Last week we discovered that former national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about the import of what he told them regarding his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Yet Flynn once served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the presidency of Barack Obama. Why would he lie to the FBI about what passed between him and Kislyak? Had he forgotten that, for a certitude, the conversation of a Russian Ambassador was being recorded secretly by American intelligence agencies? Moreover, when he was being interviewed by the FBI, why did he not bring with him a lawyer? When I was being interviewed by the FBI about my perfidious Arkansas Project I most certainly brought a lawyer with me, and it helped that my lawyer looked like he once worked for Don Corleone. Thinking back on it, I should have brought two lawyers.
Flynn is now cooperating, we are told, with the government. Yet it appears that he has implicated President Donald Trump not at all, or at least in no criminal activity. So what is the fuss all about? Flynn presumably was acting on behalf of people high up in the Trump Administration, but unless they were giving Kislyak state secrets or accepting bribes from him there is nothing wrong with that. I have in my library the memoirs of Anatoly Dobrynin, for recreational reading. Dobrynin was the Russian Ambassador representing the Soviet Union for 26 years in Washington during the Cold War. In his memoirs the ambassador writes of meeting with Jimmy Carter’s representative Averell Harriman in September 1976 before the November election. He met with other Carter advisors before the election and after. Doubtless he did the same with other presidential emissaries during his long years in Washington. No one was prosecuted. Diplomatic contacts were in those happy years not adjudged criminal acts.
Yet how did the Russians become such an ominous force in American elections, or at least the tragic election of 2016? I would direct you to turn to page 395 of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, the highly acclaimed chronicle of that epochal election written by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
It is election night, and Hillary may be gently soused, but slowly even she is seeing the light. She, the authors tell us, “kept pointing her finger at Comey [then FBI Director] and Russia.” It is the beginning of her post-election “strategy.” The authors proceed: “That strategy had been set in motion within twenty-four hours of her concession speech.” Despite her Karamazovian hangover, she and her aides “went over the script that they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.” From that point on Hillary and her aides kept flogging it.
Today even the FBI has taken up Hillary’s strategy, but nothing has as yet implicated Trump, and no White House grandee is implicated in a Russian-related crime. As of this weekend we know that a Hillary supporter working high up in the FBI, Peter Strzok, shaped then Director James Comey’s relatively lenient — if improper — judgment of her handling of emails. Strzok also before being demoted had a role in investigating the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI has a lot to answer for and ought to itself be investigated.
As for the Russians they now have more say in Washington than at any time I can remember. Those in Official Washington who have adopted Hillary’s strategy have made Kislyak a powerful force in the Trump investigation and his boss, President Vladimir Putin, quite possibly the most powerful man in the world. Together they have power over the Trump Administration through their willing agents in the FBI and the office of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
All Kislyak has to do is dispute what Flynn told him or, for that matter, what some other personage in the Administration told him. From Mueller’s public statements there is no hint that the FBI doubts Kislyak’s good word. It is the Administration’s word that the FBI finds dubious. Kislyak could tell investigators that Flynn or some other Administration aide had sent him a letter or expressed himself through “body language.” Off the FBI would go chasing after Kislyak’s lead. And by the way, other Russians could insist that they had conspired with Trump’s people in private conversations that no intelligence agency of the federal government apprehended. Flynn’s fate might well be just the beginning. Somehow this investigation ought to be shut down. Mueller is compromised, and the FBI appears complicitous in Hillary’s strategy.