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Flynn affair: a tale of lying and incompetence; not of conspiracy or collusion

Flynn helped Israel, asked Kislyak for restraint on sanctions, lied about both, and was consulting Kushner

Alexander Mercouris

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Shortly after the indictment against Michael Flynn and his guilty plea were published, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team published a statement setting out the facts behind the indictment.

This statement shows that the discussions between Kislyak and Flynn on the subject of the sanctions announced by Barack Obama on 28th December 2016 were much more extensive than Flynn had previously admitted to.

It turns out that Kislyak telephoned Flynn shortly after the sanctions were announced to ask what the Trump administration’s policy would be with respect to the sanctions.

Flynn in response called a “senior official of Trump’s transition team” – almost certainly Jared Kushner – to ask what response he should give to Kislyak.

The wording of the statement at this point becomes a little obscure, and reads as follows

The PTT official (ie. Kushner) and FLYNN also discussed that the members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

That suggests that Kushner did not discuss Flynn’s call with other members of the transition team but simply told Flynn what he thought their opinion would be.

Flynn then called Kislyak back and in the statement’s words

….requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the US sanctions in a reciprocal manner.

That shows that Flynn did not tell Kislyak either (1) that the Trump administration would lift the sanctions; or (2) that Russia should not respond to the sanctions.

Instead he asked Kislyak that the Russian counter-sanctions should go no further than a symmetrical response to the sanctions that Obama had announced.

The sequel is that Kislyak informed the Kremlin of Flynn’s request, and Putin as is well known responded by announcing no counter-sanctions at all, which was better than what Flynn and Kushner had expected or asked for.

Kislyak then telephoned Flynn on 31st December 2017 to inform him of this.

The statement then says that Flynn informed “several members of Trump’s transition team” – ie. not just Kushner but others including conceivably Trump himself – about the Russian decision, which Kislyak had told him about.

These interactions show that not only were Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak much more extensive than he admitted to Vice-President Pence or the FBI, but that several people within the Trump transition team including Kushner and conceivably including Donald Trump himself were aware of them.

Though it is now clear that Flynn did indeed lie about his discussions about the sanctions with Kislyak (about which more below) and that one other member of the Trump transition team – almost certainly Kushner – was involved in the discussions, and that other members of the Trump transition team were told about the discussions after they took place – including quite possibly Donald Trump himself – it is important to say again that none of this in any way touches on or proves the allegations of illegal collusion during the Presidential election between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On the contrary all this was standard diplomacy, with the sequence of calls initiated by Kislyak, who was doing his job by trying to find out what the new administration’s intentions were in light of Obama’s sanctions announcement, and with Flynn and Kushner acting entirely appropriately in order to advance Donald Trump’s publicly announced policy of seeking better relations with Russia.

Given that none of this was at all improper – neither the Special Counsel’s statement nor the indictment says it was, and needless to say there is no reference in either the Special Counsel’s statement or the indictment to the Logan Act preposterously conjured up by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates – I am at a total loss to understand why Flynn felt the need to lie about it.

I am also at a total loss to understand why Flynn lied about his lobbying work on behalf of Israel to block Resolution 2334, which I discussed in my previous article.

The statement confirms that it was about Resolution 2334 that Flynn called Kislyak on 22nd December 2016, and that he did so at the prompting of a “very senior official of the Trump transition team”, who again is almost certainly Jared Kushner.

The statement also makes it clear that Flynn also contacted several other foreign governments – not just Russia’s government – in an attempt to get Resolution 2334 blocked.

Leaks moreover now confirm that the effort to get Resolution 2334 blocked was actually initiated by no less a person than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who contacted the Trump transition team and asked them to lobby against Resolution 2334 on Israel’s behalf

Whilst this was unorthodox diplomacy, to put it mildly, it is scarcely conceivable that anyone in Washington would seriously criticise Kushner or Flynn for it given how controversial the Obama administration’s decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was, and given that Kushner and Flynn were both acting at the request of no less a person than the Prime Minister of Israel in doing what they did.

Given that this is so, it is nothing short of bizarre that Flynn felt the need to lie about it to the FBI also.

Lastly, I express my incredulity that at a time when the Russiagate scandal was already raging Michael Flynn – a highly experienced intelligence officer who had recently headed the Defense Intelligence Agency – appears to have been unaware that Kislyak’s conversations on open telephone lines were being tapped by the FBI and that everything he said to Kislyak was therefore being listened to and recorded.

Had Flynn been straightforward about his dealings with Kislyak and told the FBI and Vice-President Pence the truth then after a brief storm the whole affair would have quickly died down.  Flynn would in that case probably still be Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser now.

The only explanations I can come up with for this strange behaviour are (1) that Flynn – by all accounts a driven and difficult man – found it easier to lie to Pence and the FBI than to tell the truth; and/or (2) that he was protecting or thought he was protecting Kushner; and/or (3) he felt he had to lie about his dealings with Kislyak because given the hostility of much of the bureaucracy that was the only way he could do his job of improving relations with Russia.

If it was the second then Flynn has not protected Kushner by his lying but has instead landed Kushner in trouble, and if it was the third then Flynn was simply wrong.

What I would say about this strange behaviour is that it does at least explain Trump’s decision in February to insist that Flynn resign.

With Kushner and presumably other people within Trump’s team including quite possibly Trump himself knowing the truth about the things Flynn had said to Kislyak, Flynn’s position would have become completely untenable once the extent of his lying to Vice-President Pence and the FBI had become known.

What of the suggestion some are making that Flynn’s lying was intended to hide some other darker secret, specifically the illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the Presidential election earlier that year?

It is difficult to see how this could be so.  Why would Flynn think that lying about perfectly legitimate discussions he had with Kislyak about the sanctions and about his lobbying on behalf of Israel would conceal illegal collusion during the election between the Trump campaign and Russia?  What do any of these things have to do with each other?

As it happens Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak provide further grounds for doubting that any illegal collusion took place, or that the Russians possess leverage over Trump, or that the Trump campaign had any special connection to Russia.

Not only is it clear that no reference to collusion or to any special connection between the Trump campaign and Russia was made during any of the calls, but the outcome of the calls was negative in both directions: the Trump transition team did not promise Kislyak that the incoming Trump administration would lift Obama’s sanctions and Kislyak did not promise that Russia would block Resolution 2334.

As it happens the one positive thing that came out of the calls was Russia’s as it turns out temporary decision not to respond to Obama’s sanctions.  If anybody benefitted from that it was the United States.

There has been some talk that Michael Flynn feels let down by Kushner and Trump.  If so then it is not difficult to see why.

All Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak were undertaken on behalf of the Trump transition team and after consulting with Kushner, whilst his lobbying work against Resolution 2334 was actually carried out on Kushner’s instructions.  The moment his conduct came in for criticism Trump and Kushner should have come to his defence.

Flynn should not have been exposed to questioning by Vice-President Pence and by the FBI, and he should not have been left swinging in the wind when all he did was loyally carry out the President elect’s policies.

That he was is further proof of the amateurism and inexperience of Trump, Kushner and of the people around them, and of their ignorance of the things that need to be done to contain an affair like this.  A more professional and experienced administration like for example Ronald Reagan’s would have had no difficulty containing the fallout from an affair like this.

As it is the Flynn affair has been a source of great embarrassment and confusion upon which the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory have fed.  In my opinion it gave Russiagate a whole extra year of life.

Thankfully, now that the Flynn affair has been largely cleared up, that should end, increasing the likelihood that – as Trump’s lawyer Ty Cobb says – the Russiagate affair is drawing to a close.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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