It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Treason

Late yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a Special Counsel to assume responsibility over the Russia investigation. There was also late-breaking news that, a month before Trump became their party's nominee, House Republican leadership had a conversation about the possibility that Trump was compromised by Russia, to which Speaker Paul Ryan responded by telling everyone to keep their mouths shut about it.

But neither of those stories were the evening Trump-Russia bombshell we've now become accustomed to expecting. Instead, even later in the day came two stories centered around Michael Flynn, and who knew what about Flynn when. The combined takeaway from both is that Trump knew Flynn was under investigation for being a paid Turkish agent when Flynn acted to stop a military plan in accordance with Turkey's wishes.

First, Vera Bergengruen at McClatchy: Flynn Stopped Military Plan Turkey Opposed—After Being Paid as Its Agent. (Emphasis mine.)
One of the Trump administration's first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he'd been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon's plan to retake the Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.'s most effective military partners. Obama's national security team had decided to ask for Trump's sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

Flynn didn't hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months.

If Flynn explained his answer, that's not recorded, and it's not known whether he consulted anyone else on the transition team before rendering his verdict. But his position was consistent with the wishes of Turkey, which had long opposed the United States partnering with the Kurdish forces – and which was his undeclared client.

Trump eventually would approve the Raqqa plan, but not until weeks after Flynn had been fired.
Although it was not known that Flynn had been paid half a million dollars by Turkey, it was known that he was being paid. In fact, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to precisely that effect to Mike Pence, then leading the Trump transition, in November. Cummings' letter to Pence [pdf] explicitly warns that Flynn is being paid by Turkey and Russia, with clear documentation. Pence never responded.

Second, Matthew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti at the New York Times: Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House.
Michael T. Flynn told [Donald] Trump's transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn's disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team's chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn's lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.
Again: Mike Pence was leading the transition team. It would be incredible if Don McGahn knew, and the transition team lawyers knew, but none of them bothered to mention it to Pence.

And yet, Pence's supposed ignorance of Flynn being under investigation for his ties to Turkey and Russia is the entire basis for the justification of Flynn being fired by Trump. The White House's claim was that Flynn was fired for lying to Pence, which is why Pence went on television to confidently misrepresent Flynn's conversations with the Russians.

That was always transparent nonsense, as I documented way back in February. But now we know, with certainty, that Pence knew for months what he claimed he didn't know.

A lot of people are shocked that Pence could have lied so brazenly and continually. Some are in such disbelief that they are suggesting maybe Pence was just catastrophically incompetent, and wasn't aware that all of this was going on under his nose. No. Trust that the veep hand-selected by Paul Manafort was not out of the loop. And trust that Pence is a spectacular and shameless liar.

Which brings us finally to another report published this morning, by Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay, and Warren Strobel at Reuters: Exclusive: Trump Campaign Had at Least 18 Undisclosed Contacts with Russians. (Emphasis mine.)
Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump's campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

...Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.
This is what Flynn was up to during the transition, being led by Pence, as Trump was nearing his inauguration—trying to establish a secret communication channel with Putin, outside the watchful eyes of the intelligence community, tasked with preventing exactly this sort of collusion with foreign adversaries.

This is beginning to look an awful lot like treason. At the same time that the U.S. president has engaged in what looks an awful lot like an obstruction of justice.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a lot of work ahead of him.

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