Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump Dam Bursting Faster and Here Come Flying Tigers!

Last week we went step-by-step through the accelerating decline of Donald Trump.  Run for the Hills! Trump's Dam Is Busting!  We walked through the "Michael Flynn Affair", then the "Inspector Clouseau Chronicle" of Rep. Devin Nunes. Then came the two stunning disclosures from the recent House and Senate hearings, the first being the announcement by FBI Director James Comey that the intelligence community has been investigating Trump & Co since July 2016 for possible collusion with the Russians in sabotaging the election.

The other disclosure was in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last Thursday and was actually even bigger news, though generally missed by the media: the report by former FBI agent and intelligence expert Clint Watt, describing how Trump was in effect a Russian megaphone, actively assisting their interference with the 2016 election by blaring out the Russian lies and propaganda to rallies of thousands and to millions on TV and to the Net by tweet.  If he thus assisted the Russians knowingly, that's treasonous aid to a force hostile to the United States.

To cap all this off, last week ended wth Trump's aide Michael Flynn offering to tell "quite a story" in exchange for immunity from prosecution. That's where we left off last Friday. As you recall, Flynn had been fired from his job heading U.S. security when his earlier phone calls with the Russian ambassador came to light. In the intervening weeks since the firing, something has spooked Flynn to want immunity from prosecution.

(Sources for all the foregoing are at my preceding blog post cited in the first paragraph.)

Let's pick it up there. Plenty more has unfolded in this drama, and this new week is just half over!

Act 9: First Rat Flees the Ship!
Picture Michael Flynn sniffing around the deck edge of the sinking Trump ship, a rat looking for a way to jump ship and get safely to shore. Having offered to tell tales to reach the safety of immunity from prosecution, he has to give the feds enough goodies on Trump & Co. Anything less and the feds will reject his offer to be a fink.

What kind of deal can Flynn get and what can he tell to get it?

To assess whether he can make an immunity bargain, there are two elements: (1) what inside info does he have that will advance the FBI's present investigation of possible collusion between Trump & Co and the Russians regarding the 2016 election, and (2) how much does the FBI have with which to threaten Flynn to tell all?

We can't know what Flynn knows until he squeals. But we do know the FBI can threaten Flynn with a triple-barreled gun. First, they already have Flynn cold on a charge of failing to register as a foreign agent. This stems from his work promoting Turkey in 2015 and being paid about a half-million dollars, in part for trying to help Turkey kidnap a Muslim cleric dissident from somewhere in my neighborhood.  Trump team knew Michael Flynn might register as a foreign ...  (Also see the footnote below for there being an about-to-be-kidnapped Turkish Muslim cleric dissident in my neightborhood.)

Second, they have Flynn nailed on a charge of failing to report income, i.e. "speaking fees" from Russia in 2015. He also ate dinner with Putin. That's not a crime though quite disgusting. Could Michael Flynn Turn on Trump?)

The big question is the third possible charge. Did Flynn improperly negotiate with the Russians while a member of Trump's transition team? On December 29 President Obama imposed severe sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the newly-revealed Russian interference in our 2016 election. We now know for sure that Flynn immediately discussed these sanctions with the Russians, and we know that thereafter Putin uncharacteristically took no retaliatory action. Could Michael Flynn Turn on Trump?  Did Flynn negotiate some deal with Russia about removing the sanctions or negotiate anything else that appeased Putin but undercut the authority of the still-President Obama?

Act 10: Can Flynn Take Trump Overboard with Him? 
Only Flynn's third offense has hooks into Trump. If Flynn's talk with the Russian ambassador was a crime and done at Trump's direction, he could take Trump down with him.

But was it a crime?

The short answer is "yes".  See this excellent article:  Many think this law is obsolete. It could actually be a big problem for Trump. (For an historical footnote on a similar Nixon incident and a possible chuckle, see the end of this posting.)

Act 11: Bombshell This A.M., And Nunes the Mouse Scuttles Off the Ship!
With Flynn as a rat, it's easy to picture Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) as a mouse. He actually looks a bit like Mickey Mouse! Until this morning he was the chair of the House Intelligence Committee investigation of possible Trump/Russia collusion in sabotaging the 2016 election. Now he's recused himself, scampering across the kitchen floor to get out of sight. Because Nunes had become a water carrier for Trump, trying to switch the House Committee investgation off topic and playing spy games at night on the White House grounds, he has been pressured to drop his role as head of the House investigation.  But there's more!

Just as he was recusing himself from the House Committee — BOOM! — came the next bombshell: Nunes himself is now under investigation!

And for doing what? For disclosing secret information, says the investigating House Ethics Committee.

He fell on a sword for Trump. What a pathetic thing to do!

Well, folks, this drama is actually a bit of a mystery and quite a bit comedy. There's still lots of unanswered questions. Here's a big one:

Is there anyone in Trump's circus who is not under investigation?

Act 12: What's Next?
Who would dare to guess?

We do know one more thing now — and it's important and serious — with Nunes gone as chair of the House Intelligence Committee it's less likely Flynn will get a grant of immunity from that committee. Such could have protected so much of what he says that the FBI wouldn't have any leverage either to get more information out of him or prosecute him after all the publicity. That's what saved Oliver North on appeal of his conviction in the Iranian arms/hostage scandal under Reagan. As Trump's water boy, Nunes would probably have given away the store to Flynn to keep him sweet.

What a bunch!


Footnote re dissident Muslim cleric in my neighborhood in order to hide out from Turkey. Well, the news reports do say he's hiding out in rural Pennsylvania so he's around here somewhere.  (I have to get a laugh out of this stuff sometimes. Otherwise the Trump disaster could be crushingly depressing!)

Footnote on Flynn's unreported Russian fees: "Flynn first met Trump in August, 2015, just weeks after Trump entered the Presidential race. A few weeks later, Flynn appeared on RT, Russia’s English-language TV network, which the American intelligence community recently described as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” In December, 2015, Flynn gave a paid speech in Moscow and attended RT’s tenth-anniversary gala, where he dined sitting next to Vladimir Putin. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Flynn “collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015,” including some forty-five thousand dollars for the RT event." Could Michael Flynn Turn on Trump? - The New Yorker

Footnote re end-runs around a president on foreign policy: As a candidate for president in1968 Nixon tried an even uglier end-run around retiring President Lyndon Johnson in order to block Johnson's vice-president Hubert Humphrey from winning the presidency. Through an intermediary Nixon sought to scuttle peace negotiations Johnson had nearly achieved in the Vietnam War. The announcement of the negotiations would have helped the Democrats retain the White House. Shortly before the election, Johnson's intelligence community caught the Nixon trying to sabotage the effort, but Humphrey asked Johnson to let it go rather than tear the country apart by enforcing the applicable criminal law. Humphrey was a decent man and a true patriot. Nixon was neither. As far as Nixon was concerned, people could go on dying in Vietnam just so he could nab the presidency. (Lot of good it did him! Kharma came in due course and knocked him out of the White House in disgrace.) I remember all this from 1968 but you can verify by checking the Anna Chennault entry in Wikipedia.

Years later, I had a strange encounter with Nixon's intermediary in the sabotaging of Johnson's near-peace achievement — a woman named Anna Chennault, a Chinese woman, widow of Lt. General Claire Chennault, hero of the American war effort in China in World War II. He was adored as the leader of the colorful and famed "Flying Tigers" who braved all hazards to fly war materiel from India to China over the Burma mountains. I met her when a dear woman named Lillian called and begged my help after she'd been cornered into hosting an event for Anna Chennault in San Jose, California, near where we lived. I despised Anna Chennault for her dirty work in helping Nixon, but I loved Lillian for her unending good works for the poor, into which she was always dragging me. Now she was begging, "Please help me. Nobody wants come to the reception we are having for her! Please come and bring people so we can make it look like a good crowd." Who can say no to Lillian? I tried to get people to go and no one would. So I rounded up my six kids, combed their hair, and dragged them protesting to the event. "Look like a crowd," I instructed them. There we were: Lillian and her husband, me and six bored kids, and Anna Chennault in a room big enough for a hundred people.

Oddly enough, Anna Chennault is still alive at 91. I hope she reads this and realizes nobody liked her after she helped elect the second worst president in U.S. history, Trump of course being the worst.

Maybe she joined with the Russians and helped Trump too?

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