[Marxism] Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 1 16:29:41 MST 2017

NY Times Op-Ed, Dec. 1 2017
Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways

Michael Flynn’s plea on Friday to a single count of lying to the F.B.I. 
is a seismic event in the special counsel investigation.

For starters, it portends the likelihood of impeachable charges being 
brought against the president of the United States. Mr. Flynn, a former 
national security adviser, acknowledged that he was cooperating with the 
investigation. His testimony could bring into the light a scandal of 
historic proportions in which the not-yet-installed Trump 
administration, including Donald Trump personally, sought to subvert 
American foreign policy before taking office.

The repercussions of the plea will be months in the making, but it’s not 
an exaggeration to say that the events to which Mr. Flynn has agreed to 
testify will take their place in the history books alongside the 
Watergate and Iran-contra scandals.

We’re in new — and highly inflammatory — territory. Here are 10 
immediate takeaways from today’s news.

1) This is not a meet-in-the-middle deal.

Both sides did not assess their risks and decide to hedge them with a 
compromise. Rather, as we’ve known for weeks, the special counsel, 
Robert Mueller, believed he had sufficient evidence to indict Mr. Flynn 
on a long list of criminal charges, including money laundering, tax 
offense and false statements. Mr. Mueller’s team, as is standard 
prosecutorial practice, presented Mr. Flynn with that list and helped 
him understand that his life as he knew it had ended.

2) This is much bigger than Paul Manafort.

Mr. Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, has been indicted, but 
this is a plea, and Mr. Flynn’s cooperation — the real goal of bringing 
criminal charges — has been secured. This puts Mr. Flynn in the same 
camp as George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to 
making false statements to the F.B.I. on Oct. 5 and is also cooperating 
with the investigation. Unlike Mr. Papadopoulos, though, Mr. Flynn was a 
top adviser who was at the center of communication with Russia as well 
as the potential obstruction of justice by President Trump in seeking to 
shut down the Flynn investigation itself. Mr. Flynn was considered as a 
running mate and reportedly stayed quite close to the president even 
after being forced out of the administration in February.

3) Mr. Flynn has just become the prosecution’s star witness.

Mr. Flynn’s plea on Friday concerned just one crime. The other charges 
that prosecutors threatened him with continue to hang over him. Mr. 
Flynn will not receive credit for his cooperation until after it has 
ended, at which point Mr. Mueller may — if Mr. Flynn has held up his end 
of the bargain — move to dismiss the other charges. In the interim, Mr. 
Flynn has to do anything Mr. Mueller’s team requests.

4) The charge Mr. Flynn is pleading guilty to is a stunning one.

He is admitting that last December, before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, he 
asked the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak, to refrain 
from reacting aggressively to sanctions that the Obama administration 
had imposed on Russia. Russia reportedly agreed and Mr. Kislyak told Mr. 
Flynn later that it had chosen to moderate its response to the sanctions 
to make nice with the Trump team.

5) It seems Mr. Trump himself directed Mr. Flynn to make contact with 
the Russians during the campaign.

If Mr. Flynn testifies to this — ABC’s Brian Ross is reporting that he 
will — it presents another impeachable offense along with the possible 
obstruction of justice. Even more, it brings the whole matter well 
outside the purview of the criminal courts into the province of a 
political scandal, indicating abuses of power arguably well beyond those 
in the Watergate and Iran-contra affairs.

6) Mr. Flynn asked Russia to intervene at the United Nations on behalf 
of Israel.

He is admitting that last Dec. 22, he asked Mr. Kislyak to delay or 
defeat a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel 
for its settlement policy, which the Obama administration had decided to 
let pass. The possible involvement or knowledge of Israel in the case 
will be one of many questions that congressional investigators will pursue.

7) The lying is bad. Conducting rogue American foreign policy is worse.

In the end, Mr. Flynn’s lies are secondary to the demonstration that the 
Trump administration was actively undermining American foreign policy 
before it took office. This will most likely prove the most abiding 
scandalous fact of the Mueller investigation. And it’s one that nobody 
on either side of the aisle could possibly defend.

8) Mr. Flynn’s cooperation portends extreme peril for a variety of 
people in the president’s orbit.

Most immediately vulnerable? Jared Kushner. Mr. Flynn was present at a 
Dec. 1, 2016, Trump Tower meeting where Mr. Kushner is said to have 
proposed to Mr. Kislyak setting up a back channel for the transition 
team to communicate with Moscow.

Those and related details are now front and center in the investigation. 
Criminal liability aside, Friday’s news — including a report that Mr. 
Kushner was the one who directed Mr. Flynn to contact Russia — helps 
cement Mr. Kushner’s reputation as a callow and arrogant freelancer, 
authorized by the president to act way over his head, and possibly 
impairing some of the most delicate and important issues of foreign 
policy. (A possible winner, on the other hand, is the younger Mike 
Flynn, about whose criminal liability his father was extremely 
concerned. Look to see how Mr. Mueller now chooses to treat the younger 
Mr. Flynn, who is being investigated over his work for his father’s 
lobbying business.)

9) Mr. Flynn’s plea raises the likelihood that he will give testimony in 
support of a potential obstruction of justice charge against Mr. Trump.

The basis for the possible obstruction charge against the president has 
been his efforts to get the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to shut down 
the Flynn investigation during a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office, 
coupled with his multiple lies on the subject. Obstruction is plainly an 
impeachable offense: It’s the offense for which Richard Nixon was 
threatened with impeachment.

For months, it has seemed the possible culminating charge of the Mueller 
investigation, a straightforward and readily understandable high crime 
or misdemeanor. Such a charge, per Department of Justice policy, would 
not be brought in the criminal courts but would rather form the basis of 
a report to Congress potentially recommending impeachment. If Mr. 
Mueller brings that charge, it will be on the strength of Mr. Flynn’s 

10) Mr. Trump’s defenders have fewer and fewer cards to play.

There had been a prospect that the obstruction of justice charge, if it 
did come, would be dismissed by die-hard Trump supporters as subject to 
conflicting interpretations of Mr. Trump’s state of mind, and therefore 
not deserving of impeachment or removal. No longer. Now Mr. Trump and 
his circle will stand accused by a former member of the administration 
with plainly unconstitutional meddling in the most sensitive of foreign 
policy issues. If the Congress and country believe Michael Flynn’s 
account, it is hard to see what even the staunchest Trump defenders can 
say in defense. That means that as Mr. Trump and the administration look 
out at the new landscape featuring a guilty Michael Flynn, it’s kill or 
be killed.

Harry Litman (@harrlitman), a former United States attorney and deputy 
assistant attorney general, teaches at the University of California, Los 
Angeles, Law School and practices law at Constantine Cannon.

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