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The Fall-out from Flynn’s Flip

The guy who was filling in for Sean Hannity on the radio Friday assured his audience that former national security advisor Mike Flynn’s guilty plea to a charge of lying the Federal Bureau of Investigation just goes to show how very weak is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the “Russia thing,” and Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz was saying the same thing. Pretty much everyone else thought it spelled big trouble for President Donald Trump, though, and despite our aversion to the conventional wisdom we’re inclined to agree.
The Sean Hannity show’s full time job these days is finding that elusive silver lining in whatever dark cloud hovers over the Trump administration, Dershowitz is by now more an instinctive contrarian than a serious scholar, and at this point the conventional wisdom is far more compelling. At the very least, Trump’s apologists have to admit that the man he chose as his most trusted foreign policy advisor has now confessed to lying to the FBI, and after all his other picks that have also been defenestrated and subsequently indicted it is increasingly hard to believe is campaign boasts that he only hires the very best people. There’s also ample reason to believe that Flynn is about to dish some serious dirt about that “Russia thing.”
Flynn’s frequently revised security clearance forms and belated admissions of well-compensated dealings on behalf of Turkey and Russia while working for the Trump campaign and then the administration, along with his recent admission of lying about it to the FBI, surely could have resulted in more serious charges, not to mention some scary and all-too-credible counts against his idiot son, who was kicked off the Trump transition team for some “tweets” about the far-fetched “Pizza-gate” conspiracy theory that Democratic presidential nominee was running a satanic child sex-abuse ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria. To the Hannity guest host and the Harvard professor the fact that the Flynns are getting off light is proof that Mueller hasn’t got anything better, but the counter-argument that they wouldn’t have got such a sweet deal from such a shrewd dealer as Mueller without offering some useful testimony on the higher-ups is far more convincing.
A three-star Army general and one-time director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the administration of President Barack Obama, Flynn was Trump’s top foreign policy advisor during the campaign, held the same role during the transition, and was chosen as Trump’s national security advisor after the inauguration, so there aren’t a lot of higher-ups he implicate in exchange for such a seemingly sweet deal. The very short list would include Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was somehow the most senior and trusted of all those best people Trump promised to hire, and Vice President Mike Pence, who can rightly claim that he insisted on Flynn’s resignation after Flynn had lied to him, and of course Trump himself.
By now Trump’s team is describing Flynn as a former Obama appointee, which is undeniably true, but there’s also no denying that Obama later fired the guy, and personally warned Trump not to re-hire him in any capacity, and that shortly before she was fired by Trump a holdover Obama appointee in the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn was under investigation and susceptible to Russian blackmail, and that Trump stayed loyal to his man fore more than two weeks after that until the free press made it impossible. Trump stayed somewhat loyal to Flynn even after that, and according to the sworn testimony of fired FBI director James Comey the president even urged that the FBI give his beloved general a pass, and it wasn’t until Flynn had clearly started to cooperate with the special counsel that the Trump team started damning him as an Obama appointee. Whatever dirt Mueller might dish on Trump or his son-in-law or vice president, Trump will have have to walk back a lot of previous praise for his most trusted foreign policy advisor.
Harvard’s Dershowitz makes a plausible argument that by confessing lies to the FBI he casts any evidence he gives from now on as suspect, and when Hannity gets back on the air he’ll no doubt take up the same argument, but we and by now pretty much everyone else will be more inclined to believe whatever testimony he gives to avoid all the more serious charges against him and his idiot son. The guy Trump chose as his national security adviser once worked for the Russian propaganda network Russia Today, led a standing ovation for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin at a Moscow dinner where he gave a speech, and explained to a congressional committee that he’d been paid by his speaker’s bureau rather than the Russian government, claiming not to know if the speaker’s bureau had been recompensed by the Russian government, but he was once a three-star Army general and a high-ranking Obama appointee, so there’s no telling how his testimony will play. Trump has consistently been as complimentary as Flynn to Putin’s dictatorship, with the same affinity to the increasingly totalitarian Islamic government in Turkey that Flynn worked for during for his tenure as national security advisor, and no matter how anti-climatic Flynn’s testimony might prove it doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile, the guy Trump once chose as campaign manager and his business partner are expensively contesting the special counsel’s charges regarding their own Russian business ties, Trump’s trusted senior advisor son-in-law has legal and financial and potentially Russian-related problems that are reportedly complicated by Flynn’s testimony in exchange for that sweetheart deal, and Trump’s own idiot namesake son is also reportedly in the special counsel’s crosshairs. Trump’s team is insisting this “Russia thing” will be finished year’s end with a complete exoneration, but at this point we doubt it.

— Bud Norman

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The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

President Donald Trump and his son-law and other key members of his administration have lately been hiring personal legal counsel, which is well-advised and by no means implies anything nefarious, but we find their choices of attorneys rather eyebrow-raising. The lawyers often turn out to be some of the most intriguing characters in these long-running television dramas, and in this case no mere screenwriter could have come up with anything quite so colorful.
What Trump calls “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” thus far one of the main plot lines of the show, has reached the point that a House committee and Senate committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Special Counsel are looking into it, and although Trump plausibly dismisses it all as “fake news” he’s nonetheless wisely lawyered up. Throughout his long and now-legendary career in the private sector Trump has frequently been required to hire legal representation, and in his current predicament he’s once again turned to the same lawyers and the same bare-knuckle legal tactics he’s relied on in the past.
In his early days as a proudly bare-knuckle real estate developer Trump relied on the legal talents of Roy Cohn, one of the more colorful characters in countless American lawyer shows. Cohn first gained fame way back in the ’50s as the take-no-prisoners adviser to Sen. Joe McCarthy, urging on an often reckless anti-Communist crusade that ended with that widely-watched “Have you no shame?” moment on national television after a baseless claim of treason against some sympathetic low-level government employee, and he stayed in the papers by representing New York mafioso and the owners of the cocaine-and-sex-orgy Studio 54 nightclub and any other high-profile clients who needed his famously aggressive legal tactics. He also represented Trump and his real-estate mogul father in their fight against a Justice Department allegation that they’d discriminated against their black and Latino tenants, along with some other more middling matters about their businesses, and Trump has often spoken kindly of his tough guy style. That same approach eventually got Cohn disbarred when he started harassing some obnoxiously rich but otherwise innocent pillar of New York City society with his usual blizzard of threatening letters, and  not long after the outspokenly anti-homosexual lawyer who’d had numerous suspected homosexuals kicked out of the military back in the McCarthy days died  in 1988 at the age of 59 from complications of AIDS, most likely a result of one of his frequent sexual encounters with men, but in his most recent comments about the man Trump still praised his style.
Since Cohn’s disbarment and ultimate demise Trump has mostly relied on the advice of Michael Cohen and Marc Kasowitz, both of whom are known in New York legal circles for their similarly tough guy approach to the law.
Kasowitz was graduated from Yale but had to settle for a law degree from Cornell University, then made his fame and started his fortune by defending the major tobacco companies from all the lawsuits that business entailed, and he wound up with Trump as a very lucrative client. He represented Trump in one of his two divorces and all the complicated bankruptcy proceedings regarding his failed casinos and a fraud suit against Trump University, along with hundreds of claims of unpaid bills, and he sent some harassing letters to the women who publicly claimed  during the past presidential campaign that Trump had sexually harassed them, and we’d guess he’s billed his usual $1,500-an-hour-advice on countless other matters. Trump came out of the divorce with a still-sizable fortune and a glamorous nudie model third wife, and while his investors lost collective billions in those casinos he came out millions ahead, and they settled that Trump University lawsuit for a mere $25 million to plaintiffs and surprisingly few headlines, and despite all those other matters he’s the president, so despite Kasowitz’ lack of Washington experience we can see why Trump trusts his attorney’s advice.
Still, he seems an odd choice to deal with this Russia thing with Trump and Russia. It’s not just that Kasowitz provides an excuse for every snarky journalist to once again mention Trump’s two divorces and more numerous bankruptcies and scam university schemes and all those unpaid bills and countless other matters in his now-legendary private sector career, but that he’s also got his own Russian ties. His law firm of Kasowitz, Benson and Torres — which was Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman until until the bankruptcy-specialist Friedman left to become Trump’s ambassador to Israel  — also represents a Russian bank, OJSC Sberbank, and a Russian billionaire with the same predictable ties to the Kremlin.
Cohen, a former executive vice president of the Trump Organization and famously combative spokesman for the Trump campaign and administration, is also on the job of defending Trump in this Russia thing with Trump and Russia, but he’s also got his own legal problems about that. The House and Senate committees have both asked him about his contacts with the Kremlin , and so far he’s  refusing to provide the requested information. None of this proves anything, we’ll readily agree, but Trump and his most hopeful supporters should admit that it doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile, the president’s son-in-law has lawyered up with Jamie Gorelick, which is possibly the weirdest plot twist yet. Jared Kushner, the bare-knuckle real estate mogul husband of Trump’s most beloved daughter and his pick to negotiate Middle East peace and reinvent the federal government and deal with China and end the opioid crisis in America is also reported to have been in meetings with Russian banks and is reportedly a “person of interest” in that Russia thing with Trump and Russia, so one can hardly blame him for picking a well-connected Washington insider such as Gorelick to guide him through it. The eminently well-connected-to-the-Democrats Gorelick, though, seems an odd choice.
She really should be at least as infamous as Roy Cohn, as far we’re concerned. Her first mention in the papers came as a deputy attorney general appointed by President Bill Clinton when she was “field commander” in the botched raid on some religious nuts in Waco, Texas, which left 20 children and 60 adults dead, and which earned her a promotion to a higher post where she implemented the “wall” between domestic and foreign intelligence agencies. We’ll assume she had the best intention of protecting citizens from intrusive surveillance, but as predicted the policy also kept the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency from sharing the information that could have prevented the terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001. For that she was rewarded with control of the Federal National Mortgage Association, where she stubbornly and successfully resisted President George W. Bush’s proposed reforms to a crazy Clinton-era sub-prime mortgage scheme that led to the financial meltdown of 2008.
After playing a starring role in the most deadly attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression she was briefly floated as President Barack Obama’s pick for Attorney General, and although that somehow didn’t happen Gorelick continued to serve the Democratic Party by helping a George Soros-funded non-profit get a say who in gets a non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service ,and helping Duke University deal with the lacrosse team they’d falsely accused of gang rape in a racially-charged case , and vouching for Obama’s ultimately unconfirmed last Supreme Court nominee, among other high-dollar matters for the left.
There’s no denying she’s a well-connected D.C. lawyer and a ruthlessly tough survivor of some vicious fights, and she came out a reported $25 million ahead after that still-ongoing 2008 recession, so we can well understand why Trump’s son-in-law, whose own bare-knuckle real estate mogul father did some federal time on illegal campaign contribution and witness-tampering charges, might turn to her. She’ll no doubt be a fierce defender in whatever court of law Kushner might find himself in, where those Democratic connections might well prove useful, but we don’t expect she’ll be a very popular character in either the cheering or jeering sections of the court of public opinion.
Once again we’ll stipulate that none of this proves anything, and that we have no idea what the next plot twist will bring, but we can’t shake an unpleasant feeling about where this heading.

— Bud Norman