Michael Flynn’s guilty plea to lying to the FBI falls short on Russia “collusion” but points to the Trump administration acting on Israel’s behalf, says author and journalist Max Blumenthal
AARON MATÉ: It’s the Real News, I’m Aaron Maté. Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor to Donald Trump until his ouster just a few months into his administration, has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators looking into alleged Trump-Russia ties. Flynn is the most high level member of the White House inner circle to be indicted and he is said to be cooperating with investigators. And the news has been greeted across liberal media much like it was today on the TV program The View. JOY BEYHAR: Oh my God. Oh, breaking news. ABC news Brian Ross is reporting, Michael Flynn promised full cooperation to the Mueller team and is prepared to testify that, as a candidate, Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians. Yes! AARON MATÉ: But for opponents of Donald Trump, is Flynn’s indictment really something to celebrate? Well, joining me to discuss is Max Blumenthal, Senior Editor of Alternet’s Grayzone Project. Max, your reaction to Flynn’s indictment today. MAX BLUMENTHAL: You know, my reaction is slightly different than The View panelists who are really expressing the sensibility, or the mentality, of the idlib or the idiot liberal, who has been kind of indoctrinated over the past 11 months to believe that Trump had colluded with Russia and that this will lead to his impeachment. We actually saw outside the courthouse where Flynn appeared, the people not only chanting “lock him up,” which is hilarious considering that Flynn, at the Republican National Convention led the “lock her up” chants about Hillary Clinton but there was also a sign being held by one protester or heckler, reading “People Power versus Putin Power,” as if Putin kind of controlled Michael Flynn. I mean, let’s first acknowledge that this is a confirmation, this indictment of Michael Flynn’s dishonesty, his hypocrisy and his sheer idiocy. I mean, he lied to the FBI and ordinary people who lie to the FBI go to jail. He not only did that but he did not register as a foreign agent when he took something like half a million dollars from Erdoğan’s government, the government of Turkey in order to stage some kind of operation to possibly kidnap the person that the exiled cleric that Erdoğan considers to be his arch nemeses. Fethullah Gülen in Pennsylvania so you can imagine like Flynn and his buddies driving around Pennsylvania trying to kidnap some cleric. It’s like the guy who couldn’t shoot straight. It’s like something out of a Woody Allen movie. Just the level of absurdity of Flynn’s activities has reached a sublime level, then you have Flynn testifying before Congress that the US needed to be in the driver’s seat back in 2015 to prevent Russia from setting up nuclear facilities in Egypt and elsewhere and then two weeks later he goes to Egypt and Israel on a trip paid for by a company, one of the companies that had been possibly working with the Russian government to set up, you know, nuclear plants, Flynn did not disclose that at the time when he had a security clearance. So, there’s this pattern of failing to disclose activities that he’s been involved in and he has been pretty much lying ever since 2015. So, that’s real, that’s corruption. There’s no way to defend Flynn on that level. The question is, is there any evidence here of collusion with Russia? Trump’s collusion with Russia. And when you actually look at the indictment, you’ve got another dud, it’s just another dud and these duds arrive every two to three weeks and they send the id libs into a frenzy of ecstasy about having their shambolic narrative of Russia controlling the United States and colluding with Trump to subvert our otherwise shining democracy confirmed. And this confirms nothing. What it does show is that the Israeli government, through Jared Kushner, pressured Michael Flynn to approach the Russian government through Sergey Kislyak, who was the Russian Ambassador to the US at the time to use its position on the U.N. Security Council to stop a resolution condemning Israeli Settlement activity, which the Obama administration was going to abstain on, something the US government hasn’t done before. Jared Kushner and his family through the Kushner Family Foundation have an extensive relationship not only with the Israeli government but with Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Netanyahu when he’s in New York would stay with the Kushner family. He would sleep in a bedroom at their house and was almost literally in bed with Jared Kushner. Kushner Family Foundation has donated extensively to the Israeli Settlement Enterprise, to very pro-Israel groups. And so you’re looking actually at Israeli collusion. The real center of influence in Washington emanates from Israel and Kushner has basically been an agent of Israeli influence. An unregistered agent of pro-Israel influence in Washington. This element of the story, which is central, has been completely ignored. And there is another point: Flynn is accused of approaching Sergey Kislyak to discuss how the US and Russia, which was one of the main parties engaged in Syria, would bring the Syrian conflict to an end and take on al Qaeda and ISIS. So that US and Russia are discussing de-escalating a conflict that has killed somewhere around 250,000 people. At least around 100,000 on the Syrian government side, by the way. And they have successfully done so, it’s been Russian intervention in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government that has led to the destruction of ISIS, the defeat of al Qaeda and the end of this conflict. And refugees are now coming back, so once, just to restate that, Flynn approached Kislyak, not the other way around, to discuss de-escalating a conflict. And that’s considered a major transgression now in Washington and then there’s the third point in the indictment. Flynn approached Kislyak, not the other way around to beg Russia not to retaliate against sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia for unproven allegations that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and released it to WikiLeaks. Unproven, totally unproven, even the intelligence agencies that everyone, every Democrat worships as if they’re some kind of oracle, have just stated with high confidence that these servers were hacked by Russian intelligence agencies and none of them, not the FBI, not the NSA, none of them have examined the DNC’s email servers, none of them have demanded them. So, these sanctions were imposed based on an allegation and then you have Michael Flynn, while a member of the Trump campaign, approaching the Russian Ambassador to beseech him not to retaliate. And Putin himself was actually put under pressure by the Russian Foreign Ministry at the same time to retaliate because the US had kicked Russian Diplomatic personnel out of Washington and imposed them unprecedented sanctions, Putin did not retaliate. I would say it was a fairly elegant, diplomatic move. He was gonna give a new administration a chance. In any case, Flynn lied about these communications he had with Sergey Kislyak, the communications were picked up by the NSA because Michael Flynn was in the Cayman Islands at the time and so he was abroad where the NSA has surveillance latitude and Flynn, you know, he may have been sitting on a beach after having one too many, you know, piña colada and he engaged in really stupid activity to make this kind of call. But the nature of the call and the content of the indictment, does not prove that there was collusion with the Russian government. It certainly doesn’t demonstrate that Russia was attempting to subvert American democracy. It does demonstrate that the Israeli government through its point man, Jared Kushner, was engaged in collusion, was engaged in foreign meddling and subversion. And this, for some reason is not the story and we know why. AARON MATÉ: Right. In terms of what it says about the actual election, which is purportedly the reason why we’re supposed to be caring about Russia and Trump. The first conversation between Flynn and Kislyak happens in December, so well after the election has happened. Let me ask you Max, it’s interesting to see that the outrage today has been over, as you mentioned, Flynn trying to negotiate or make overtures to Russia over matters that could actually deescalate tensions, which when not viewed through a partisan lens, could be seen as positive because it’s deescalating tensions with a nuclear power, and as you said, trying to find an end to the horrific Syrian War. But and in fact, both those things were known about before. What was not known, at least to my knowledge was the extent to which Flynn was working to subvert the U.N. Security Council vote about Israel. And it’s surprising, as you alluded to, that that’s the issue that is both new but yet has not elicited very much outrage or attention. MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, I mean, that’s just absolutely shocking that, I mean, and this has also come out through Mueller’s investigation is that Jared Kushner may have violated the Logan Act by conducting freelance diplomacy to work with the Israeli government to attempt to convince other governments to vote against the U.N. Resolution, other governments on the Security Council. That’s how we know that Kushner was the one who was encouraging Flynn to make this call. And it’s just completely overlooked in Washington, it’s overlooked by mainstream media, not only because of the fear of that very government and it’s cut outs in Washington attacking figures in the media and attacking public figures for daring to point to Israeli influence as a nefarious and nefarious force that contravenes American interests but because it’s a matter of American policy to allow Israel to dictate our policy with respect to the Middle East. Including in Syria and so you have elements that are deeply embedded in the national security state that have been hostile to de-escalating the Syrian Civil War. These elements, you know, you could point to John Brennan from the CIA, one of his babies was the arm and equip operation to train and arm Syrian rebels who were substantially operating under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda, referred to as the Free Syrian Army, something that we now know was basically a mythical conglomeration of Salafi and Salafi jihadi rebels. And in 2015, when Al-Qaeda-Syrian affiliate, Jabhat Al Nusra, took the city and the province of Idlib, in northeastern Syria, which was just a few hundred kilometers, actually I would just say, you know, a few scores of kilometers away from the Alawite Heartland. An area which al Qaeda and its affiliates have pledged to cleanse of non-sitting Muslims, to kill or convert the minority population of Syria, where Christians were forced to convert or die in Idlib. Where the Jewish population in Idlib was forced to dig up their own shrines. Christians were slaughtered across Idlib and the Syrian government panicked. You know, what Obama should have done at that point is gone to the Sunni allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and said, “Stop arming these jihadist rebels who have taken Idlib, let’s put a stop to this, this is crazy, they wanna march on Lattakia, they wanna move to Damascus and this would destroy a core country in the Middle East. It’s gone too far.” He didn’t do that. The arms continued to flow. This should have been a signal moment and that is when, in fact the arms continued to flow in the form of something like 20,000 Tow Missiles produced by Raytheon which allowed Al-Qaeda and its allies to destroy entire Syrian Army Tank Divisions. This is when the Syrian government called on Russia to intervene. And it was that Russian intervention that prevented Syria from becoming what we see today in Libya where there are open air slave markets, where there have been the slaughter of the Black population of Libya and now we see sub-Saharan African migrants being sold in open air slave markets, refugee crisis like you’ve never seen before. This is what Russia prevented in Syria. And the US by 2016, after the fall of Aleppo or the liberation of Aleppo with Russian help, the liberation from Al-Qaeda and its allies, kind of started to get wise and decided it’s time to de-escalate. John Brennan was very unhappy with this scenario, his operation was being discredited. His legacy was on the line. A lot of other figures coming out of the state department were upset at this scenario but the Trump administration was determined to do this and that’s what Flynn’s phone call with Kislyak partially dealt with and it has happened. We’ve seen de-escalation zones set up around the Golan Heights, all across the… AARON MATÉ: I think we gotta, Max- MAX BLUMENTHAL: These are coming… AARON MATÉ: Max, let me cut in there because we have to wrap but I wanna say actually, that it’s quite possible that what Trump and Flynn are being faulted for now, in terms of Syria, is exactly what the Obama administration, despite people like John Brennan would have done anyway, because, as you say, the war was going so bad for them that it was obvious that they were not gonna win the outcome that they pursued. But let me ask you, Max, because we only have one minute, so getting back to Flynn and this indictment, people are saying, “Well look, why would Mueller make a plea deal with Flynn unless Flynn had something to offer him that was gonna flip and point to someone higher above him like Kushner or even Trump, that’s possible. It’s also possible that maybe this is all Flynn has and so now they’re gonna get him on lying to the FBI so I’m wondering where you think this is gonna go and what kind of punishment you think someone like Flynn will face? I mean, lying to the FBI is a serious offense but it’s nowhere near the kind of offense of treason that many people have floated throughout this whole Russia-gate “scandal.” MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah. Even though the indictment contradicts the narrative of collusion in Russian subversion of our shining democracy, the narrative will continue and this gives more fumes to the narrative in the way the mainstream media, corporate media’s gonna report this will be slightly distorted. It will obfuscate the details of the indictment. I can only go based on what’s in the indictment and it seems to show that Flynn lied to the FBI, he probably pled out on part to protect his son Michael Flynn Jr. from being, you know, indicted or called in. And to the extent that he is going to say that Trump ordered him to make this phone call, well, the question is how does that demonstrate any illicit behavior by Trump if Trump himself was urging Flynn, who was his future National Security Council Advisor to conduct diplomacy with Russia? I mean, Flynn’s mistake was to make the phone call in the Cayman Islands where the NSA could pick up the cables and listen to the phone call and his other mistake was to lie to the FBI time and time again, just being a serial liar. So that’s it from what I can see and from the standpoint of someone trying to prove Trump Russia collusion or the overall narrative of Russia-gate, this one is another dud. AARON MATÉ: Leave it there. Max Blumenthal is Senior Editor of Alternet’s Grayzone Project, also the current host of the podcast, Moderate Rebels. Max, thank you. MAX BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me. AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.