Mueller The Magnificence

Step right up. Ladies and gentlemen. We’ve reserved you a seat. We know you’re going to enjoy the show. Not quite the greatest show on earth but it could be. Greatness really does depend on what happens next. Guaranteed to bring the house down. Well, at least one house that I can think of.

How often can you say you, me and everyone alive in the year 2017, got  to play an important role in  the making of history? And you have. We have. Simply by being alive and an eyewitness. To what? You might ask? A cataclysm? A force of nature? A biblical event.? Here’s a hint. Not quite Sodom and Gomorrah  but you’re getting the idea. Certainly the creation of a major piece of American political history. Trust me they’ll be talking about, what we are now witnessing ,100 years from now.

Breaking news. Former National Security advisor to President Donald Trump, Mike Flynn, pleads guilty to lying to the FBI. Who would /could think that such a short sentence has such significance?  Of course like most matters of major significance the importance lies in what is NOT said. And what isn’t said in the indictment is the real story here. Was there Russian collusion in the election that resulted in Donald Trump becoming President? And did Donald Trump and key members of his campaign team aid and abet that collusion?

To truly understand what is going on with these latest developments you have to follow the bouncing ball.

If you read the Flynn indictment, the silent assassin in this drama, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller charged Mike Flynn with the very least serious of a clutch of potentially serious offences. Similarly the lie Flynn told, is the smallest of lies he could have told in the big picture of this investigation.

Of course Flynn could still go to prison for what he did. But if he does, it won/t be for very long or he may avoid jail time all together. So. What’s going on?

There are two questions here: how has Flynn managed to get such an easy time from the Special Prosecutor ? And why? Why wouldn’t Mueller throw the book at him?

Flynn is a sitting duck for way more serious charges. Try these two for size just as an example. Acting as a foreign agent for Turkey without a license and being a key player in the plot to kidnap a Turkish Opposition politician ,who is living in exile in the United States, for the purpose of returning him to Turkey.

The reason for Mueller’s generosity,  is both intriguing and compelling. But in order to understand it you have to engage in some reasoned speculation. But it’s speculation based on pretty solid ground.

Flynn did a plea deal with the special prosecutor. And not just any old plea deal. For an explanation and understanding of the legal twists and turns of this, I’ve relied heavily on the opinions of Harvard Law teacher, Seth Abramson, who is also a former experienced public defender.

The way Abramson tells it, for Mueller to be so generous, Flynn had to give him everything. And I do mean everything.  Flynn, don’t forget, enjoyed a unique status and relationship with the Trumps so you could say with certainty he has plenty to give. Mueller would only be interested in a deal if Flynn could help with information about players further up the food chain. In Flynn’s case, that can only be the President and Vice President of the United States. Now you are beginning to see where this is all going. 

If you really want to appreciate how important Flynn is to this investigation, cast your mind back a few months ago when Donald Trump allegedly asked the then head of the FBI ,James Comey, to drop the investigation into Flynn’s Russian links. When Comey refused, Trump fired him. That’s how important Flynn is. The fact that Mueller managed to turn him into a co operative witness, is massive and catastrophic news for the White House. Not one word has been uttered by Trump or the WH about Flynn’s plea. What can they say?

So, what could Flynn have told Mueller? No one knows except Robert Mueller and his team of investigators.  What we do know, is that Flynn had extensive contact with the Russians. He, for example, could tell Mueller that Trump not only knew about those contacts and exchanges of information but he (Flynn) was acting on the express orders of Donald Trump. Flynn’s last contact with the President occurred in April of 2017 where Trump told him to ‘stay strong’. But prior to that ,the two men had more than a year and a half of contact which represents the bulk of Trump’s political career. Flynn had access to, and influence over ,Trump on national security issues for that entire time. What he can tell Mueller, could be hugely significant and that is an understatement.

Flynn worked closely with the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. And Kushner could well be the next shoe to drop to use the words of Republican Senator, John McCain.

Kushner, like Flynn, is a person of great interest to the Mueller investigation. This is not speculation. It is fact. It has been revealed that Kushner directly ordered Flynn to engage with the Russians during the dying days of the Obama Presidency.

And Mueller’s dealings with Kushner, is yet another example of how well Mueller plays his poker hand. Mueller clearly knows he has no chance of turning Jared Kushner in the same way he turned Mike Flynn As the husband of Trump’s high profile daughter Ivanka, Kushner will never rat on his in laws. So what does Mueller do? The next best thing. He lays a trap for Kushner. He contacts Kushner’s lawyer and tells him he wants to meet with his client. Kushner agrees and two weeks ago Mueller and Kushner  had that meeting.

Consider this: What if Mueller went into that meeting, armed with everything Flynn could have told him about Flynn’s dealings with Kushner especially when it came to the Putin Government? That would place Mueller in the box seat to know if Kushner lied to him at the meeting. We don’t know what was said between the two men so we have no way of knowing if Kushner fell for the trap and tried to lie his way out of trouble. I will leave open to speculation on which option Kushner took. Truth? Or lie? If he lied he committed a crime and he will surely go to prison.

But the question almost certainly terrifying the White House ,right at this moment, is how many  more individuals might be implicated by Mike Flynn in what he told Robert Mueller?

In a statement Flynn said his guilty plea ” and agreement to co operate with the Special Counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and our country.”

Watergate was a huge political story that resulted in the resignation of a President. But this is much, much bigger than Watergate. It involves a lot more people. Unlike Watergate, this President will never voluntarily resign under any circumstances which means the only way of getting rid of him is to impeach him. And because Trump won’t go willingly he will literally tear the Republican Party apart.

Interestingly, in the last 24 hours, Former FBI head James Comes wrote two intriguing tweets.

The first was a passage from the scriptures: “ But justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

The second is a quote from Winston Churchill: “ The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is.”

Wow.

You Got An Armchair View Of History Being Made

I love the English language. I especially love the way it uses metaphors to describe important stuff. Over the past day I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for US special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

The Quiet Achiever, the Silent Assassin. Whatever it is, the word ‘silent’, has to be part of the narrative. Mueller likes to do everything very, very quietly and in the background.

For months, he’s beavered away without so much as a peep. Not one leak of any kind which is extraordinary in itself. But his silence is the silence of the lambs.

And after months of silence Mueller finally spoke. Or should I say he let the justice system do the talking. Explosive, incendiary, ballistic. Call it what you will. Most importantly, the White House never saw it coming. We now know what Robert Mueller was doing for the past four months, gathering evidence against three former Trump advisors, enough evidence to lay criminal charges. And at least one is squealing already. The first to rollover, George Papadopoulos, one of President Trump’s former foreign policy advisors.

Apparently, and unbeknown to anyone, Papadopoulos was arrested in July of this year. And in the months following, negotiated a deal resulting in a rollover guilty plea. Cooperation in exchange for lenient treatment. He will probably still go to prison but for not as long as he might have. You can bet the farm on two certainties: Papadopoulos told Mueller everything he knew and secondly, at some point, he wore a wire to record conversations. What Papadopoulos knows or gave Mueller we can only speculate but it will be enough, at the very least, for Mueller to go further up the food chain.

Did the White House know about Papadopoulos’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea? Judging by the body language of Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders, at a post revelations press briefing, the WH had no idea until they read about it or watched it on television like everyone else.  Talk about uncomfortable. Huckabee Sanders squirmed noticeably every time the name Papadopoulos, Russia and collusion were mentioned in the same sentence. Mueller is the play maker and it’s playing perfectly so far.

In the past 24 hours, Mueller added another two formidable names to the ever-growing web of alleged criminality. Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates. Both men very much in the Trump inner sanctum. Both men now facing very, very serious criminal charges including, in Manafort’s case, a charge of conspiring against the United States. Mueller again played it perfectly. Manafort is charged with, among other things, money laundering, failing to file a tax return on income earned. He is facing the prospect of many, many years spent in a Federal Prison if he’s found guilty. Manafort surrendered himself, pleaded not guilty and was released on US$10 million dollars bail and house arrest. Gates was granted US$5 million bail. That gives some idea of how serious this is. Now the fun will really start. Manafort and Gates will have lawyers representing them. And what do you think those lawyers are going to advise their clients? It can be summed up in one word: cooperate.

If you read the indictments, Mueller crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’. It is a simple yet compelling and watertight case against Manafort in particular. Proving guilt is not going to be a big ask.

You can expect, no make that definitely expect, Manafort, or Gates, or both, to rollover and become Mueller’s snitching bitches.

It won’t be a question of if.

The Mueller indictment is also extremely clever. It only relates to what Manafort was doing in 2006 and makes no mention of the 2016 Presidential election campaign.

Of course, to the Twitter maniac and POTUS for now, this was a signal that he’s off the hook.  NO COLLUSION he thundered in capital letters on Twitter, as if that makes it more compelling.

Donald Trump is mistaken if he thinks it’s the end of the matter. Throwing Papadopoulos, Manafort and Gates metaphorically under a bus won’t help. The WH can try and distance itself from those men but it will be futile.

This is the beginning not the end.

Robert Mueller has thrown a lasso over the White House. At this point in time it is sitting relatively loosely and only managed to damage some low hanging fruit when it was first thrown. But expect that lasso to tighten in the coming days, weeks and months. Make no mistake Mueller’s ultimate target is Donald Trump but the Special Prosecutor knows to get a Republican, dominated Congress, to impeach the President, his case must be watertight and bullet proof. A lot more dominos will fall before reaching that point.

Over the years, that famous quote from film actress Betty Davis has been misquoted many times, and it’s about to be misquoted yet again by me: Fasten your seatbelts we’re in for a bumpy ride. Trump’s in trouble and he knows it and he also knows there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s too late to stop Robert Mueller. The genie is out of the bottle and we are all going to be lucky enough to get an armchair view of a very significant moment in history.

 

 

 

Trump Revelations Of Alleged Collusion

Sometimes the Trump story behind the story is the best story of all. Let me explain.

America is all agog, and rightly so, at the latest revelations of alleged collusion between the Trump Presidential campaign, and Russia’s Putin regime, to get Donald Trump elected President of the United States.

One of the fruit of the President’s loins, some cynics might describe him as spoiled and damaged fruit, Donald Trump Junior, just released a series of emails which suggest he was ready, willing and able to collude with the Russians to get Daddy into the White House.

Donald Junior may well have unleashed a firestorm that could burn down the White House but that is another story for another time. His father, the President, took a long time to come to junior’s defence, which is interesting in itself.

When he did, he took to Twitter, of course, his preferred form of communication. And it’s his preferred form of communication because no one can contradict him. If anyone does, or tries to, they’re banned.

The President praised Donald Junior’s “transparency” and “openness”, in releasing the email correspondence. The Trumps use the words transparency and modesty in the same way. Neither applies to them. For example, there was nothing transparent or open about Donald Junior releasing the emails. The New York Times newspaper already had them and was going to publish. Donald Junior got in first to try and steal the newspaper’s thunder.

While the President might be praising his son publicly, privately he would be calling him a jackass because he’s provided the FBI’s special prosecutor, appointed to investigate Russian collusion in the Presidential election campaign, part, if not all of the smoking gun he needs to prove the case.

Now I am not going to mine the nitty gritty of the emails and the whole Russian election thing. Plenty of others are doing that right now and doing it better than I ever could.

I’m more interested in the other intriguing questions that have come out of this. Such as, who leaked the emails to the New York Times? And what did they hope to achieve in doing so?

Leaked information is done with three goals in mind: the first is the explosive nature of the information being released publicly, the second is the hysterical publicity that almost always accompanies it, and the third is a higher purpose of some kind.

In other words it is always done, selectively, carefully and for a good reason. And the Donald Trump Junior emails leak is no exception.

So let’s start with the first question: Who might have leaked the emails to the New York Times?

The list of potential suspects would have to be small. The first, and most obvious, is that the leaker is someone close to Donald Junior who had access to his private computer. But it is a less likely scenario, I would have thought. Donald Junior could very easily narrow down and successfully identify a suspect and they would be made the scapegoat. Donald Junior would then be able to spin the narrative to be all about the betrayal rather than the contents of the emails. The fact that he hasn’t done so, would suggest the leaker isn’t someone close to him.

Could it have been someone in the intelligence service? Or the FBI? Who could remotely access Donald Junior’s computer? These days that seems perfectly achievable if the latest publicity concerning computer hacking and ransom demanded, is any kind of guide. So if the leaker was the FBI or someone connected to the Special Prosecutor’s office, the question is why would they do it?

That is a much tougher question to answer.

But one reason might be that whoever obtained the emails from Donald Junior’s computer, would have to, or be wanting to prove that Donald Junior wrote them. Just finding them on his computer is not enough and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. Someone else could have written the emails to try and discredit him. This would be especially so if Donald Junior denied being the author of the emails. Proving that he wrote them in the face of his denials would not be impossible but it would be difficult and time consuming. And we are talking about proving them to a legal and possibly criminal standard.

So why not roll the dice to see what Donald Junior does? Leak the emails to the New York Times and see if they can flush him out and get him to publicly say he was the author, which of course is what he did, almost on cue.

Donald Trump Junior is clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He has just opened a Pandora’s box worth of trouble for the President.

He has also placed a great deal of pressure on Congressional members of the Republican Party.

The Republicans hold the majority in the Congress and it is the Congress alone that can get rid of the President. Republican Senator John McCain made an interesting observation when he said that more shoes are going to drop before this has ended. Maybe he knows something we don’t.

In many ways President Trump is his own party’s worst nightmare. If they do decide to get rid of him by a Congressional majority he will hardly go quietly into the night. He will go kicking and screaming accusing everyone of a vendetta and a witch hunt. More disturbingly he has plenty of supporters, armed supporters, who believe him when he says it.

Consider this. What if the FBI knew in advance of Trump Junior’s meeting with the Russians and secretly recorded the conversation? Junior says the meeting was a dud and nothing of any substance in relation to the Presidential election was discussed. But… we only have his word for it. All I can say is watch this space.

I am reminded of the Chinese curse: May we live in interesting times. Except it’s not a curse anymore. We are.