Michael Flynn’s Arrest Doesn’t Prove Russiagate…and Could Backfire
If you believe the big media outlets, the “Russiagate” investigation—the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—has the found a proverbial smoking gun in Michael Flynn’s pocket. But Michael Flynn’s arrest could backfire against the Russiagate pundits and the political establishment that have been driving it.
Robert Mueller and the FBI have what they need to secure President Donald Trump’s impeachment, claim Hillary Clinton supporters in the rapturous messages they’ve posted for each other on social media. In their minds, Christmas would appear to have come early to Washington. Hark! the herald angels sing: behold the proof of Russiagate; Michael Flynn has confessed.
The “Hillarati” would have had carols and hymns composed by now, celebrating this event were it not, perhaps, for a few—putting it mildly—glaring problems with Flynn’s connection to Russiagate.
Bluntly put, Flynn is in trouble because he lied to the FBI. He’s guilty of perjury for failing to disclose a meeting with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn resigned—was fired—from his post as national security adviser on February 13, 2017. The official reason was that Flynn was less than exhaustive in his account of the meeting with Kislyak to Vice-President Pence.
How Does Flynn’s Perjury Indictment Prove Russian Involvement in the Vote?
The big question is: does this prove the uproar that the media, top Democrats, and Republicans such as John McCain have raised about Russian interference in the 2016 vote?
No, the contrary has more chances of being proven than the Russian collusion tale.
There’s a crucial item to keep in mind about Flynn’s talks with the Russian diplomat: it’s standard practice. The Trump transition team had every right to meet foreign officials in the weeks preceding the inauguration to prepare. (Source: Mueller Investigation: Politics, Not Law Enforcement or Counterintelligence, National Review, December 2, 2017.) Bill Clinton’s team did; and you can bet that Obama’s team did also. It’s more than normal; it would seem desirable.
But, even to secure Flynn’s prosecution, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had to rely on the Logan Act. President John Adams signed it into Law in 1799 after Pennsylvania State legislator George Logan—who then became senator in 1800—negotiated the end of the “Quasi-War” with France during a visit to Paris. When he returned, he was denounced—not arrested—for having colluded with a foreign power.
Mueller Pulls “Ye Olde Logan Act” out of the Attic
Mueller is using the Logan Act because Russia and the United States have not been the best of friends lately. Flynn is reportedly guilty of violating the Logan Act because he asked the Russians to hold off on any potential diplomatic retaliation after President Obama expelled various Russian diplomats from the United States.
So, far then, Mueller has no proof of Russiagate. Indeed, Russiagate implies Russian interference in U.S. affairs. In Flynn’s case it was an American presidential transition team asking the Russians for a favor. At best, if Mueller wants to enforce the rarely used Logan Act to put Flynn on trial, he can. But, those who think this serves as evidence of Russian collusion in the election may be disappointed.
Flynn’s indictment shook Washington and even Wall Street—if only for a few hours.
But, for how long will Mueller and the Russiagate supporters be able to keep up the charade?
Surely, Flynn was an uncomfortable personage for many D.C. institutions. Flynn retired, under duress in 2016, from his position as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to which then-President Obama had appointed him in 2012.
While working to get Trump elected, Flynn—a registered Democrat—did have contact with foreigners as part of his new role as a lobbyist, capitalizing his loftily placed contacts in Washington and beyond.
Flynn attended a celebration of media outlet Russia Today‘s anniversary in Moscow, receiving $40,000 for a speech.
The newly elected President Trump wanted him to serve as his National Security Advisor. But, as Obama found out, Flynn was less than enamored with U.S. foreign policy. He wanted the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in fighting ISIS in Syria; he may even have wanted to “reform” the various three -and four-letter agencies, including the CIA. Is it any surprise that he was out within three weeks of taking office?
Should Trump Start Shaking in His Oxfords?
Mueller’s use of the Logan Act could certainly produce additional indictments, leading directly to the president. After all that’s what the FBI and detractors want. Flynn, in exchange for some kind of immunity, could agree to testify that Trump asked him to contact the Russians. Flynn could also get to Trump through the president’s relatives in the White House, such as son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Of course, Trump has a right to a legal defense team, which could use facts against Flynn, including his past work under Obama and the fact that—after all—Trump did fire Flynn. The case could be made that the reason for the firing was the very same for which Mueller has indicted him.
Still, regardless of what Mueller uses against Trump, observers objective enough to remove their “Boris and Natasha”-informed accusations will have to admit that Russiagate, aka Russian interference in U.S. politics and elections, is far from being proven.
The better conclusion might be that it’s nonexistent. This would allow both the Democrats and Republicans to go back to being worried about what American voters really want. It may also prompt Hillary Clinton to reach deep within herself and find the courage to confront her ghosts and responsibilities for losing to Trump.
The further Mueller goes down this McCarthyan path, the more evidence he may uncover to weaken the Russiagate case. Sooner or later, the Democrats will realize that pursuing the witch-hunt will result in indictment fatigue—i.e. they will become concerned about the waste of effort and funds involved—for American voters. It will backfire.