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How Michael Flynn Subverted Our Democracy

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How Michael Flynn Subverted Our Democracy

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

When he started investigating General Michael T. Flynn, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concentrated on his income and undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. Now, however, Mueller’s investigation has broadened to include Flynn’s business with Turkey. Flynn faces possible fraud and money-laundering charges for failing to disclose a payment of $530,000 from the Turkish government. (The Foreign Agent Registration Act, FARA, requires disclosure of work for foreign governments, including details about compensation.) Flynn could also face conspiracy and kidnapping charges for allegedly negotiating a payment of $15 million to deliver to Turkey Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric and political foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Gülen has lived in exile in the United States since 1999; he was granted permanent residence in 2008. The Turkish government accuses him of orchestrating the coup attempt in July 2016 and imprisoned thousands of his followers.

If indicted on these charges, Flynn could end up in jail for a long time. (Lawyers for Flynn have denied the kidnapping allegations, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.) Alternatively, Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who works with him at the Flynn Intel Group, a lobbying firm in Virginia, can avoid jail time by becoming cooperating witnesses in Mueller’s investigation. Flynn was an integral part of the Trump campaign and briefly served the Trump administration as national security adviser. If the Trump campaign colluded with Russians—for example, to coordinate the release of hacked emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton and a social media campaign to influence voters—Flynn would probably know. Mueller has already brought charges against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates, and a campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadoupoulos. Flynn may be next.

Flynn has a history of cutting corners and breaking rules. Flynn failed to disclose income from three Russian companies, including a 2016 speaking fee of $45,000 from RT, an official propaganda arm of the Kremlin. He failed to disclose contact with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, to FBI investigators conducting a background check to renew Flynn’s security clearance. Intercepts of Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak reportedly showed that Flynn discussed sanctions on Russia and suggested the possibility of sanctions relief once Trump became president. Flynn also failed to disclose his involvement in a $100 billion nuclear energy deal, which he explored during an undisclosed trip to Israel and Egypt in 2015.

Flynn’s work for the Turkish government is also under investigation. The Flynn Intel Group was paid $530,000 by Inovo BV, a thinly capitalized Dutch company that serves as a front for Inovo Turkije, whose principal, Ekim Alptekin, is a close associate of President Erdoğan. Public records in the Netherlands confirmed that Inovo BV is a shell company. Flynn should have known that Inovo BV was a pass-through and, given Alptekin’s close relationship with Erdoğan, that Inovo BV’s funds originated from the Turkish government. Flynn hid the origins of the money and the fact that his payment was funneled through a third party. When details of the contract surfaced in press reports, Flynn acknowledged his service for the Turkish government by belatedly registering under FARA.

The contract with Inovo BV required Flynn to lobby on appropriations bills for the departments of State and Defense. Flynn’s duties also included keeping his client informed about “the transition between President Obama and President-Elect Trump.” In effect, Flynn was also hired to conduct a smear campaign of Gülen. In an article published by Flynn in The Hill on election day, November 8, 2016, Flynn referred to Gülen as a “shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania.” He wrote: “To professionals in the intelligence community, the stamp of terror is all over Mullah Gülen’s statements.… Washington is hoodwinked by this masked source of terror and instability nestled comfortably in our own backyard.” Flynn endorsed Turkey’s demand for extradition. “The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven.”

Flynn was apparently willing to consider more drastic action. James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, attended a meeting with Flynn in September 2016 during which Flynn discussed abducting Gülen and delivering him to Turkish authorities at the Imrali Island Prison off the coast of Turkey. The meeting was also attended by Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Woolsey described the proposed extradition outside of the US legal system as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” He and Flynn were both working for the Trump campaign at the time.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn and his son rejoined discussions about Gülen at a meeting in December in New York at the 21 Club, where Flynn was offered as much as $15 million to deliver Gülen. The Turkish government denies that this meeting took place; Flynn’s lawyers also called the Journal report false. If the story is true, however, Flynn and his son could be prosecuted under the RICO law (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations).

Despite Flynn’s pattern of illegal and unethical behavior, President Trump took extraordinary steps to protect him. On February 14, 2017, Trump met with the then-FBI director, James Comey, in the Oval Office. “I hope you can let this go,” said Trump, alluding to Comey’s investigation of Flynn. Comey took it as an order, but did not comply. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump had already fired, in March, Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Among the cases Bharara was pursuing was the prosecution of Reza Zarrab, a gold trader and Erdoğan crony charged with violating US sanctions on Iran. According to the indictment published shortly after Bharara was fired, Zarrab’s economic crimes involve illicit gold sales on behalf of the Iranian government, which were deposited into Turkey’s HalkBank; the proceeds helped support Iran’s nuclear program and business enterprises linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Mehmet Hakan Attila, a Halkbank executive, was also arrested, on charges of conspiring with Zarrab to evade US sanctions against Iran.

It is not unusual for an incoming president to replace US attorneys. But the manner and timing of Bharara’s dismissal raised red flags. Trump acted improperly toward Bharara,  initiating direct contact by calling Bharara three times. Bharara, who had jurisdiction to investigate suspected criminal conduct in business in New York, rightly refused to take the calls. Bharara believes that Trump would have asked him “to do something inappropriate,” had they spoken. Trump removed Bharara after having assured him in November 2016 that he would retain his job. Turkey has invested heavily in efforts to influence the US government, spending millions of dollars annually to hire former members of Congress as lobbyists, sponsoring junkets for members of Congress in the Turkey Caucus, and making large contributions to think-tanks such as the Atlantic Council. Was Turkey’s influence a factor in Trump’s decision to fire Bharara?

Erdoğan appears intensely interested in the Zarrab case, repeatedly asking US officials to drop the charges against him. An FBI source told me that the allegations against Zarrab include selling a ton of gold each week and taking a 15 percent commission. A superseding indictment filed by prosecutors in September charges that Zarrab conspired with senior Turkish government officials, including Erdoğan’s then-minister of the economy, in a scheme to dodge US sanctions on Iran that involved “laundering funds in connection with those illegal transactions, including millions of dollars in bribe payments.”

Zarrab hired Michael Mukasey, an attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, and Rudy Giuliani, a former Republican mayor of New York City and a notorious hard-liner on Iran, in March. According to Zarrab’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, Giuliani and Mukasey were not hired to participate in Zarrab’s legal defense team; they were paid instead “to explore a potential disposition of the criminal charges”—in other words, to get the case closed down by influencing senior US government officials. That means, in effect, going over the head of prosecutors and bypassing the normal plea bargain channels—thereby undermining the administration of justice. Greenberg Traurig, Giuliani’s firm, is a registered agent for the Turkish government. Both Giuliani and Mukasey, who acted as advisers to the Trump campaign, appear to be cashing in on their connections to the White House.

The Zarrab case is a further example of Turkish efforts to circumvent the US legal system, but lobbying to get the charges dropped in the case has become a fool’s errand. Reports suggest that Zarrab recently agreed to act as a cooperating witness. Judicial interference, however, is part of an established pattern of conduct by Turkey, which has also become adept at buying influence in Washington. Turkey has many reasons for its largesse: it wants to deflect attention from its support to Syrian jihadis, official corruption, the killing of Kurds, and the systematic arrest of opponents under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The United States needs leadership that is steely-eyed toward Turkey as well as toward Russia. Yet Turkey’s influence-buying efforts are paying off. The Trump administration ignores Erdoğan’s human rights abuses and election irregularities. The White House turned a blind eye when Erdoğan’s security guards beat up US citizens outside the Turkish ambassador’s D.C. residence in May. The Trump administration was virtually silent when Turkey bought S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia for $2.6 billion. Trump calls Erdoğan “a friend of mine” and praises his job performance, saying: “He’s getting very high marks.” Trump has his own interests to think about—stakes in major real-estate developments in Istanbul, as well as in a luxury furniture company in Turkey.

Trump’s disparaging of the US justice system undermines judicial independence. He has already issued a controversial pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of disobeying a federal judge’s order. Knowing there is a potential presidential pardon in the works could dissuade Flynn from telling the truth as a cooperating witness. Efforts to subvert our democracy—by enemies foreign and domestic—may succeed unless the rule of law is fully and effectively applied in the case of Michael Flynn.

 

 

David Phillips is director of the program on peace-building and rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser to the State Department during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

 

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29 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila November 28, 2017

    The saddest part of this act of treason is that it was perpetrated by a former high ranking military officer who sworn loyalty to country and honor. The stain he inflicted on the institution that groomed him and rewarded him for his service is as bad as his despicable, greedy and unpatriotic, behavior as a civilian. Shame on Flynn!

    Reply
    1. Joan November 28, 2017

      It would be fitting if Flynn was Court Marshaled, resulting in loss of rank, privileges and military pension. Even the CIC has little control over military tribunals.

    2. CrankyToo November 28, 2017

      Yes! Those very same thoughts occurred to me as I read this article.

      As a retired service member, I am appalled to think that a flag officer of the United States armed forces would betray our country and besmirch the very concept of honor for personal enrichment. If the allegations against Flynn are proven to be true, he will have brought great shame and discredit to the one institution we think we can still trust – our military. And, in that eventuality, his name will forever be linked to those of Benedict Arnold and John Anthony Walker.

      That said, I’m hoping Flynn will choose to do the one thing he CAN do to redeem himself, which is to help bring down the people who are bringing great shame and discredit to our country – Donald Trump and his filthy, avaricious minions.

      1. Dominick Vila November 28, 2017

        Not surprisingly, Trump surrounded himself with this greedy moron, for the same reason he is supporting the pedophile from Alabama a total absence of morality.

        1. CrankyToo November 28, 2017

          We could waste hours cataloging the frailties and foibles of that most odious character, Donald Trump (I still can’t bring myself to refer to him as “President”). But it occurs to me that everything we might say about him falls within the scope of “a total absence of morality.” I think you just summed the guy up in one succinct phrase.

          1. dpaano November 28, 2017

            There just aren’t enough words……

          2. CrankyToo November 28, 2017

            Oh, I disagree. The words are multitudinous – and I know many of them. The real problem is, there just isn’t enough TIME.

    3. dpaano November 28, 2017

      They need to take away his rank AND his pension, if he gets one! He certainly has proven that he doesn’t deserve it! He was a lackluster general; and he’s a lackluster individual that should be thrown in jail! As a retired Army officer, I’m appalled at the actions of this individual!

      1. idamag November 28, 2017

        Can he be court martialled?

        1. dpaano November 28, 2017

          Ida….unfortunately, I’ve been out of the military waaay too long to answer that question with any sense of knowledge; however, as a retired military officer, I do know that once you are in the military….even after retiring….you are still considered a member and can be recalled back to duty in time of war. So, I would assume that he COULD be court martialed and have his rank taken away and his pension cancelled! But, again, not positive on that one. I’m surprised that the military hasn’t already taken action already for his illegal past!!!

          1. CrankyToo November 28, 2017

            When I retired from the Air Force in 1991, the law at the time was that, upon separation under “Honorable” or “General” conditions, an Airman was subject to recall for a period of ten years. (Didn’t you keep your uniforms for ten years?)

            I’m shootin’ from the hip here, but if that’s still the law today, then Flynn could conceivably be recalled to active duty, then court-martialed.

          2. dpaano November 28, 2017

            You’re probably right….I DID keep my uniforms (still have them, in fact), but I can’t guarantee I can get into them! I used to try to wear them on Veteran’s Day; however, I can’t get them zipped nowadays! Very upsetting to say the least.
            As for Flynn, I agree that he probably could be eligible to be court martialed and he SHOULD be. Not sure who has jurisdiction over him, but someone needs to clue them in. Why should we pay his military pension, especially with all the money he made screwing this country!

    4. Independent1 November 28, 2017

      And what’s really sad is that John Kelly another military officer in the White House isn’t a great deal better than Flynn; Kelly will outright lie and fabricate reality to help Trump inflict more damage on our Constitution and democracy. Given some of the other military people in Trump’s White House who are borderline similar, it doesn’t speak all that well for America’s military leadership.

  2. FireBaron November 28, 2017

    Not only subverting democracy in the United States, but supporting its final collapse in a country once touted as the only Democracy in a majority Muslim nation!

    Reply
  3. stsintl November 28, 2017

    Using Flynn’s own chant at the RNC Convention to lock Hillary Clinton up, let’s say “Lock Him Up”, Lock Him Up”, “Lock Him Up”. But, it probably won’t happen since our government now is “Of the US Mafia, by the US Mafia, and for the US Mafia’ with help from the Russian Oligarchs.

    Reply
    1. idamag November 28, 2017

      And I don’t think you are exaggerating one little bit.

      1. Independent1 November 28, 2017

        And the reason the GOP is letting Trump get a way with all he does is because they’ve been the American Mafia for years and are just welcoming one of their own into the clan named Trump.

        1. idamag November 29, 2017

          You are right. They want to own this country from the bottom up. We have a local law against the municipal government being political. This year, the big three has gotten involved. They are the richest man in the state, Vandersloot; Beck, who is radical right wing tea party and been fighting to take our National lands out of the hands of the Federal government; and Smith, a lawyer with an iffy reputation. They are all Mormon and Republican. They have spent a bunch of money on big billboards all over the city and attack ads on the news. Our newspaper refused to run their ads. The election was a tie so there is to be a runoff and they are stepping up this disgusting war to own our city. They already own our state.

  4. Eleanore Whitaker November 28, 2017

    Here is what makes no sense. We all heard Trump snarking at Tillerson, Session, Priebus, Hillary and Comey. The only one Trump has NEVER snarked at is Flynn. Why?

    Typical Trump, it is clear that Trump knew Flynn was in deep trouble with the government. Trump needed to stay in touch with ALL of those who were called before Mueller. So, he stayed in touch with Flynn in order to discover what Mueller asked them about and how much damage their testimony might do to Trump.

    Can you ever imagine the Republicans allowing Obama to get away with this BS? They kept Obama on such a tight leash and bitched at everything he did. Now? Trump does as he damn well pleases and the GOP is a silent as Robert E. Lee’s grave.

    The problem for Flynn is the same one Trump is going to have. Flynn son’s involvement in everything he did.

    Look or Trump to rely more heavily on Putin to stop the investigation any way he can even if it means using the GOP to dredge dirt up on the Dems to get rid of more Dems involved in the investigative committees.

    It isn’t as if they didn’t use that same strategy for the 8 Obama years to destroy everything he did for this country.

    What it comes down to now is: “Who is the Republican Party really working for?”

    Reply
  5. Richard Prescott November 28, 2017

    That Flynn’s group was communicating with Trump’s group until just recently tells a lot. Also, that Flynn wanted a plea bargain several months ago meant he knew what he had done and that he was dead meat. And that Trump knew what Flynn knew and had done meant Trump was at the least an accomplice.
    It is also possible that the previous administration, or at least part of it, was aware of the questionable actions of Flynn, but hadn’t moved against him.
    I guess Trump can blame Boris and Natasha for not telling him that he would be in serious quicksand, because he won’t take responsibility for his behavior on himself.

    Reply
    1. dpaano November 28, 2017

      But, Richard, don’t you understand that if Trump “denies” that he did anything….that means that it didn’t happen? Remember, denying is truth; taking blame is “lies.”

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 28, 2017

      Hokey Smoke! Trump is going to wish he were Captain Peter “Wrongway” Peachfuzz after Flynn starts fessing up.

  6. dpaano November 28, 2017

    Let’s face it, Trump’s entire Cabinet and administration is crooked in one way or the other! However, the Republicans just turn a blind eye to the goings on in the White House. The manure is going to hit the rotating blade one of these days, and heads will definitely roll!

    Reply
    1. S.J. Jolly November 28, 2017

      Problem is, Trump’s political base so loves him, and hates government, that it will forgive or not believe any negative information about him and his administration. It could be years of legal fighting before any heads roll.

      1. Independent1 November 28, 2017

        Let’s hope not; let’s hope Mueller has or will collect enough evidence on Flynn, Trump and his cohorts that most of them will be sent up the river for years to come. (I’m hoping Mueller is collecting whatever evidence he’s gathering in a way that should Trump and his minions try to squash his final tribunal, that what evidence Mueller has collected will be disseminated to the nation and the world just like wikileaks has published it’s illegally gained information.)

  7. idamag November 28, 2017

    International mob, it used to be the theme of many novels and now it is a reality.

    Reply
  8. ivory69690@yahoo.com November 28, 2017

    DUMP 45 & the Gang Of Pinheads =GOP call the Democrats all talk no action . but their actions are a B/S tax plan that only the greedy rich make out on . their Tax plan adds $$ 3.5 T with a BIG T TRILLION TO THE COUNTRY’S DEBT more for the next generation and the one after that and so on pay for the greedy rich bastards get the money if thy pass it NOW THIS TAX PLAN IS A DISASTER and the clown thinks calling names like a child minded clown is the answer .GROW UP CHILD MINDED MORON !!

    Reply
  9. ivory69690@yahoo.com November 28, 2017

    all the presidents hv pardoned criminals, corrupt ppl, friends etc. This is nothing new ///yes i know but its BULL CHIT that DUMP 45 can give pardons to the very ones that Corruption was how the DUMPSTER got to where he’s at. something’s wrong with this . so say it comes down to his Russian B/F PUTTHEAD being found guilty of who knows going to trial then what ? he can be pardoned too ? so say if every thing is true and DUMP 45 did all the crimes and all the people that helped him do all the crimes thy all can get pardoned by the POS ? ill bet the greedy bastard DUMP 45 would get money from the pardons CIA 9mm path between his eyes ! before he pardons every one . still its not right for him to be able to do it and something should be done so he cant . if not then what the USA move after that ?and whats the world going to think or how will thy treat America after it . how can the USA get respect from anyone ? this is something that has to be fixed before it go’d feather . by all the ones in office and should be done before he can pull that kind of B/S

    Reply
  10. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 28, 2017

    Flynn needs a court marshal and serious jail time, and his son should serve time as well.
    This still may not be enough punishment for the greed and treasonous acts, if found guilty, to undo what Flynn is being investigated for. The vice of greed is stronger than we thought if a high-ranking military officer is willing to throw away a lucrative career just to promote a political ideology, while risking one’s own son in the process.

    Reply

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