For previous entries, see:
Part 1: The Background
Part 2: Smears and Investigation, and
During the January 24th interview with Flynn, Strozk asked Flynn if he requested that Kislyak not do anything to escalate the situation and Flynn responded that nothing in particular was discussed. When asked about the earlier calls to Kislyak about the upcoming UN Security Council resolution vote, he described it as a “battle drill” to see where everyone stood knowing full well he could do little to change anyone’s mind.
After the interview, Strozk and Pientka disagreed to some degree as to whether Flynn lied. Pientka described Flynn as having a “very sure demeanor” and “did not give any indications of deception.” Despite these observations, the Mueller team on November 30, 2017 charged Flynn with a single count of making false statements to the FBI.
The Mueller prosecution team tried to hide from the court that the FD-302 had been tampered. After Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, the FD-302 was again altered on May 30, 2017 which left out important FISA warrant information. It was later learned that as the interview was being arranged, Andrew McCabe intervened and told Flynn it was not necessary to have an attorney present.
Compare this with the early July 2016 interview with Hillary Clinton who had five attorneys present. Not only did Flynn lack a lawyer present, he was never informed that giving false or misleading answers could result in a criminal prosecution. What makes this more interesting is that James Comey testified to Congress that no one suspected Flynn lied or misled the FBI in the interview.
As for Mueller, his task was outlined in a scope of investigation memo dated May 17, 2017. It is the second of two later memos of interest: to give Mueller and his team authority to investigate further targets, including Flynn’s son, Michael, Jr. This memo was issued by Rod Rosenstein. Other than Flynn’s son, also brought into the Mueller investigation were Michael Cohen, Richard Gates, and Roger Stone. The four original targets of the Mueller investigation were the same as Crossfire Hurricane: Flynn, Sr, Carter Page, George Papadopolous, and Paul Manfort. Flynn was part of the original scope memo at the ultimate insistence of John Brennan.
The Mueller investigation essentially took over the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe which helps explain why so many people from the FBI team ended up on Mueller’s team. By making Flynn, Jr. a target of the investigation, the Mueller team was establishing leverage over the elder Flynn. By getting Rosenstein to target Flynn, Jr. meant that Mueller could use him as a co-conspirator tied to the Turkish lobbying issue to force Flynn, Sr. into a plea deal. Forcing a guilty plea for “lying to investigators” by threatening FARA violations was a strategy used also against Papadopolous.
As for the FARA issue, around Christmas 2016 Flynn found a letter from the DOJ advising him he may have to file as an agent of a foreign government (Turkey). McCord wanted to know what lobbying work Flynn’s consultancy did for Turkish businessman Kamil Ekim Alptekin.
Lobbyists regularly fail to file the appropriate FARA papers and are made to complete them retrospectively since a FARA violation is hard to prove in court. This time, the DOJ was particularly interested in the papers being prepared by Flynn’s lawyers at the time from the Covington law firm. Although the Covington lawyers knew the DOJ were looking into the FARA issue, they failed to inform Flynn for weeks. At that point, the ethical thing for Covington to do is take responsibility for any delay in filing the FARA request, but they neglected to do so and became concerned the Mueller probe could use a procedure known as a crime fraud order which would allow them to legally violate attorney-client privilege.
According to Flynn’s declaration when entering a guilty plea for misleading the FBI, he stated that his lawyers told him that if he did not accept the plea deal, his son would be prosecuted for violating the FARA statute over the Turkish lobbying situation. At this time, Flynn, Jr. had a four-month-old baby and Flynn, Sr. had spent about $5 million on his defense. Only after he officially entered his guilty plea was Flynn provided with the FD-302, but not the original, only the final altered version.
Through leveraging not only Flynn through his son but also his legal representation, the Mueller investigation was able to get their man. Flynn pleaded guilty to a single charge of lying to the FBI- not collusion with Russia, not being an agent of Russia (or Turkey) or of being involved in some grand conspiracy between Russia and Trump. It was a process crime and nothing else.
While many on the Right describe the Russia-Trump collusion accusations as a hoax, it really wasn’t: it was a defensive and coordinated effort by the outgoing Obama administration to protect itself against people like Flynn. One goal was to protect Obama’s foreign policy legacy- the Iranian nuclear accords. The second was to cover up the systematic illegal spying the Obama administration undertook against political enemies and detractors.
This makes the campaign against Flynn obvious: Flynn would have access to information as Trump’s national security adviser that Obama would rather keep buried. However, it is likely the Iranian deal that most motivated Obama to target Flynn.
Flynn became frustrated at the DIA. One shred of information he uncovered was Iranian complicity in assisting insurgents and terrorists. His intelligence sources found that Iran was allowing transit through their country of terrorists as long as they targeted Americans and did nothing in Iran.
Flynn, while at the DIA, stumbled across the arms deals involving Gulf states (Qatar) and Libya after shoulder-fired missiles turned up in Afghanistan that killed American soldiers. He was also aware that Obama, Brennan, and Clinton had secretly determined a presidential finding to oust Qadaffi in Libya that completely left out the Pentagon (and DIA) and that the CIA already had assets in Libya for that purpose. He found out that as part of the transfer of arms from Libya to Syria by way of Turkey, those arms were ending up in the hands of ISIS insurgents. This is what likely prompted his ouster from the DIA.
A lot has been made about the unmasking of Flynn. The media is only partially correct. While it may be true that “unmasking” is not, in itself, that controversial a process and in the case of Flynn there was an unusual amount of unmasking going on from a variety of sources, it is obvious that the FBI became aware of the calls with Kislyak one of three ways.
First, it could very well have been through unmasking requests. Second, there was a legal intercept based on a valid FISA warrant issued against Flynn. Third, it was illegal surveillance. All of the evidence points to the second option. This likewise explains two other issues- (1) why Obama warned Trump about Flynn on November 10th, and (2) the status of Flynn alluded to in the January 20, 2017 Susan Rice CYA email to herself.
The FBI was also involved in the illegal spying that occurred during the Obama administration and Flynn knew where to look to uncover it. The entire IC feared Flynn since he was calling for a community-wide audit that would force each of the 16 agencies to justify their mission. He had told friends and colleagues he was going to request mass resignations and justifications for their positions and roles. Flynn had presaged his intentions while at the DIA when he wrote a paper called “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan.” In that paper, Flynn argued that as one moved up the ladder in the intelligence agency, one became more clueless. His solution was a decentralization and localization effort where Washington would be effectively cut out of the equation. Flynn had also promised to find the still private side deals between Obama and Iran and publicize them.
Suspecting a well-respected intelligence official like Mike Flynn and questioning his patriotic credentials by insinuating collusion with Russia based on two speaking engagements in Russia is ludicrous from the start. His command of military intelligence has won him accolades within the military. He embarrassed the Obama administration by insisting a resurgence of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East that was contrary to the official narrative by Obama. Even after the initial investigation of Flynn started sometime in August 2016, the FBI dispatched Joe Pientka to observe Flynn’s mannerisms in a routine intelligence briefing to the Trump campaign. Another agent who attended that meeting was Stephen Somma who had a longstanding relationship with Stephan Halper.
In the minds of the braintrust within the Obama DOJ, FBI, IC and White House itself, there developed the belief that Kislyak+ Russia= bad, coupled with Flynn+Trump= bad. Ultimately, Flynn may have been targeted for no other reason than he was a member of President Trump’s team.
Next: Origins of the Mueller probe