Thursday, 6 June 2019, was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War II. So it should come as no surprise that on this day, the edifice of the carefully constructed Mueller report was suddenly, manifestly in full collapse – rather like the Tower of Barad Dur in Mordor, toppling into the gashed, scarred earth seething below.
There is only time for the briefest of treatments here. But it appears to be time to put forth something I’ve been working on in recent weeks, even though it remains incomplete. Events are moving fast now.
Two of them crowded in on Thursday. First it was reported that Michael Flynn had moved to dismiss his legal team: the lawyers from Covington & Burling who have been representing him from the beginning. This has sparked widespread speculation that Flynn intends to reverse his plea to the false statement charge, for which he is soon to be sentenced (after multiple delays).
Flynn case to take a turn?
There is a whole school of thought that Flynn has actually been pursuing a strategy all along in which the plea was basically a delaying action: a way of waiting out the Mueller report and counting on public revelation of the truth about Flynn’s case.
On Twitter, super-researcher Brian Cates makes a case that the truth will actually show Flynn was never lying. Flynn knew that, and knew it all along because he had to know he had been under electronic surveillance. He wasn’t worried, in the Cates theory, about what the FBI had on him, because he knew what it was. (That would obviously suggest that it’s the FBI – indeed the whole Spygate/deep state infrastructure – that’s been lying all along, and not Flynn.)
It's been clear for MORE THAN TWO YEARS that LITERALLY NOTHING in the Flynn perjury case MAKES ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER.
But for some **strange reason** Flynn decided to plead guilty to a bogus charge of having lied to 2 agents who **INITIALLY TOLD EVERYBODY THAT FLYNN DIDN'T LIE**
— Brian Cates (@drawandstrike) June 6, 2019
I’m not convinced at the moment on the theory of motive for Flynn (the extended agony of the plea saga seems gratuitous, for one thing), but I don’t necessarily find it dismissible either. We’ll find out when we find out, as regards this aspect of the drama.
It seems that at least someone is going to find something out soon, because another of our indispensable tweeps, Techno Fog, updates us that Flynn’s sentencing judge, Emmet Sullivan, is allowing the Justice Department to file case material Sullivan demanded from the prosecution under seal. That order was posted on 6 June.
With the information we have, can't be 100% certain the transcripts were produced to Judge Sullivan. (Leaning that way, however.) We'll see.
Court Order below. The Motion for Leave to File Documents Under Seal isn't on public docket. pic.twitter.com/BGKyM5I4MD
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) June 6, 2019
Sullivan will finally be able to see the material, even if we can’t.
Without coming down either way on the deeper truth of Flynn’s plea decision, I want to emphasize the following point. One of the most important aspects of his case is Flynn’s extensive cooperation on other prosecutions; in particular, that of his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian (or “Bijan Kian”), the Iranian-American businessman with whom Flynn’s old firm worked to represent Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin in 2016. Alptekin is the character who reportedly engaged the Flynn Intel Group to lobby against the shadowy Turkish cleric Fetulleh Gulen, who has been living in the U.S. as the Erdogan regime seeks his extradition.
Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller noted that Flynn’s cooperation has included 17 interviews with the Mueller team on a variety of topics. There’s a linear, straightforward reading of this – that Flynn knew a lot about dealings Mueller found shady – but there’s another possibility as well. More on that in a moment.
“Manafort contact” not the scary Russian agent we were led to believe
The other 6 June update – this one qualifying as a “bombshell” – is that an infamous associate of Paul Manafort’s in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, has turned out to be materially misrepresented in the Mueller special counsel narrative.
Kilimnik appeared all over the statements of offense for Manafort, Robert Gates, and attorney Alex van der Zwaan of Skadden, Arps, represented as an individual with a background in intelligence and espionage who was probably a spy for the Russians in Ukraine.
It turns out, according to John Solomon’s always excellent reporting, that Kilimnik, a Ukrainian businessman, besides being linked to Democrat-run lobbying firms and Democratic politicians, has been a confidential informant for the U.S. State Department for years.
In other words, Kilimnik may be a number of things, but one thing he is not is a character about whom the U.S. government has unsatisfied suspicions. The U.S. government knows who this guy is. The FBI and Mueller knew it too. Kilimnik’s relationship with the U.S. embassy in Ukraine goes back to 2012, covering the timeframe when Manafort was doing business there.
Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either.
He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government. He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show.
The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded.
Solomon notes that Kilimnik does hold dual Russian and Ukrainian citizenship, and did have the military experience in Russia alluded to in Mueller’s case documentation.
Kilimnik holds Ukrainian and Russian citizenship, served in the Soviet military, attended a prestigious Russian language academy and had contacts with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. So it is likely he had contacts over the years with Russian intelligence figures.
But Solomon is right about the bottom line:
Yet, omitting his [Kilimnik’s] extensive, trusted assistance to the State Department seems inexplicable.
There may be much more to say about the meaning of this new development. But what matters for now is that it’s one of several significant misrepresentations being revealed one after another in the Mueller report. (Jeff Carlson summarized five more in an article at The Epoch Times on 5 June.)
These revelations must throw the Mueller report into doubt. But since each one of them indicates misrepresentation in spite of prior knowledge, they don’t just throw the report into doubt. They throw the entire enterprise into doubt: from the very beginning, including the original “investigation,” the narrative about fears of “collusion” by Trump associates with the Russians, and everything – every single thing – the special counsel did.
Take just the little corner of the Kilimnik identity. The FBI was already looking at Manafort’s activities in Ukraine back in 2013. And in 2013, the FBI also already knew Kilimnik was an informant for the U.S. embassy in Kiev. The FBI has its own delegation at the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Who do you think vets host-nation confidential informants for the State Department? The FBI.
The FBI knew before any of this started – before the 2016 campaign, before Trump came down the escalator in June 2015 – who Kilimnik was and why Manafort was in touch with him. Yet the “Manafort narrative” has been sold not just to the public but in court, and in the Mueller report, as if Kilimnik were a shady character of dubious background, connection with whom increased suspicion about the nature of Manafort’s dealings.
An unexplored aspect of a Flynn set-up
The emerging picture of Spygate, in which nothing is what it has been represented to be, is a theme with remarkable persistence over the last few weeks. Again, I haven’t had the leisure to complete the research I prefer to do before springing this on you, so my apologies for the skeleton treatment. But given what has tumbled out just in the last week, it seems time to get it out there. I suspect it will have staying power.
The premise is that the peculiar episode with Flynn’s company being hired to represent the Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, in the summer of 2016, was a set-up of Flynn. This occurred to me forcibly in pulling the thread on the Flynn Group side-drama, after the recent media boomlet over George Papadopoulos’s characterization of the apparent honeypot figure Azra Turk. She was the purported “research assistant” who spoke little English but showed up improbably with Stefan Halper to make contact with Papadopoulos in September 2016.
Azra Turk represented herself to Papadopoulos as a Turk. Papadopoulos said she was a government asset, probably Turkish or U.S. And the New York Times reported on 2 May that she was said to be an FBI “investigator” (not, let us note, an “agent”).
Unless you’ve read Papadopoulos’s book Deep State Target, the Turkish persona for Ms. “Turk” probably seems either random or just a little strange (why is there suddenly a Turk sent to entice him?).
But in the chapter entitled “Mr. Papadopoulos Goes to Washington,” Papadopoulos recounts a feature of his c.v. that has gotten little attention up to now: the work he did for the Hudson Institute, which involved framing a proposal for the U.S. to promote an oil and gas consortium in the Eastern Mediterranean uniting Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel.
The interesting thing about that is the very hostile pushback he reports against the proposal from, among others, the U.S. State Department and the British. Papadopoulos was working on this proposal with the Hudson Institute’s Seth Cropsey between 2013 and 2015, and apparently gained some attention as a young man with an unwelcome idea. One of the major oxes gored by his proposal was Turkey’s.
None of this is a simplistic, one-dimensional fight over where a fabled pipeline ought to run, although that figures into it. But this isn’t the occasion to develop that point. The more important point is that there were reasons why Papadopoulos was already on people’s radar before he joined the Trump campaign, and even before he was invited, in the fall of 2015, to become a director, with an energy portfolio, at the strangely mission-less, weirdly-connected London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP).
It appears much less likely, once you understand what he was doing with the oil and gas proposal, that the interest in him from the Obama administration was either uncued or random. And as with the other aspects of Spygate, the operating pattern in this case would be turning already-existing dimensions of Obama policy and administration activities into themed attacks on the Trump campaign team.
Multiple features of the Alptekin approach to the Flynn Group struck me. One of them was the extraordinary timing. Guess when the Flynn Intel Group was approached. Go ahead, guess.
In early August , Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman and the chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, contacted Flynn’s consulting firm, the Flynn Intel Group, about repairing Turkey’s image in the United States.
That’s from an article in the New Yorker in March 2017. It was, of course, immediately after the launch of Crossfire Hurricane. Stefan Halper’s Turkey-and-energy-themed approach to George Papadopoulos was initiated on 2 September 2016. (In his book, Papadopoulos reports the encounter with Halper as bizarre: Halper was as hostile toward the proposal Papadopoulos had made his name with in the energy world as the State Department and the Brits had been. But for some reason, he wanted to pay Papadopoulos a fee to write a paper on energy in the Eastern Med. See pp. 102-105.)
The New Yorker article was one of several about the Flynn-Turkey contract that have the air of being planted in order to flog a theme. In an earlier one by BuzzFeed in November 2016, the same threads were featured: regional energy, an implicitly shady connection with the energy industry in Israel – seemingly a gratuitous, meritless implication, as far as I can see, in terms of any actual “shadiness” – and a posture by the Flynn Group (including the advocacy against Fetulleh Gulen) antagonistic to the Obama policy on Turkey.
It was interesting that none of this really seemed to go anywhere. The data point relentlessly highlighted was an op-ed on U.S.-Turkey policy published under Flynn’s by-line at The Hill the day before the 2016 election. This was touted as a form of strange evidence about Flynn: his loyalties, intentions, etc.
But the scandal of Flynn being linked with energy companies and opposition to Fetulleh Gulen didn’t seem to develop into anything. Of greater interest, if one bothered to analyze the situation, was that the Flynn Intel Group had been hired in the first place. In a draft post on this a few weeks ago, I summarized it this way:
For an objective like “repairing Turkey’s image in the U.S.,” you want former diplomats and senators: people who can open doors in New York, on Capitol Hill, at Commerce, in Foggy Bottom.
Interestingly, the New Yorker’s author, Nicholas Schmidle, breezes lightly over the point that the goal for the Alptekin contract seemed to shift pretty quickly from its original nature [“repairing Turkey’s image”] to lobbying for the extradition to Turkey of shadowy cleric Fetulleh Gulen.
Schmidle frames that as a vaguely nefarious development, as all the mainstream media have. But he doesn’t discuss the significant point that the Flynn Intel Group wasn’t really who you’d hire for that purpose either. If you were really trying to make it happen, you’d seek out a long-established firm with a lot more relevant juice. Gulen is one of the hottest potatoes on the planet; the ability to open the loftiest doors on “Mahogany Row” at the State Department, and in the White House, would be what you’d look for in a lobbying firm.
The Flynn Group, with its roots more in security, intelligence, and analysis, didn’t look like a good fit for the supposed objectives of the client. Yet near-simultaneously with the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, Flynn’s firm was contacted by a potential client who would end up linking Flynn to the same theme-bucket by which Papadopoulos was being pursued through Stefan Halper. There are no discernible prior links between Flynn, energy interests in the Eastern Med – especially with an Israeli connection – or Turkey’s very particular concerns about them.
On the other hand, another data point stands out: according to the New York Times, writing in 2018, Michael Flynn was one of four individuals under “investigation” as soon as Crossfire Hurricane was launched, on 31 July 2016. This was reportedly due to his attendance at the gala dinner for the Russian media outlet RT in December 2015, at which his PR firm had negotiated a paid speech for him.
Given all this, it’s a good question whether Michael Flynn, undoubtedly a quick-minded, intelligent person with a highly-relevant background, realized at some early point that this approach from Alptekin* was a set-up. Bijan Rafiekian was a prior connection for Flynn, although the connection didn’t seem to go back very far. (It seemed to date to Flynn’s days as DIA Director. Rafiekian has been a fixture on the Washington, D.C. social circuit for some time.) But the Alptekin overture occurred just when the anti-Trump Spygate effort swung into overdrive, after the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Flynn is scheduled to be a “star witness” in Rafiekian’s trial, which is to start in July. In his numerous interviews with the Mueller team, Flynn has deposited a lot into the record that will figure in that trial. He will presumably be called for lengthy testimony, where Rafiekian’s counsel can ask him a lot of questions.
A question in my mind is who will end up regretting Flynn’s now mandatory participation in that trial the most. It’s quite possible it won’t be Rafiekian, or Flynn.
* How was Alptekin connected to the authors of Spygate? It depends on who you think they are, but he’s a Dutch citizen of Turkish origin with an array of connections that include Stefan Halper, Joseph Mifsud, George Soros, and senior U.S. officials, some of the connections through Soros’s European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), which has appeared as a hub for other Spygate connections in Europe. Halper is not a member, but shows up for ECFR events.
Oddly enough, Alptekin has the very particular distinction of being the honorary consul of Albania in Istanbul, a position of which he seems very proud – he lists it everywhere – and which virtually guarantees that he would know Joseph Mifsud, sometime trainer of Albanian diplomats. (Mifsud was also listed on the editorial board of the Balkan Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, published from Tirana (Albania) Business University, in 2016.)