As yet we only have an unnamed whistleblower claiming that Mike Flynn was texting his former business partners on inauguration day with assurances that President Trump would tear up sanctions against Russia as soon as he got to the White House. But assuming this account, or some version of it, is accurate it is far more significant than it may at first seem.
This story may make it seem like it was simple money corruption behind Flynn’s actions rather than some kind of conspiracy or collusion with Russian operatives. I don’t think that’s right. We should expect that such an operation that the Russians were trying to execute would seek to enlist and compromise targets through financial deals just like this. This was an American company, at least with American principals, who were connected to and financed in large part by “Russian interests.”
Note also that Congressman Cummings, the author of the letter which publicized the existence of the whistleblower, said something very specific. He wrote that his staff had contacted the Mueller’s office about the whistleblower. He said Mueller’s office asked his staff “to hold on the public release of this information until they completed certain investigative steps. They have now informed us that they have done so.” At a minimum this suggests that Mueller’s investigators took the whistleblower’s story seriously. The timing also suggests they wanted Cummings office to wait until Flynn agreed to the plea deal.
We have no idea what will eventually emerge about Mike Flynn or the larger Russia story. But just from my limited research on the man, I very much doubt any Russian operative ever had a conversation with Flynn in which Flynn said: I’m working for Russia now. I’ll do this for Russia. It seems far more likely he was lured in, enticed with deals just like this. This isn’t an excuse for him. It’s simply that compromising someone, turning them, getting them to do things you want them to do is a complicated process. As John Brennan, CIA Director in President Obama’s second term put it, when discussing how people are recruited to betray their country in testimony before Congress: “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”
I’m not saying Mike Flynn committed treason. I’m saying that this new part of the story tends to confirm the presence of a conspiracy and collusion rather than providing some alternative explanation of Flynn’s close to singular focus on a rapprochement with Russia.
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