Commentary: Some questions to ask regarding Flynn’s dropped charges

By Reid K. Beveridge

Answer this question if you can, or if you dare:

Could it really be that Barack Obama ordered or agreed to launching a counterintelligence investigation into the presidential candidate of a major political party in the belief that the candidate was a Russian agent?

Or worse: that the Obama administration actually was considering, within a couple weeks of leaving office, the prosecution of the incoming national security adviser for having a conversation with the Russian ambassador?

When thinking about the extraordinary events of the last three years, just imagine that if you can. To do this, you are required to put aside, for the moment, whatever James Comey, John Brennan, Loretta Lynch or James Clapper thought in their fevered minds. The question is what President Obama was thinking. Or Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Reid Beveridge

You need to answer that question before you say what you think about the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, he having pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The investigation into Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador was part and parcel to all the above. Flynn had been a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign and was the incoming national security adviser by the time of the aforementioned telephone call with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Much of the mainstream media are having a stroke over the Justice Department’s and Attorney General William Barr’s decision to drop the charges against Flynn. Presumably, they also will have a stroke over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s dismissal of the case. This, even though Flynn had pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing in federal court. “Flynn lied,” cried one pundit. For proof, they simply say he pleaded guilty to lying and apologized for his actions (he did). Such comments have the convenience of leaving out most of the back story.

To begin, a little history from the 1980s, provided because the time period is 35-plus years ago and beyond the active memory of many. The mid-1980s featured another scandal, this one called “Iran-Contra.” The issue was White House officials selling missiles to Iran and then sending the money to a bunch of guys fighting the communist government of Nicaragua at the time. President Reagan supported this group, called the Contras. The transaction was marginally against the law, if such a law could apply to the executive office of the president (doubtful constitutionality).

Swept up in this situation was a man named Elliott Abrams, then a State Department official. Like Flynn today, Abrams was hardly a wealthy man. Yet, he was pursued and investigated vigorously by special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. He finally pleaded guilty to some charge.

What happened next was stunning. His wife wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post describing what had happened to their life. What had happened was that the federal prosecutorial machinery had impoverished them. Abrams pleaded guilty with little or no prison time simply because he had run out of money to defend himself. No one had heard of GoFundMe in those days. It is a good example of what a terrifying experience it is to have the entire weight of the U.S. Department of Justice come down on you if they choose.

Something similar, with differences, happened to a former Army colleague of mine a couple years ago. Ron had retired as an Army colonel and, with a friend, started a company that contracted with the Defense Department. It seems that a disgruntled former employee went to the U.S. attorney and made some allegations of fraud. The FBI investigated, and the U.S. attorney for northern Virginia got an indictment.

The case went to trial with this former employee as the star (and only prosecution) witness. Mercifully for him, my friend was acquitted. But not without a.) losing his company and livelihood; and b.) being impoverished (other than his Army pension). And then, of course, there’s what happened to their 100 employees, all of whom lost their jobs.

Flynn’s case is actually worse unless, of course, you believe President Trump was a Russian agent (something U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., obviously continues to believe or say he believes) and that Flynn was plotting something with the Russians in opposition to U.S. national interests. The first “joke” is that the Obama administration was going to allege that Flynn was violating the Logan Act. This is a 200-year-old law prohibiting private American citizens from promoting a foreign policy agenda in opposition to the sitting administration. No one has ever been seriously charged, much less convicted of this.

Second, before questioning Flynn at the White House in late January 2017, the FBI already had a transcript of Flynn’s telephone call with Kislyak. They knew what he had said then and earlier, before the inauguration. So, why question him further? The answer to that comes in the handwritten notes just a few days earlier wondering if the goal is to get him fired or cause him to commit perjury ‒ called a “perjury trap.” For police and prosecutors, a perjury trap is anything you say that conflicts with something you said earlier in any way.

Mike Flynn was a career Army officer. Career Army officers, while well-paid during their active duty careers, don’t usually accumulate a huge net worth. A national security adviser is well-paid, too, but he only served a week before he was fired for another reason. After that, little or no income beyond his Army pension.

Then came the Mueller investigation. All this investigating, as for my friend above, impoverished him. He lost his house. He lost whatever net worth he had. The feds were investigating his son for some unrelated offense and threatening to indict him. He was desperate because Bob Mueller’s prosecutors had upended the FBI’s conclusion that Flynn had NOT lied and indicted him for perjury. So, he pleaded guilty even though he might have prevailed at trial, at great additional expense, money he didn’t have.

Later, he attempted to retract that guilty plea, but you can’t really do that in federal court. So, he was awaiting sentencing.

Today, he is a free man.

Reid Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He now resides at Paynter’s Mill.