Cheap Seats 2020
Out Like Flynn - 05/13
By Rich Trzupek
It’s no secret that President Barack Obama did not like Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn when Flynn ran the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was critical of the Obama’s policy toward Syria and Turkey as the Syrian civil war flared and it is said that the president took offense, eventually forcing the much-decorated officer out of office. That was certainly the president’s right.
The tension between the two led Obama to advise his successor not to appoint Flynn as National Security Advisor. That too was his right. What made Flynn attractive to Trump – he is an outspoken lifelong intelligence professional who knows his way around the intelligence bureaucracy in D.C. – is exactly what made Flynn anathema to Obama and those in his circle.
And so, we now know that following a meeting with Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the FBI decided to set a perjury trap for Flynn. FBI documents, finally released more than two years after a federal judge ordered the FBI to turn over everything relevant to Flynn’s case show that agents were weighing the best way to get rid of Flynn. Invoke the Logan Act? Get him to lie?
The first choice, the Logan Act, would be an act of desperation. It dates to 1799, during the age of sail, when communication across the oceans took months. Since no one could phone Washington to check an ambassador’s credentials, it made some kind of sense to make it illegal for anyone to claim to represent the government of the United States without having been elected or appointed to do so.
Conservatives resurrected the Logan Act during the Vietnam War, waving it about as celebrities like Jane Fonda traveled to North Vietnam to press for the end to the fighting. While Fonda et al clearly represented the views of many Americans at the time, no one could possibly mistake her for an accredited representative of the United States Government.
The arcane, likely unconstitutional law still gets trotted out from time to time, like when John Kerry went to visit the mullahs in Iran or Dennis Rodman hangs with his good pal Kim Jong Un. It’s hooey. Learning that top FBI officials even considered resorting to it is shocking enough. But finding that they contemplated invoking the Logan Act in this case, where a duly-appointed actual representative of the United States government was talking to a diplomat from another nation was beyond ludicrous.
Apparently agency leadership figured that out, so it was perjury trap time. It is incredibly easy for an FBI agent to create a crime, given that it’s a crime to lie to an FBI agent. (That’s not really perjury, by the by – actual perjury involves court and sworn oaths – but it’s a convenient label). Martha Stewart, among others, served time solely for lying to the FBI, not violating any substantive statute.
So, the FBI, which already knew that Flynn had talked to the Russian ambassador - they had taped the conversation for cripes sake – asked the general for a casual interview. No big deal. Just a “get to know you” time of thing. Since this wasn’t an investigation or anything, no need to have your lawyer present and no need to notify the president.
If that sounds like entrapment to you, it does to me too. Did somebody undermine the law the in Flynn’s case? Yes, I think so. But it wasn’t Attorney General Barr, it was rogue FBI agents. That’s the best case. If somebody ordered them to do it, we should all be concerned.