Rachel Marsden: Flynn's plea deal reveals collusion, but not with Russia
By Rachel Marsden
Dec 12, 2017 at 6:00 AM
Former national security advisor Michael Flynn said Friday he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI because his actions were wrong and he wanted to “set things right.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Flynn's plea is part of a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who's leading an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nothing in the plea agreement relates to the campaign period. And it's not communications with Russia that stands out, but rather communications with another country.
Collusion is defined as deception via secret or illegal cooperation. Let's have a look at who may have been harmed by Mr. Flynn's actions, and which parties cooperated in the deception.
Context is important. On Dec. 29, 2016, the Barack Obama administration gave Russian officials 72 hours to leave their San Francisco consulate, closed two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland, and issued sanctions against Russian companies. The same day, according to the Justice Department, Mr. Flynn called Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and "requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. sanctions in a reciprocal manner."
The exchange between Messrs. Flynn and Kislyak occurred at the height of post-election anti-Trump hysteria, during which supporters of Hillary Clinton replaced soul searching with anti-Russia scapegoating. The exchange also coincided with the trashing of U.S.-Russia relations by the outgoing Obama administration, which was similar to the way rock stars trash hotel rooms.
Communication between a country's ambassador and an incoming administration official during a presidential transition isn't exactly secret. Mr. Flynn's exchange with the ambassador appeared to be in America's best interests, and it's hard to see how it could have benefited Russia. It also took place after the election and therefore had zero influence on the result. Mark Toner, a spokesman for Obama's State Department, said in January that contact between a president-elect's transition team and the Russian ambassador wasn't problematic.
There's a passage in the Flynn plea agreement involving another country that has been largely overlooked by the media. Shortly before a scheduled Dec. 22 vote on United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, "a very senior member of the presidential transition team directed Mr. Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution."
Presumably, a delay would have enabled a new Trump administration to veto the Security Council's condemnation of Israel. Mr. Flynn made the call to the Russian ambassador and stated the administration's case. On Dec. 23 (after a one-day postponement of the vote), the Russian ambassador called Mr. Flynn back and basically said nice try, but nyet, Russia wouldn't be succumbing to the wishes of Team Trump. The resolution passed later that day, with Russia voting in favor of it, and with the Obama administration declining to veto the resolution and abstaining from the vote.
Just who do the Russians think they are to block the incoming administration's attempt to do Israel's bidding on an issue that has no discernible benefit to America?
Mr. Mueller's investigation should focus on communications between this "very senior member of the presidential transition team" and representatives of Israel. According to the New York Times, "Trump's lawyers believe that unnamed aide was Mr. Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, according to a lawyer briefed on the matter."
Just a few days ago, Mr. Kushner spoke at the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum, described as an "annual dialogue between American and Israeli leaders from across the political and social spectrum." Mr. Kushner railed against Iran's "expansive regional mischief" and described his role in helping the Trump administration "unify everyone against Iran's aggression."
Mr. Kushner was then pressed -- almost chastised -- by the moderator over how long it would take to achieve this unification against Iran. Never mind Iran's prominent role in beating back the Islamic State. Meanwhile, any discussion of Saudi Arabia's regional mischief, including its key role in the creation of the Islamic State, was left out of the dialogue.
It came as no surprise when CIA Director Mike Pompeo said over the weekend that Israel and Saudi Arabia are now working together to fight terrorism. Mr. Pompeo's remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California confirmed Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz's comments in a radio interview about covert cooperation between the two countries.
Forget Russia. There appears to be evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Israel. Will Mr. Mueller and his investigative team now follow this trail back to the campaign period and show no mercy in bringing indictments against all involved in this collusion with another foreign power?
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris. She is the host of the syndicated talk show "UNREDACTED with Rachel Marsden" Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern: http://www.unredactedshow.com. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.