Hang on to your hats kids, we’ve got ourselves another mainstream media “bombshell” to contend with.
This first popped up on my radar last night when I got a breaking news alert from NBC letting me know that Flynn told Mueller that Trump tried to get him to obstruct the investigation. Sounds bomb-shelly, right?
As per usual, less than 12 hours later, the story is already falling apart and it turns out to bear little resemblance to the breathless headline that NBC ran with.
Here’s the NBC story.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly unredacted court papers filed Thursday.
The court filing from special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to mark the first public acknowledgement that a person connected to Capitol Hill was suspected of engaging in an attempt to impede the investigation into Russian election interference.
One, this isn’t actually anything new. The voicemail in question was already publicly mentioned in the Mueller report. Secondly, it doesn’t actually establish any intent or action to obstruct the probe.
Any Collusion Truthers in the media who are running with breathless headlines about how a "voicemail" to Flynn may have been "obstruction", you're just revealing that you haven't bothered to read the Mueller report. It's already in there, and it isn't
— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) May 16, 2019
Undercover Huber is not some random Twitter user. He’s done an excellent job on the Mueller report, including document dives and citing of materials that the mainstream media are too lazy or too biased to do. See my piece form last night to get an idea of how solid is work is.
Ed Morrissey asks over at Hotair why no one was charged with “tampering” for these interactions with Flynn. After pondering the question, he hits on the right answer.
Is a communication between attorneys over a withdrawal from a joint defense agreement witness tampering? If so, then a not-insignificant number of attorneys might be at risk of prosecution. Mueller wasn’t making that argument anyway; it was part of his argument on obstructive behavior by Trump, and it wasn’t one of his strongest arguments either. The theory was that Trump ordered his attorneys to deliver a wink-wink, nudge-nudge reminder of the value of his “warm feelings,” but Mueller never makes a case that this was anything other than a negotiation between attorneys who had worked together previously on a joint defense.
The bolded above is the part that puts this to bed. What actually happened here was that attorneys talked to other attorneys about a joint defense arrangement that had previously existed. That is not “obstruction of justice” by any definition and if it were, thousands of lawyers would be headed to jail.
Also note that Trump, nor Flynn are personally present in any of these interactions.
Furthermore, the White House attorneys did not suggest that Flynn’s attorneys do anything in regards to stopping cooperation with Mueller. You won’t find a shred of evidence of that anywhere in NBC’s report.
Notice the language in the NBC article as well, in which they tacitly admit the truth.
“The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” the court papers say.
Could have is not a legal standard. It’s simply spurious speculation by the media about how Flynn may have or may not have taken the existence of the contacts. To put it more succinctly, it’s irrelevant.
Let’s go back to Morrissey’s final take for what this addendum the media are running with is really about.
Besides, the purpose of yesterday’s filings wasn’t to issue an addendum to the Mueller report. The filings detail a high level of cooperation from Flynn in order to justify a light sentence from the court on his conviction. It’s a statement of Flynn’s value to Mueller, not a hint of more prosecutions to come or of indictable actions at all.
Flynn reported the voicemail to Mueller to cover his bases. He didn’t want to be accused of something by a special counsel that was already running wild with process crimes. Flynn was never actually accusing Trump’s lawyers of trying to influence him, nor did Mueller take it that way either. The addendum in question was put out to help Flynn at his sentencing by showing how cooperative he was. Nothing more.
There’s a reason Mueller did not pursue this line of events as proof of Trump committing obstruction of justice. Because it would be abject nonsense to do so. The media may think they’ve got another bombshell, but all they’ve really got is a repeat of the past two years, i.e. baseless, dishonest speculation. That should surprise no one.