There are ongoing criminal investigations into every major component of Donald Trump’s universe, including the campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidential administration, Trump Foundation, and Trump Organization. There are seven different prosecution teams pursuing 17 separate court cases. It is breathtaking. This week, the metaphor of “the wheels have fallen off” the Trump presidency has been cited ubiquitously, and not only by Democrats.
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— RECENT HEADLINES –
“WSJ Reports Trump Inaugural Cmte. Under Criminal Investigation for: 1) Misappropriating Funds; 2) Receiving Foreign Donations Through Straw Donors; 3) Trading Donations for Access” (12/13/2018)
“Trump Was in Room With Lawyer Michael Cohen, AMI CEO David Pecker While They Planned ‘Catch and Kill’ Scheme to Protect Candidate Trump From Embarrassing Infidelity Stories” (12/13/2018)
“Maria Butina Pleads to, Agrees to Cooperate for, 1 Count of Failing to Register as Foreign Agent; 1st Russian in Trump-Russia Probe to Plead or Be Convicted” (12/13/2018)
“7-Yr.-Old Girl Dies of Dehydration, Exhaustion Due to Border Patrol Custody Negligence” (12/13/2018)
“Senate Defies Trump, Votes to Cut Saudi Funding for Yemen War; House Considers Next” (12/13/2018)
“Trump Hires From Within, Names Mick Mulvaney WH Chief of Staff in Desperate Attempt to Stop Narrative That Nobody Wants the Job; Mulvaney Insists on ‘Acting’ Status” (12/14/2018)
“TX Fed. Judge Rules ACA Unconstitutional; Remains in Place for Now; 5th Circuit Is Next” (12/14/2018)
“Ivanka Oversaw Trump Inaugural Cmte. Overpayments to Trump Org. for Hotel, Services” (12/14/2018)
“Michael Cohen Does 1st Interview Since Sentencing: I ‘won’t be the villain of this story’; Why Believe Him Now? Lots of ‘Corroboration’” (12/14/2018)
“At Least 6 Trump Entities Are Being Criminally Investigated, Including Campaign, Transition, Inaugural Cmte., Trump Org., Trump Foundation, Trump Administration” (12/14/2018)
“Rudy Giuliani on Trump Campaign Finance Violations: ‘Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed. … This was not a big crime.’” (12/14/2018)
“Sec. of Interior Ryan Zinke Resigns, Is Subject of 15 Ethics Violation Investigations” (12/15/2018)
“Paris Climate Accords Energized, Even w/o U.S.; Tasks Are Codified, Put Into Action” (12/15/2018)
“Trump Called Fmr. Personal Attorney a ‘Rat,’ Is Widely Criticized for Using Mob Terminology, Publicly Criticizing a Government Witness, Continuing to Berate FBI” (12/16/2018)
“2 Michael Flynn Associates (Business Partner, High-Level Trump Transition Official) Indicted for Illegal Lobbying for Turkey; This Is One Crime Flynn Committed but Was Not Charged With” (12/17/2018)
“2 Senate Reports on Russian Election Interference Released: 1) More Extensive Than Previously Known; 2) Huge Effort to Depress Black Vote; 3) Efforts Increased After Election, to Prop Up Trump, Discredit Robert Mueller; 4) Trump Rhetoric Has Mirrored Russian Propaganda Over Past 2 Yrs.” (12/17/2018)
“In July 2016, Flynn Publicly Supported Turkish Coup; Within 11 Days, He Switched Positions, Advocated for U.S. to Extradite Turkish Cleric Living in PA Wanted by Turkey’s President, Who Suspected Cleric of Leading Coup From U.S.; Magic Ingredient: $600K Turkish Lobbying Contract” (12/17/2018)
“Dow Drops 507 Points” (12/17/2017)
“Michael Flynn Sentencing Delayed 90 Days; Judge Chastises Him for Crimes: ‘Arguably, you sold your country out. … I’m not hiding my disgust.’” (12/18/2018)
“Flynn’s Court Filing Last Week Backfires Bigly: Judge Blasts Team Flynn for Attempting to Mitigate Flynn’s Lying to FBI by Saying FBI Never Warned Him It Was a Crime” (12/18/2018)
“Trump Foundation Dissolved by Court Due to ‘a shocking pattern of illegality’; Court Added, Fund Served ‘as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests’; $1.5M Balance Will Go to Real Charities; Case Still Proceeds Against Trump, 3 Oldest Children” (12/18/2018)
“Trump Allows Bump Stock Ban; Little Pushback From Gun Rights Groups” (12/18/2018)
“Senate Passes Sweeping Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform; Kudos all Around” (12/18/2018)
“After Call w/ Turkish President, Trump Abruptly Tweet-Pulls 2,000 Troops out of Syria, w/ No Process, No Notice to Pentagon, Congress; Considered Foolish Gift to Russia, Iran” (12/19/2018)
“Trump Lifts Sanctions on Oligarch Oleg Deripaska; Another Suspicious Gift to Russia” (12/19/2018)
“Mueller Asks for Unredacted Official Version of Roger Stone Congressional Testimony” (12/19/2018)
“Maria Butina Reportedly Giving Mueller Grand Jury Testimony as Part of Plea Deal” (12/19/2018)
“Sec. of Defense James Mattis Resigns w/ Scathing Letter to Trump; Syria Last Straw” (12/20/2018)
“U.S. in Crisis After Mattis Resignation; Even Republicans Fear Admin. Wheels Are Off” (12/20/2018)
“Judge Emmet G. Sullivan offered his view of the issues raised by Flynn’s defense team [and those of President Trump and Trump apologists] in their request for a light sentence, including  the possibility of entrapment,  the fact that the deputy director of the FBI had advised Flynn not to have counsel present when he was interviewed by the FBI, and  that the agents who interviewed him later said that he did not appear to have lied.
[JUDGE SULLIVAN]: ‘I cannot recall any incident in which the court has accepted a plea of guilty from someone who maintained he was not guilty and I don’t intend to start today.’ …
“Judge Sullivan asked Flynn whether he wished to challenge the unusual circumstances under which he was questioned by the FBI, or whether he wished to postpone sentencing, or to confer with his lawyers. Flynn declined and reiterated that he was guilty of the charge of lying to the FBI. He said that he had been aware lying to the FBI was a crime — though he had not been advised as such by the agents. Flynn’s lawyer also denied that his client had been ‘entrapped by the FBI’ when questioned by the judge.
“Judge Sullivan [gives] Flynn one final shot to withdraw his guilty plea … asks if he wants to proceed:
[MICHAEL FLYNN]: ‘I would like to proceed.’
[JUDGE SULLIVAN]: ‘Because you’re guilty?’
[MICHAEL FLYNN] ‘Yes, your honor.’
[JUDGE SULLIVAN]: ‘Now proceeding.’ …
“Judge Sullivan noted … that lying to the FBI — especially in the White House — was a ‘serious offense’ and that Flynn had ‘sold out’ the country. He even asked prosecutors whether Flynn should have been charged with treason. [The judge later clarified that he was not implying Flynn had committed treason.]
[JUDGE SULLIVAN]: ‘This is a very serious offense. A high-ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while in the physical premises of the White House. … Arguably, you sold your country out.’”
(Pollak, Joel B.; “Judge Sullivan to Michael Flynn: ‘Arguably, You Sold Your Country Out’”; Breitbart; 12/18/2018.)
Note that the above report comes from Breitbart. Even Breitbart is compelled to report this truth: Michael Flynn is a self-admitted felon who lied to the FBI without any coercion or trickery, and he committed other felonies for which he wasn’t charged.
This is important because the primary Trumpian and right-wing talking point about Flynn’s case was that he was a lifelong Boy Scout who was tricked unfairly into telling a white lie to the police. Trump and his enablers have been hammering the sub-points mentioned above to support this conspiracy theory since Michael Flynn was indicted.
Sub-Point No. 1: Entrapment
President Trump and his far-right enablers claim Flynn was entrapped by the FBI. Even Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano debunked that:
“President Donald Trump and many other Republicans — including a long list of carnival barkers at Fox News and Fox Business — have been painting Michael Flynn as a victim of ‘entrapment.’ Flynn, former national security adviser for the Trump Administration, admitted to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the late 2016 lame duck session. And when Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on Fox Business’ ‘Mornings with Maria’ on December 17, host Maria Bartiromo echoed the claim that Flynn was ‘entrapped’ by the FBI. But Napolitano set the record straight by explaining that legally, Flynn was not ‘entrapped.’
“Napolitano said of Flynn, ‘Though they trapped him, it is not entrapment. Entrapment is when you resist, you resist, you resist [which Flynn did not do] — and they push and they push and they push [which the FBI agents did not do]. … Here’s the thing: his guilty plea was given under oath. If [Flynn] retracts that, it’s perjury. So he’s really in a bind right now.’”
(Henderson, Alex; “Watch: Fox News Legal Analyst Smacks Down Right-Wing Talking Point Claiming Flynn Was ‘Entrapped’ by Mueller”; Alternet; 12/17/2018.)
Sub-Point No. 2: FBI Urged Flynn to Refuse Counsel
One of their claims was that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pressured Flynn not to have counsel present at the White House meeting. McCabe’s then-boss then-FBI Director James Comey put this fairy tale to bed:
“Former FBI Director James Comey says Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, was told he could have an attorney present during a meeting with bureau officials last year, but Comey also says officials told Flynn the interview would be faster without one. ‘I believe the deputy director volunteered to him that you are welcome to have somebody present from the White House Counsel’s Office,’ Comey told lawmakers on Monday, according to a transcript released Tuesday. ‘And I think he said, in substance, there’d be no need for that.’”
(Morin, Rebecca; “Comey: FBI Told Flynn He Could Have Lawyer in Interview”; Politico; 12/18/2018.)
Sub-Point No. 3: Mueller Overruled FBI
This claim purports that FBI agents reported after their interview that Flynn didn’t lie, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller overruled the Bureau and indicted him anyway. This is inaccurately derived from transcripts of FBI officials’ congressional testimony early this year in which then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified the two interviewing agents said they “didn’t think [Flynn] was lying.” They saw no “indicators of deception.”
Part of what they were referring to was Flynn’s body language, that he didn’t behave as if he were lying. This is because Flynn had solidified his narrative with the vice president and other transition team members. Prosecutors said, “By the time of the FBI interview, the defendant was committed to his false story.”
The agents also didn’t know the complete backstory when they gave their report. They didn’t realize some of Flynn’s lies were lies until certain information arose later. Moreover, James Comey denied ever telling lawmakers that the agents didn’t believe Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators — though Republican congressional committee members put this in their report.
The special counsel’s recent court filing rebuts the assertion that it overrode the FBI, stating the following:
“The defendant chose to make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador weeks before the FBI interview, when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming vice president, and other members of the presidential transition team. When faced with the FBI’s questions on January 24, [2017,] during an interview that was voluntary and cordial, the defendant repeated the same false statements. The Court should reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI.”
(“Government’s Reply to Defendant’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing”; United States of America v. Michael T. Flynn, Case: 1:17-cr-00232-EGS, Document 56; 12/14/2018.)
Just for good measure, let’s let Donald weigh in:
“They gave General Flynn a great [plea] deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!……”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter post; 12/13/2018.)
One of the primary questions about the whole Flynn case is, Why did he lie to the FBI? In the weeks before Inauguration Day, he had legitimate reason to be in contact with foreign officials — including Russian Ambassador Kislyak — as the incoming national security adviser. We now know Flynn reassured Kislyak, during the transition-period phone call, that Trump would lift the recent Obama sanctions after taking office, and that Flynn urged Russia not to retaliate. (And to the world’s surprise, Putin did not retaliate). But he could have gotten away with saying he “mentioned” sanctions in a general way, which would have been considered inappropriate but not illegal.
Why did he lie? And why is lying about Russia — sometimes even when seemingly unnecessary — such a strong pattern with so many people in Trump World?
Just This Week
The investigations surrounding The Donald are mounting fast. Just this week there are a half-dozen blockbuster stories, any one of which alone would have mortally wounded any other presidency:
— The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump inaugural committee is under criminal investigation for the following: 1) misappropriated and unaccounted-for funds; 2) illegally receiving foreign donations hidden by using U.S. straw donors; and 3) selling access to the president-elect and his top people through solicited donations.
— It has been confirmed that the “other campaign official” (besides personal lawyer Cohen) — involved in the National Enquirer scheme to “catch and kill” embarrassing stories of infidelity about the candidate — was Donald himself. Donald Trump was literally in the room with his “fixer” Michael Cohen and AMI CEO David Pecker when they formulated the plan to protect Trump from stories of infidelity by finding and paying hush money to the women.
As Mr. Cohen said to George Stephanopoulos in an interview after Donald’s attorney began cooperating with prosecutors, these were clearly campaign finance violations (contrary to Team Trump’s claim). The meeting occurred right after the Access Hollywood tape came out (in which Trump bragged about being able to sexually assault women and get away with it because he’s a celebrity). The candidate was afraid any additional negative stories would tank his candidacy.
— President Trump resorted to mafia language in calling Cohen a “rat” this week for cooperating with prosecutors. Michael declared to Stephanopoulos that he will not let his former client and the current president make him “the villain of this story” (of course, Trump blames the paramour payoffs and all other funny business on Cohen). When asked why we should believe him now — in light of his years of lying for Trump and himself — Cohen replied, “Corroboration,” and lots of it.
— Recently arrested Russian operative Maria Butina has agreed to a plea cooperation deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Trump-Russia probe. She is pleading to one count of failing to register as a foreign agent. What she actually did was infiltrate the NRA to establish collaboration and communication channels to help the Trump campaign — all illegal when done by foreigners. Butina is reportedly augmenting her special counsel cooperation with grand jury testimony.
— The president’s daughter Ivanka has been implicated in a scheme to have the Trump inaugural committee pay vastly inflated fees to the Trump Organization for banquet and meeting rooms, hotel rooms, catering, and other services. It’s important to realize that this amounts to Trump Org. laundering of stolen money from inaugural committee funds.
— After denying for almost a year that Donald never knew about, let alone made, payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Trump’s media attorney, Rudy Giuliani, declared this week: “Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed. … This was not a big crime.” This is in keeping with Team Trump’s modus operandi of 1) deny until the denial falls apart, 2) make up a new story, 3) continue the cycle until the offense is proved, 4) then concede the truth while saying there’s nothing wrong with it.
— Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke resigned this week hoping to avoid increased congressional scrutiny of his ongoing 15 ethics violation investigations. Zinke joins at least two other Trump Cabinet members who have left in disgrace.
— The special counsel has indicted two former associates of Michael Flynn for illegal lobbying on behalf of a foreign country, Turkey. One was Flynn’s business partner and a high-level official on the Trump transition team. All three conspired to promote and possibly arrange the extradition of a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Turkey’s president has accused of fomenting the 2016 attempted coup in that country.
In July 2016, Trump supporter and three-star general Michael Flynn publicly supported the attempted coup in Turkey while it was in progress. Within 11 days he 180-ed his position and began advocating for the U.S. to extradite the Turkish cleric. What changed his mind? A $600,000 Turkish lobbying contract.
— A New York state court forcibly dissolved the Trump (charitable) Foundation in light of a “shocking pattern of illegality.” The court said the fund served “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.” The foundation’s board members — Donald, Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — are all still on the hook as the case proceeds.
— There were two Senate-commissioned reports on Russian election interference released this week. They rocked Washington with the following conclusions: 1) Russian efforts were far more extensive than previously known; 2) there was an intensive attempt to depress the African-American vote; 3) Russian propaganda and manipulation efforts continued and even increased in the U.S. after the election, to prop up Donald and discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and 4) President Trump’s rhetoric has mirrored Russian propaganda over the past two years.
To Sum Up
There are ongoing criminal investigations into every major component of Trump’s universe, including the campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidential administration, Trump Foundation, and Trump Organization. There are seven different prosecution teams pursuing 17 separate court cases. This is breathtaking.
Yesterday, the president tweet-announced he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, claiming ISIS has been defeated and our soldiers are no longer needed. Virtually every expert in a position to know the facts contradicts this claim. It’s notable that Trump tweeted the announcement shortly after a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan in which Erdogan threatened to attack U.S.-controlled territory. In other words, Trump cut and ran, against the better judgment of almost all U.S. experts. Even GOP members of Congress were willing to risk the president’s tweet-wrath by strongly criticizing the move because they know American withdrawal is a gift to Syria, Iran, and especially Russia.
Also yesterday, at Putin’s suggestion — and also against the advice of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon — President Trump announced the withdrawal of half the 14,000 peace-keeping troops deployed in Afghanistan.
Additionally yesterday, President Trump lifted the financial sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin (and convicted felon and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort). The administration used a convoluted series of moves to disguise the action and soften the story’s impact. But the result is clear: another huge gift to Putin.
The week’s final shoe-drop came today when General James Mattis, Trump’s secretary of defense, resigned in a scathing letter to, and face-to-face meeting with, President Trump. The president had ignored Mattis’ expert advice on many important issues, including U.S. troops on the southern border, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pick, Space Force, transgender service members ban, treatment of our allies, and now the Afghanistan troop cutback.
There was speculation that the resignation was actually a firing. This was proved wrong, however, when observers noted the resignation occurred in a face-to-face meeting with the president: Trump, the administrative coward, only fires people by tweet.
Mattis decided there would be no mistaking his objections to the Syrian withdrawal. He could not be seen as an enabler to Trump’s destructive foreign policy. He gave notice today, with his last day set to be Feb. 28. Congress (including Republicans), the Pentagon, and world leaders are stunned and fearful. Many characterize this as a national security crisis. The metaphor of “the wheels have fallen off” the Trump administration has been cited ubiquitously.
Even if we set aside the colossal dishonesty, immorality, and corruption of the Trump presidency, the incompetence alone is galactic. James Mattis’ Dec. 20 letter of resignation crystallizes the dangers of Donald’s foreign policy ineptitude.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ Letter of Resignation
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong US global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions—to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
James N. Mattis
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget