An entire presidential term’s worth of revelations came out in the span of a few hours this week. The stories included:
- A special counsel, FBI Director Robert Mueller, will be directing the investigation on the Russian government’s actions regarding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
- The decision to appoint a special counsel was made without notifying the White House until thirty minutes before its public announcement
- Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked a vote for an independent investigation just before the special counsel was announced
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was told by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in June, 2016, to keep quiet about Donald Trump possibly receiving money from Vladimir Putin
- Ousted FBI Director James Comey’s offer to testify in public has been reciprocated by the Senate Intelligence Committee, who sent him a notification asking to set up an arrangement
- One of the campaign managers for Donald Trump in 2016, Paul Manafort, has had a federal subpoena issued for records regarding a $3.5m mortgage of his home
- Democrats in the Senate have called for an investigation into Jeff Sessions’ role in the firing of Comey
- The myriad scandals pouring out of the White House are causing major losses in the stock market
These are just the stories involving Trump and his administration, and the ones that got the most attention.
Although, if you’ve been following the news closely, you might have noticed one series of revelations left out of this list. In order for the latest information on the Flynn saga to be fully understood, it must be contextualized. Let’s begin.
Editor's Note: This post was updated at 4:12 p.m. Central, May 19th, to include the entry for November 28th, 2016.
August, 2014. Michael Flynn, an army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retires. Information surrounding the retirement pointed towards his departure being somewhat involuntary due to his belief in conspiracy theories, skirting of policies, and abusive relationship with staff.
December, 2015. A gala dinner was held in Moscow for the Russian government-owned-and-operated news organization Russia Today. Flynn attended the dinner after giving a speech to participants—including Vladimir Putin—for which he received money from RT. The payment was not disclosed, and was sent through a speaker’s bureau known as Leading Authorities. He appeared on RT several times afterwards.
February, 2016. Flynn tells CNN he has been an adviser on national security and foreign policy for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
August, 2016. Intelligence briefings begin for the presidential nominees. At Trump’s first briefing, Flynn is present. On the 9th, a contract between Flynn Intel Group, Flynn’s intelligence firm that sells services to businesses and governments, and Inovo BV, founded by Ekim Alptekin, member of the Foreign Economic Relations Board appointed by the Turkish general assembly and economic minister, is signed for $600,000 to run an influence campaign targeted at a foe of Turkish president Erdogan.
September, 2016. The Flynn Intel Group posts a registration that it will be lobbying U.S. Congress on behalf of Inovo BV. The registration does not notify congress about the Turkish founder. He also met with Turkish officials to discuss transferring an oppositional leader, Fethullah Gulen, back to Turkey in an illegal manner.
November 8th, 2016. The Hill publishes an op-ed from Flynn, calling for the Unites States to give support to Turkey’s current government and its leader Erdogan. Trump’s transition team signs a Memorandum of Understanding that all members of his team have fully disclosed financial interests, required to receive briefing information.
November 10th, 2016. President Obama warned Trump to not hire Flynn, due to Flynn’s affinity for conspiracy theories and the erratic behavior that had lead to him being forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
November 14th, 2016. Alptekin says in an interview that he’s met with Trump’s associates to discuss changes to Obama’s policies on Syria.
November 18th, 2016. Flynn accepts the job of National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. Elijah Cummings, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sends a letter to Vice President Mike Pence—in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team—regarding concerns about Flynn Intel Group and Flynn’s involvement with Turkey and Russia.
November 28th, 2016. The transition team confirms receipt of Cummings' letter.
December, 2016. The Freedom Party of Austria, founded by Nazis, signs a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the FPA, met with Flynn at Trump Tower New York weeks prior to the signing. On the 28th, Flynn spoke with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak via text message, and discussion of sanctions made by the Obama administration occurred via telephone the next day. Around this time, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, sits in on a meeting at Trump Tower New York with Flynn and Kislyak.
January 4th, 2017. Flynn’s lawyer informs the transition team that he is under investigation for his firm’s work with Turkey.
January 14th, 2017. A years-in-the-making plan to retake an Islamic State stronghold with help from Kurdish fighters–who Turkey oppose–is transferred to the Trump team from Obama officials, as the plan would be carried out after Obama left office. Flynn rejected approval of the mission.
January 20th, 2017. Donald Trump is inaugurated. Sometime before this, Flynn’s representatives had met with Trump’s team to discuss registering as a foreign agent, and a second meeting was held after the inauguration to inform the team Flynn would go through with registration.
January 26th, 2017. Sally Yates, the attorney general at the time, contacted White House counsel Donald McGahn about the possibility of Russian blackmail on Flynn. Trump was notified. She meets with him again the following day.
February 1st, 2017. Democrats in congress send a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis requesting a review of Flynn’s payments from Russia.
February 8th, 2017. Flynn is interviewed by the Washington Post and denies discussing sanctions with Kislyak in December.
February 9th, 2017. Flynn says the topic may have came up, in a statement to the Post through a spokesman. Pence says he was not told that Flynn had discussed sanctions until this day, claiming he was told by Trump, 14 days after Yates’ warning.
February 13th, 2017. The Post confirms intelligence officials are aware Flynn was in contact with Kislyak throughout Donald Trump’s campaign. Flynn resigns from his post as National Security advisor 18 days after Yates’ warning.
February 14th, 2017. Donald Trump asked James Comey, FBI director at the time, to end the investigation into Flynn.
March 7th, 2017. Flynn Intel Group sends a letter to the Department of Justice to inform them of the work they had done with the Turkish-owned company.
March 9th, 2017. Press Secretary Sean Spicer says in a press conference that Donald Trump did not know Flynn lobbied for Turkey. Pence—who was in charge of Trumps transition team—tells Fox News he only just heard of Flynn’s work with Turkey.
March 10th, 2017. Spicer confirms Flynn’s lawyer had met with Trump’s transition team to inquire on registering as a foreign agent due to his firm’s role with Turkey, but claims Trump, McGahn, and others were not aware.
March 30th, 2017. Flynn offers to testify on Russia before the FBI and Congress, in exchange for immunity. The request is denied by the Senate.
April 27, 2017. An investigation is opened by the Inspector General of the Pentagon into payments Flynn received from Russia and the Turkish-owned company.
May 8th, 2017. Sally Yates testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism that she had warned the White House about the potential for Russian blackmail on Flynn.
May 18th, 2017. Officials confirm to Reuters that one of the many calls between Flynn and Kislyak included discussion of creating a channel for communication that could not be intercepted by US intelligence agencies.
At the time of this writing, Mike Pence is still claiming he had no idea Flynn was involved with lobbying for Turkey until March. Trump has pleaded similarly, while also going on the record to deny he ever asked Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.
So who’s lying, and about what? Well, we can’t definitively say. Until Comey testifies, we have only confirmation of notes he wrote, as read to reporters by people who have copies. Pence’s pleading of ignorance on the contents of Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak is plausible, given the headless chicken this administration has become. Finally, Trump’s known aversion to never engage with anything that doesn’t have his name on it makes a reasonable excuse for why he’d be out of the loop on Flynn’s foreign agent work.
Yet it’s impossible for Pence to have never known.
Remember, Cummings sent a letter addressed specifically to Pence, detailing concerns over payments Flynn received and his access to intelligence briefings while under contract with a foreign government-appointed business owner. The letter is dated just ten days after the election—almost three months before Inauguration Day. Multiple contacts were made with the transition team that Pence was in charge of, about this exact issue, before Flynn’s resignation. Media was reporting on this for months. And, as head of the transition team, it was Pence’s responsibility to make sure all laws and policies were followed, with signatures to confirm.
Even if nothing illegal has occurred here on Pence’s part, the Flynn saga alone should be evidence that every member of the White House is incompetent and cannot faithfully fulfill the duties in their charge. Let’s spell it out very clearly:
Pence and Trump allowed Flynn to access classified information, make decisions regarding military operations in foreign countries, and maintain contact with a foreign diplomat from Russia—a country our intelligence agencies confirm stole sensitive data from our politicians. All while he was receiving money from to influence public opinion in Turkey, at the behest of someone appointed to an official position within that country; all while his receipt of payment from Russia was well-known.
The facts are clear that each individual had to be fully aware of at least one of these massive violations, yet they’ve both plead ignorance. But only two conclusions can be drawn; this is an administration that was complicit in letting foreign influences have direct control of a high-ranking official, or an administration so incompetent that every moment it remains in power is a threat to national security.
Take your pick and let's move for impeachment.