As every news junkie and Webhead knows by now, Judge Emmet Sullivan has accelerated his bizarre downhill skid by hiring himself some counsel to respond to an order from the D.C. appeals court to “personally” defend his previous judicial enormity.
That enormity, perpetrated only days before, was Sullivan’s appointment of a live, mirror-fogging amicus curiae to argue – in Sullivan’s court – a case against the Justice Department’s motion to drop its charges against LTG Michael Flynn.
The appeals court is especially exercised about this because it directly violates the D.C. appeals court ruling in 2016, on U.S. v. Fokker Services, that you ain’t a-‘posed-ta do that. It’s not the court’s job to wage battles against prosecutorial discretion.
We could continue to waste our time tsk-tsking fruitlessly over Judge Sullivan and how strangely he is behaving. But that will get us nowhere. If he’s merely gone looney-tunes, the Bench Police need to do something pronto. Priority one: reassign the Flynn case.
But it’s very doubtful he’s gone ’round the bend. It’s much more likely that he’s under pressure from someone. Whatever is going on, Sullivan is making desperation moves.
His moves obviously aren’t designed to benefit him, at least as regards his judicial career. He’s killing his career right this minute, as we watch with our jaws on the floor. But let us also waste no time wondering what the leverage is for applying the pressure on Sullivan. That’s not the point, because it has nothing to do with the case itself.
The point is that there’s an apparent motive at work here, and it’s to prolong the court process by which Michael Flynn is being dangled.
If Sullivan grants the DOJ motion to dismiss, Flynn is no longer being dangled. That’s what someone wants to prevent: Flynn’s release from legal purgatory.
A pit-bull for the judge
The choice of counsel made by Sullivan is a corroborating clue to that. The important thing about Beth Wilkinson – indeed, about her and the firm Wilkinson Walsh as a whole – is that she’s a pit-bull trial litigator. She and partner Amanda Walsh envisioned that from the start as their firm’s specialty.
Sullivan has hired Wilkinson to represent him in the process of forwarding his brief in response to the D.C. appeals court. But you don’t hire Beth Wilkinson to write briefs. You hire her to argue your interests – before judges, juries, arbiters, senators, FBI agents – with a 155mm howitzer, if necessary. She’s made a name from it, ramrodding high-profile civil suits that go to trial with lots of dollar-sign-zeroes riding on them. She almost always wins.
This suggests some important things. One is that Sullivan expects to need representation for his interests in the appeals court. Two, he expects this to actually be fought out – meaning it will take a while. No shortcuts. That’s probably something he has no control over.
Another potentially interesting point is that by hiring counsel for this process, Sullivan can put some deliberations beyond the normal reach of review. They’ll be attorney-client privileged. They’ll be arguably so, at least (which could mean even more time spent on process). That’s why, although we don’t know who’s paying for Beth Wilkinson, I suspect it’s not the taxpayers.
Sullivan’s moves have been so weird, what I read into them is that he’s squirming in someone’s grip, finding the best way forward that he can. It’s pushing fiction too far to suppose that he is personally motivated to destroy his career in order to make sure the charges aren’t dropped against Flynn any time soon.
The obvious question about this is, Cui bono? Who benefits from keeping Flynn on a hook?
The right focus
But that’s not the ultimate question. We can easily think who benefits. You call it as you see it; it appears to me that Obama is in the mix, although I don’t think he’s “the” prime mover, along with a group of “deep state” suspects who know that Flynn can find the buried bodies like a bloodhound, and would expose the cesspool of lies that surrounded Obama’s chief policy “achievement”: the Iran “deal.”
Lee Smith made a convincing case in his recent article at Tablet that the infrastructure for smear-marching the Iran “deal” to completion in 2015 was the same one used to attack Michael Flynn, with the same actors, methods, and core motives. That is a very important point.
But it’s his question at the very end of the article that needs our greatest focus. Smith doesn’t propound an answer to it. It’s the one I’ve been wrestling with for the last three years now, without a satisfactory conclusion as yet
It’s not as much who benefits as it is what is the benefit?
What do the beneficiaries lose if Flynn is no longer flopping with a hook in his jaw?
It has always been fatuous and superficial to declare that the benefit was merely sustaining Obama’s “legacy.” (Which was not Lee Smith’s claim, incidentally. His vision is much more penetrating than that.)
The motive doesn’t come from pride in a legacy, not for the high crimes and misdemeanors attending the Iran “deal” (the JCPOA) or the anti-Trump campaign, with its relentless supporting effort in the Flynn attack vector.
It’s something else. It’s something worth burning down everything to hang onto.
The starting point is clearly the nexus Smith identifies, of the anti-Trump campaign with the Iran JCPOA. There are two facets of that. One is the nefarious methods used by the Obama alumni in both cases to attack legitimate domestic political opposition. Regarding this facet, the concern would appear to be exposure of those methods and who was involved in them.
But when you think about it, just about everyone involved has already been exposed at this point. We have a very good idea of what they did. The legal reprisals have barely begun, but the political fallout is already being felt. Those fated to go under the bus are mostly there already; they have no live futures left in politics or the halls of government power.
The consequences from facet one are being processed and bled out as we speak. I suspect it’s facet two we need to be focused on.
Facet two is the nature of the JCPOA itself. The factors in it are Iran, nuclear weapons, and the balance of power in the Middle East.
And by far the most important mindset we need to adjust properly is this one. The JCPOA, in its reality – not in what it purports to be – is an instrument for keeping the Iranian nuclear weapons program alive, but also, for the time being, short of triggering an annihilating attack on it by the U.S. or Israel.
It was evident back in 2015 that you wouldn’t push for just this specific JCPOA if you actually wanted to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Rather, you would push for it if you wanted to fence Iran’s program off for some period of time from its political opposition in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu was right: it’s a bad deal, as policy, because it paves a pathway for Iran to a bomb. Donald Trump is right: the JCPOA is a terrible deal, as a deal, one that holds Iran to nothing that matters, yet simultaneously ties our hands and opens up the spigot on revenues and monetary claims for Iran.
Since 2015, we’ve seen that there is less transparency in the IAEA inspection regime, not more; that Iran takes full advantage of the less-stringent terms of the ballistic missile prohibition in UN resolution 2331, which implemented the JCPOA; and that the head of the IAEA has said explicitly he doesn’t have any agreed criteria by which to discern whether Iran is in breach of the prohibition on developing a nuclear warhead.
Those are not conditions whose sustainment will prevent Iran from getting a bomb.
Deluding ourselves that the JCPOA holds Iran back is our first problem in figuring out the “bono” part of the Cui bono question we’re pursuing here.
The real question
But correct that delusion, and the question is actually this: why does someone besides the mullahs want to keep Iran’s nuclear weapons program going, in an undead and revivable state? Why does that someone want it badly enough to knock down every pillar of the rule of law in America?
I’ve assembled all the clues I’ve come across on that, without yet reaching a satisfactory conclusion. A key premise would be that at least some of the “bono” – the good, or the benefit – comes while Iran’s nuclear program is still chugging along in some attenuated but protected state. The benefit isn’t all delayed until the JCPOA’s supposedly prohibitive clauses sunset in a few years.
I’m not certain what it is yet. But Lee Smith’s insight should have us looking in the right place. The sensitivity of the Obama alumni has been off the charts about three things: Trump, Flynn, and the JCPOA. They’re linked.
Significantly, the Obama alumni and the mainstream media have also been red-flag-identifiable by their peculiar alignment with the geopolitical narrative propounded by Qatar and its protectorates in the chattering class, including Al Jazeera, Yusuf al-Qaradawi (of whom we otherwise hear little these days), and Qatar-funded mouthpieces like the Brookings Institution. (The Strategic Studies Group has an excellent, full-length video treatment by Dave Reaboi if you have a little more time.)
Qatar’s friendliness with both Iran and Turkey makes it a unique focal point of views antagonistic to traditional U.S. policies in the Middle East – the traditional policies repudiated by Obama aide Ben Rhodes in 2016.
The “JCPOA” focus itself, meanwhile, is about Iran, yes. But we should consider the possibility that it’s about the feature we never look at seriously for more than a second or two. Consider that it’s about the nukes.