHS claimed that Flynn was in contact with Svetlana Lokhova, a British academic born in Russia, but a subsequent FBI search of their databases turned up NO DEROGATORY INFORMATION.
The FBI memo concludes:
the absence of any derogatory information or lead information from these logical sources reduced the number of investigative avenues and techniques to pursue. . . . The FBI is closing this investigation.
But that did not stop Jim Comey and his cronies from stepping up their efforts to find something they could use to charge and prosecute Flynn. Text messages from Peter Strzok to the author of the memo recommending the case be closed show that Strzok begged to keep the investigation open and cited “7th Floor” interest as justification. The 7th Floor of the FBI is where Jim Comey and Andy McCabe were located.
They decided to pursue two lines of attack. First, to go after Flynn for allegedly failing to register as a “Foreign Agent” because of a report his consulting firm prepared on a Turk living in the United States that Turkey named as a “terrorist.” Second, the FBI had in hand the transcript of Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s Ambassador and wanted to entrap him into lying about those conversations.
Who authorized that collection of those conversations? Flynn was the acting National Security Advisor to President elect Donald Trump. Listening in on such a phone call was a pure act of domestic espionage against a political opponent of Obama. There was no justification to UNMASK General Flynn. But that is exactly what the FBI did.
The news of Mike Flynn’s plea agreement in late 2017 with special prosecutor Robert Mueller was trumpeted on the media as if Flynn admitted to killing Kennedy or having unprotected sex with Vladimir Putin. But read the actual indictment and the accompanying agreement.
Here is the chronology of Michael Flynn’s entirely appropriate actions as the National Security Advisor to President-elect Donald Trump. This is not what an agent of Russia would do. This is what the National Security Advisor to an incoming President would do.
December 21, 2016–Egypt submitted a resolution to the United Nations Security Council on the issue of Israeli settlements (“resolution”).
December 22, 2016–a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team (reportedly Jared Kushner) directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.
December 23, 2016–FLYNN again spoke with the Russian Ambassador, who informed FLYNN that if it came to a vote Russia would not vote against the resolution.
On this same day, President-elect Trump spoke with Egyptian leader Sisi, who agreed to withdraw the resolution (link).
[I would note that there is nothing illegal or wrong about any of this. Quite an appropriate action, in fact, for an incoming President. Moreover, if Trump and the Russians had been conspiring before the November election, why would Trump and team even need to persuade the Russian Ambassador to do the biding of Trump on this issue?]
December 28, 2016–President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13757, which was to take effect the following day, imposing sanctions on Russia. Russian Ambassador Kislyak called General Flynn (who was vacationing in the Caribbean).
December 29, 2016, FLYNN called a senior official of the Presidential Transition Team (“PTT official”), who was with other senior members of the Presidential Transition Team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian Ambassador about the U.S. Sanctions. On that call, FLYNN and the PTT official discussed the U.S. Sanctions, including the potential impact of those sanctions on the incoming administration’s foreign policy goals. The PTT official and FLYNN also discussed that the members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.
- FLYNN called the Russian Ambassador and requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. Sanctions in a reciprocal manner.
- Shortly after his phone call with the Russian Ambassador, FLYNN spoke with the PTT official to report on the substance of his call with the Russian Ambassador, including their discussion of the U.S. Sanctions.
December 31, 2016–the Russian Ambassador called FLYNN and informed him that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to FLYNN’s request.
After his phone call with the Russian Ambassador, FLYNN spoke with senior members of the Presidential Transition Team about FLYNN’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador regarding the U.S. Sanctions and Russia’s decision not to escalate the situation.
Michael Flynn’s contact with the Russian Government and other members of the UN Security Council in the month preceding Trump’s inauguration was appropriate and normal. He did nothing wrong. But President Obama’s henchmen, including James Comey, John Brennan, Jim Clapper and Susan Rice were out for blood and relied on the FBI to stick the shiv into General Flynn’s belly.
That travesty of justice is being methodically and systematically revealed in the documents delivered to the Flynn defense team thanks to the efforts of Attorney General William Barr. Barr is relying on the US Attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri (EDMO) to review the case and provide Brady material to the Flynn defense team. This is by the book. Doing it this way provides the legal foundation for future prosecution of the FBI and prosecutors who abused the General Flynn’s rights and violated the Constitution. Stay tuned.