It’s hard to condense so much material into a small space where people will still read it, and I hope this condensation of salient details does not result in any slant or bias. Here are the dates and events of the Flynn-White House time line, followed by my commentary.
Apr, 2014: Flynn announced his retirement effective later that year, about a year earlier than he had been scheduled to leave his position. He was reported to have been effectively forced out of the DIA after clashing with superiors over his allegedly chaotic management style and vision for the agency.
Dec, 2015: Flynn is paid $45,000 by Russian state television to attend their 10th anniversary, and sits at Putin’s table, applauding Putin occasionally.
Feb, 2016: Flynn was asked to serve as foreign affairs adviser to the Trump campaign.
Sep, 2016: Flynn conducts a meeting wherein he discusses plans to abduct Fethullah Gulen (Turkey’s President Erdogan’s political foe) from the United States.
Flynn (by now the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisor) engages Brian McCauley with $28,000. McCauley accuses the State Department of trying to interfere with the classification of a document related to Benghazi. This becomes a serious campaign issue for a while, but is later proved false.
Flynn meets with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and discusses the sanctions that were being put in place to punish Russia for election interference, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.
Nov 8, 2016: Flynn publishes article supporting Turkey’s Erdogan, in accordance with his agreement with Turkey to act as a foreign agent on their behalf in the United States for $530,000.
Nov 10, 2016: President Obama warned President-elect Trump against hiring Flynn.
Nov 18, 2016:
Flynn accepted Trump’s offer for the position of National Security Advisor.
Senator Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Mike Pence, cc to Jason Chaffetz informing them of problems with emoluments and activities of Flynn.
Jan 4, 2017: Flynn informed Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, that he was under investigation over his work for Turkey.
Jan 20, 2017: President Trump appoints Sally Yates to serve as acting Attorney General.
Jan 24, 2017: FBI interviewed Flynn.
Jan 26-27 2017: Sally Yates tells McGahn that Flynn was “compromised” and possibly open to blackmail by the Russians. She added that Flynn’s “underlying conduct”, which she could not describe due to classification, “was problematic in and of itself,” saying “it was a whole lot more than one White House official lying to another.” (See testimony note below at May 18, 2017)
Feb 1, 2017: The ranking Democratic members on six House committees sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, requesting a Department of Defense investigation into Flynn’s connection to Russia’s media outlet, RT. The legislators expressed concern that Flynn had violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting money from RT.
Feb 9, 2017: Asked in an interview whether he had ever had meetings with Kislyak about sanctions, he twice said, “No.”
Feb 13, 2017: The Washington Post runs an article about Sally Yates warning to the White House about Michael Flynn, and then Flynn resigns at the request of the White House
Feb 14, 2017:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated, “We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change … The issue here was that the President got to the point where General Flynn’s relationship – misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation. That’s why the President decided to ask for his resignation, and he got it.”
Trump has a private meeting with Comey, where Comey alleges that Trump asked for his loyalty, and said “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mar 9, 2017: In a Fox News interview, Mike Pence says that this is the first time he’s heard about Flynn’s activities, and his lying about it.
May 9, 2017: The Sessions’ letter recommending the firing of Comey is delivered to Trump. Trump fires Comey, saying that he was acting on the recommendation of the Attorney General as his reason.
May 11, 2017: After public outcry that recused AG Sessions shouldn’t have been involved with the recommendation to fire Comey, Trump is interviewed by Lester Holt, where he says: ” Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump also says ” And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
May 12, 2017: Trump tweets “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” As of this writing, no tapes have appeared.
May 18, 2017:
Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak and allegedly tells them that “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” and “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Sally Yates testifies in open session to the Senate: https://www.c-span.org/video/?427577-1/white-house-warned-general-flynn-compromised
Well, there you have it. Now let’s consider the more recent events for analysis.
June 8, 2017: Former FBI Director Comey testifies.
In that testimony, Comey says he felt that President Trump might lie about their meetings. Consider that in the events above, the Trump administration is characterized by a repeated pattern of evasion, deception and even misrepresentation. This is clear by the fact that their statements conflict with their own words. Donald Trump can be observed saying opposite statements repeatedly. News and commentary delight in showing clips of Trump saying contradictory things. However, specifically in this case:
Trump said Flynn “was a good guy”. I try to avoid judging people, but someone who is dealing secretly on behalf of other governments to affect US policy, and who engages agents to spread false rumors in a campaign to hurt an opponent, doesn’t seem like a good guy to me.
Trump first said that Comey was fired as a result of the Sessions’ recommendation and then said that he didn’t need the statement, that he had already decided to fire Comey.
Saying on Mar 9, 2017 that Flynn was fired because he had lied to Vice President Pence is proved wrong by the fact that Pence, as the head of the White House transition team, had been notified of issues with Michael Flynn by Mr. Flynn’s lawyer on Nov 18 , 2016.
Trump said that he did not fire Comey because of the Russia investigation, but in his interview with Lester Holt, he said that he wanted to make the noise/distraction of Russia-gate go away (see quote above).
Is it even credible that Michael Flynn would have discussions with Ambassador Kisylak about lifting US sanctions without prior knowledge and approval of the Trump team? However, the Trump team has continuously denied any knowledge of Flynn’s actions.
It looks as though former FBI Director Comey is spot on when he expresses concern about the President’s veracity and character. Since Comey’s testimony, the President and republican members of House and Senate have called Comey a coward.
Comey had to worry not only about himself, but on the effect that his firing would have on his subordinates who are doing the investigations, and the likelihood that his replacement would be a political tool of the executive branch. When he declined to press the issue with Trump he showed he was astute enough to know that he was in a lose-lose situation. Anyone who has ever been directed to violate either the law or company policy by the company owner knows how bad this situation is. You can’t go to your boss, or even to Human Resources. There will be no one to help. Former FBI Director Comey could hardly go to his boss for help navigating these difficult waters, because Jeff Sessions has always been completely loyal to Donald Trump, and was as likely to take action against Comey as Trump. You try to survive to fight another day, and maybe you go looking for a job.
In a court of law, prosecutors try to establish motive and opportunity, as well as discuss evidence. Regarding Russian collusion, the Trump administration had opportunity, as demonstrated above using Flynn as the go-between. Their motive is that President Trump needed the Flynn investigation to go away. It is too explosive. It leads to why Mike Flynn talked to Kislyak about sanctions. It reveals all the lying that has gone on so far. It will spread to all those who engaged in the cover up. It could lead to treason. Perhaps it even leads to oil and real estate deals and money laundering. There is a lot of smoke surrounding these events. The President could have revealed his evidence of “wire tapping” earlier, but didn’t. He could now reveal his “tapes”, but we’ll all be shocked if he has them. He is a flim-flam man who is out of his depth. Comey took his measure, and got ready for the fight.
Mueller will determine the outcome, and has the mandate and latitude to go where the evidence points.