I remember that it struck me as rather odd at the time. Actually, the entire situation struck me as just a wee off, but one part in particular was really strange. But, in an era when you have a political poltergeist chucking next level shit at your head from across the room 24/7, any one thing can be lost in all of the ducking and weaving that you’re doing.
It was December of 2018, and it was supposed to be nothing more than a formality. A formality of high public interest, but a formality nonetheless. Retired general Michael Flynn was supposed to be sentenced for one count of lying to the FBI. Apparently Flynn had been a good little stool pigeon, ratting out everybody he had ever met to the federales, in a desperate ploy to keep his sniveling ass out of durance vile. The prosecutors seemed well pleased with how well their new puppy had gotten paper trained, and were recommending to the judge that Flynn receive no jail time.
The sentencing hearing went off of the rails almost immediately. As a general rule, judges tend to defer to prosecutors when sentencing, feeling that they know the actual benefits of the defendants cooperation better than the judge. But not this time. Judge Emmett Sullivan threw so much shit at Flynn that Flynn may as well have been a rose garden. He angrily stated that Flynn had disgraced his uniform, sold out his country, and defiled the flag standing in the corner. He repeatedly asked if Flynn was sure that he wanted to be sentenced that day, seeming to indicate that if he sentenced Flynn in that moment, he’d send Flynn to a place so deep and dark that Flynn would think that the Hanoi Hilton was the Paris Hilton (pun intended). Flynn decided to scour his brain some more to try to find one more soul that he could throw under the bus.
All of that was odd enough, but judges can occasionally be strange ducks. But what struck everybody odd at the time was that at one point judge Sullivan had grilled the prosecutors as to whether they had looked into the possibility of charging Flynn with treason.Treason?! Where in the hell did that come from? As a sitting judge, one would think that judge Sullivan would be familiar with the legal definition of the word. Why was Sullivan indicating that he thought that there may have been evidence to show that Flynn had maliciously sought to provide aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States?
It turns out that, as with so m any things in life, context may hold the key. Rachel Maddow reported last night that judge Sullivan, along with a judge in an unrelated FOIA case, was ordering the Justice Department and the FBI to remove the redactions from some of Flynn’s statements to the government. And that in several key instances, the words “Russia” and “Putin” may be cowering beneath those black bars. And when taken in context with several other actions Flynn had undertaken, tended to put him in rather a more negative light.
Rachel Maddow pointed out that in 2013, Flynn became the first DIA director to travel to Moscow and tour the offices of his Russian counterpart, the director of the GRU. Flynn came away highly impressed with the Russians, and claimed that the director was “someone he could work with.” This sudden affection for a dude whose sworn job was to bring down the United States may or may not have played a part in the fact that Flynn found himself looking for another job not all that long thereafter.
But Maddow raised another, even more concerning issue. She pointed out that Flynn was actually a registered Democrat, but that he had been a rather apolitical registered Democrat, not coming out loudly supporting any particular positions or policies, nor aligning himself with any particular candidates or Democratic political figures, other than the fact that he had worked under Democratic President Barack Obama.
But then, in the summer of 2015, Flynn took an expenses paid, personally paid speaking engagement gig in Moscow, speaking at Russian propaganda outlet R/T’s anniversary celebration, sitting next to Vladimir Putin at dinner. In doing so, Flynn violated DOD regulations as a retired flag officer, by not obtaining permission from the army before going on the trip, and he was defensive about the trip, and his payment for it, in an interview with investigative reporter Michael Isakoff after he returned. And then, lo and behold, within weeks of returning from his Moscow junket, Flynn, a registered Democrat with no known strong political views, suddenly becomes indispensable to fledgling candidate Donald Trump, at a time when no Republican would be seen with Trump in a crowd shot of Times Square on New Years Eve.
Now look, this ain’t a Mel Gibson movie, and I ain’t no conspiracy theorist, but when does enough become enough. From the start, commentators on networks have highlighted the point that you would be hard pressed to find any previous presidential campaign with a single contact with Russian operatives, and yet Trump’s campaign strongly resembled a Politburo meeting. What happened in the Trump campaign after Flynn became attached to Donald Trump at the hip?
- Carter Page, formerly investigated by the FBI as a possible asset of Russian intelligence services, becomes a Trump foreign policy adviser
- George Papadopoulos, a total unknown, minor foreign policy adviser to the campaign, suddenly has a dodgy British professor with ties to Russia whispering in his ear about stolen Clinton e-mails that Russia is hawking
- Cambridge Analytica, a data research firm with alleged ties not only to Russia, but to future Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, suddenly becomes the go-to analytics firm for the Trump campaign
- Trump, whose reading skills end with the $1 menu at McDonalds, suddenly becomes enamored with Wikileaks as a journalistic source of information. Having been the Director of the DIA during the Bradley Manning investigation and court martial, Michael Flynn would have been fully versed with Wikileaks connections to Russian intelligence as a dumping ground
Hey, this all may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. But all of those events took place after Flynn’s trip to Moscow, and after Flynn publicly aligned himself with the one candidate possibly susceptible to Russian influence due to his previous business dealings. And when you start to put the words “Putin” and “Russia” into their proper places in those documents, if those indeed are the words, the context starts to make more sense.
And so does the fact that a sane, apparently sound and well grounded judge, who had access to all of that information last December, suddenly starts throwing a word like “treason” around his courtroom. And with that knowledge, what seemed like a startling accusation from the judge isn’t quite so off-the-wall as it appeared at the time. At least it’s food for thought.