Obama officials and the establishment media continue to wave the scalp of resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, trying to squeeze every last drop of anti-Trump narrative from the matter.
As I had said privately, Flynn was not long for remaining as NSA. It’s not because he’s a bad guy, and accusations that he was compromised by Russian intelligence are as absurd as the Trump dossier BuzzFeed published last month. It’s just that Flynn wasn’t ready for prime time; hopefully his replacement will be.
So here’s the latest.
The New York Times published a report last night claiming “Trump associates” had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, which other media outlets breathlessly hyped:
However, they chose to spin the NYT report as definitive proof that Trump was involved in “hacking the election.” Of course, the NYT report said … the precise opposite:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
OK, there goes that theory.
The other big story last night came from Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon. Kredo writes that the hit job on Flynn was driven by former Obama officials concerned about protecting secrets of the disastrous Iran deal:
A third source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration feared that Flynn would expose the secret agreements with Iran.
“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran,” the source said. “So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”
“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump,” the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. “Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”
It’s curious, then, that the architects of the Iran deal are enthusiastic about the frontrunner to replace Flynn, former Vice Admiral Robert Harward. This includes former Obama NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor:
Vice Adm Harward is a very impressive (and nice) guy. https://t.co/JYG9gzd1jr
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) February 14, 2017
And the Iran deal must be preserved at all costs:
Former PJ Media colleague Richard Pollock had the last interview with Flynn before his resignation. Pollock reported on what was actually discussed during that phone call with the Russian ambassador:
Flynn insisted that he crossed no lines in his telephone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed.”
Flynn said there was a brief discussion of the 35 Russian diplomats who were being expelled by Obama in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 campaign.
“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”
It’s important to recall what Flynn was accused of doing:
Here's the underlying offense Flynn committed which was supposedly so horrible. Oh my god. The outrage. pic.twitter.com/bWCJD3Hmq9
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) February 14, 2017
Yet absolutely no evidence has surfaced that anything in Flynn’s discussion with the Russian ambassador was illegal.
The heavy breathing by the media about supposed Logan Act violations is totally overwrought, as there has never been a successful Logan Act prosecution in two centuries. But it bears recalling that in 2008 as the Bush administration was trying to negotiate on the Iran nuclear program, those efforts were scuttled by the Obama campaign without any complaint from the media or calls for Logan Act prosecutions.
As our own Michael Ledeen reported here at PJ Media back in 2014:
During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies.
The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.
It is remarkable that invocations of the Logan Act (e.g. the letter from 47 Senate Republicans to the Iranian leader in 2015) only occur when it can be used to target Republicans.
Another issue coming out of the Flynn affair is the politicization of intelligence. House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is demanding to know why Flynn’s conversations were being wiretapped. As one of the congressional “Big 8,” if there were a covert program targeting Flynn, he would be one of the few to know:
“Any intelligence agency cannot listen to Americans’ phone calls,” Nunes told reporters Tuesday night. “If there’s inadvertent collection that you know is overseas there’s a whole process in place for that.”
He explained, “It’s pretty clear that’s not the case, so then they could have been listening to someone else and inadvertently picked up an American. If that happens, there’s a whole process in place to where they have to immediately get rid of the information unless it’s like high level national security issue and then someone would have to unmask the name — someone at the highest levels.”
“So in this case it would be General Flynn and then how did that happen. Then if they did that, then how does all that get out to the public which is another leak of classified information,” Nunes added. “I’m pretty sure the FBI didn’t have a warrant on Michael Flynn.”
Former House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King says the intelligence disclosures to the press were clearly illegal:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 15, 2017
Indeed, many in the media are warning about the implications of former Obama officials leaking highly classified signals intelligence intercepts involving U.S. persons.
Here’s Eli Lake at Bloomberg:
There is another component to this story as well — as Trump himself just tweeted. It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009 when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress.
Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.
In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence reports). John Bolton’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was derailed in 2006 after the NSA confirmed he had made 10 such requests when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control in George W. Bush’s first term. The fact that the intercepts of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag.
And Damon Linker at The Week:
Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. “Finally,” they say, “someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!” It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously.
And John Podheretz at the New York Post:
This information might have come because the US intelligence community has an active interest in the Russian official to whom he talked.
Or it could have come because the FBI had been pursuing some sort of secret investigation and had received authorization to monitor and track his calls and discussions.
If this was intelligence, the revelation of the Flynn meeting just revealed something to the Russians we shouldn’t want revealed — which is that we were listening in on them and doing so effectively.
And if it was an FBI investigation, then the iron principle of law enforcement — that evidence gathered in the course of an investigation must be kept secret to protect the rights of the American being investigated — was just put through a shredder.
Keeping our intelligence-gathering assets hidden from those upon whom we are spying is a key element of our national security.
And as for playing fast and loose with confidential information on American citizens: No joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you.
Of course, there are those who are loving them some deep state totalitarian tactics:
Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 14, 2017
The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious – and Wholly Justified – Felonies https://t.co/XUcrHvmkLP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 14, 2017