President Trump’s Very Good Weekend
It appeared Friday late morning that president Trump’s world is collapsing around him with the Michael Flynn plea deal, but the plea deal was actually the start of an amazing 36 hours for the president.
First up: We have been told at certain times over the last ten months that Michael Flynn is THE colluder with Russia. He had close ties with Russia’s Putin in 2015; he served at a senior level in Trump’s circle. Media packaged General Flynn like a captain in a crime family who participated in the worst of crimes under the orders of the Don and his Consigliere Kushner. But when the moment of truth came, General Flynn was charged with a parking ticket.
True, lying to the FBI is considered a serious offense and as people point out Flynn got off easy in exchange for flipping, buy when the big conspiracy is collusion then charging Flynn with lying is like charging Sammy the Bull with a parking ticket in exchange for ratting on John Gotti about murders. Co-conspirators in major crimes get indicted on serious stuff but in exchange for cooperating they get a better sentence later on. The potential for big prison sentences due to the big indictments is how the CI (Cooperating Witness) keeps cooperating.
General Flynn pleaded guilty on a lie — about a legal act — and did not plead guilty on the crime Special Counsel Mueller is after because at this point Mueller has little on Flynn regarding the Trump Russia allegation. Better yet, if Mueller had evidence of collusion against Trump, Kushner and other senior officials via the Obama-era spying and Mueller’s review of emails, he would not need people to flip. He needs flippers because he has little evidence at this point despite six months of digging which is atop 10 months of the FBI doing its own work before that, in addition to three congressional committees doing their own work on this for almost a year and sharing their findings with Mueller.
Furthermore, Muller could have hit General Flynn on his dealings with Turkey which are reported to being shady, but Paul Manafort is another of the colluders if we were to believe media reports yet he was charged with pre-campaign stuff. This damaged Mueller’s standing. As a result, Mueller could not afford that the next “big fish” to go down should also be on non-Russia. He was and still is so desperate to have Russia related charges or plea deals, that he was willing to damage the credibility of his star witness by letting him plead guilty on a lie just so that it is Russia related.
All this is not to say that Mueller with the help of General Flynn can’t create headaches for Trump and his family. No private citizen nor White House wants to be the target of a prosecutor with all the time, resources and media pass in the world to do whatever he wants, but as a CNBC headline early Sunday read: “Michael Flynn guilty plea fails to show a smoking gun,” and the under-headline reads “Michael Flynn’s admission has not resolved the fundamental question being probed: Did Trump’s campaign collude with Russia to win the election?” As far Trump is concerned, this is the main topic at hand which is why he rightfully said Saturday “what has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There’s been absolutely no collusion.” Basically, instead of the Flynn news bringing us closer to proof of collusion, it supports Trump’s insistence of no collusion and it exposed again Mueller’s weak hand on this.
Charging Flynn with lying also helped Trump resurrect a simple argument: How is it that neither Hillary nor anyone in her circle were charged with lying? Former FBI Director James Comey listed six major lies in Hillary’s public comment about the email scandal. It is impossible that neither Hillary or at a minimum anyone on her senior staff has not repeated any of those lies to the FBI yet no one was charged.
Furthermore, Mueller charging Paul Manafort with non-Russia crimes makes people wonder how is it that an investigation into the illegal deletion of emails has not generated non-email charges. This is another reason why Mueller needed a Russia-related plea from Flynn. The more non-Russia charges/pleas he has the more it raises questions on how his successor Comey handled Clinton and her team that no one was charged with anything else.
Adding to Trump’s good weekend was the fact that ABC News suspended Brian Ross for reporting Friday that Flynn will testify that Trump ordered him to set up contact with Russia during the campaign. This news pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 350 points before recovering to a small loss for the day. The implication by Ross was that there is now testimony for collusion, but the fact is campaigns have contact with foreign governments to set up visits and meetings for the candidate. In fact, being accepted by foreign leaders was always seen as a nice feather in a candidate’s foreign policy hat.
Basically, Ross reported something which may turn out to be factual; Flynn may testify that Trump ordered him during the campaign to contact Russia which is fine, but because the markets overreacted ABC news needed to act. This fell straight into Trump’s hand that the media is spreading Fake News against him. What’s more proof of fake news than ABC suspending its investigative star over an erroneous report?
This was not all. On Saturday it was reported that mid summer Mueller removed from his team senior FBI agent Peter Strzok for texting anti-Trump stuff to another agent. The New York Times reported that “Peter Strzok, is considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.”
This news helps Trump because it shows that a pro-Hillary guy had a lead role in investigating her; it shows that Mueller has surrounded himself with anti-Trump shills and while Mueller indeed fired someone who was too anti-Trump, people wonder how Strzok was hired in the first place and why the reason for removing him was not disclosed to the public and to Congress sooner. Moreover, the texts were apparently sent in 2016 and are part of the IG’s investigation into Comey’s handling of the Hillary investigation, and Mueller cut Strzok loose simply to get him out of the way before his name became public as being an anti-Trump shill. The question is why and how did Mueller know what the FBI’s IG is up to regarding Comey’s investigation? The Inspector General is supposed to be completely independent.
Finally, Trump had good news when the Senate not only passed a massive tax reform bill but also had in it a repeal of the Obamacare mandate. “Repealing Obamacare” to most people is not a call on scrapping the Medicaid expansion or to strip added benefits from health plans. Most people’s issue with ACA is the mandate to buy a health plan when they can’t afford it. In fact, 13 million less people will in a decade from now buy insurance if there is no mandate than if there was a mandate. Basically, a large number of people who buy plans now don’t want it nor can they afford it, but rather than a family of 2 who earns $100,000 should be paying $5,000 in penalties they buy a plan costing them $10K despite not being able to afford it.
Now Trump needs the House to accept the Senate bill. If they do, he will have a tax cut and an Obamacare repeal bill signed before the year is over while Democrats will be retweeting each other’s hot takes on Trump Russia scalps that seem ever so elusive.