About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH DEC. 12, 2017

The Alabama Senate race dominated the news. But important things were happening in the Trump-Russia story. For fun — and context — see how the newest entries fit into the overall saga.

Here’s a list of what we added with our Dec. 12 update:

  • June 2005: Manafort Pitches Himself to Russian Oligarch
  • Nov. 10, 2008: Trump Sues Deutsche Bank, But Bank Keeps Lending To Him Anyway
  • June 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer
  • June 14, 2016: Goldstone Emails Emin Agalarov and Ike Kaveladz
  • July 14, 2016: Trump Campaign Successfully Changes GOP Platform on Ukraine
  • Nov. 5, 2016: Russian Social Media Exec Offers to Promote Trump
  • Dec. 12, 2016: Former Trump Campaign Surrogate Discusses Sanctions With Russian Businessmen
  • On or around Jan. 11, 2017: DeVos’ Brother Meets With Putin Associate
  • Jan. 20, 2017: Flynn Says Trump Will ‘Rip Up’ Russian Sanctions
  • Jan 26, 2017: DOJ Says Flynn Lied; McGahn Informs Trump
  • February 2017: FBI Warns Hope Hicks About Russians
  • April 9, 2017: McFarland Is Asked To Resign
  • Sometime after May 31, 2017: Nunes and White House Contact Erik Prince
  • July 8, 2017: Don Jr.’s June 9 Meeting Becomes Public
  • Oct. 5, 2017: Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty
  • Dec. 4, 2017: Trump Tweets
  • Dec. 4, 2017: Trump’s Lawyer Says A President Cannot Be Guilty Of Obstruction Of Justice
  • Dec. 4, 2017: Mueller Withdraws Support For Manafort’s Bail Agreement
  • Dec. 5, 2017: Mueller Has Subpoenaed Deutsche Bank
  • Dec. 7-8, 2017: Mueller Meets With Hope Hicks

TRUMP’S INCRIMINATING TWEET ISN’T AS IMPORTANT AS FLYNN’S PLEA

[This post first appeared at Billmoyers.com on Dec. 7, 2017]

The media focus on Trump’s tweet has obscured the key facts underlying Flynn’s guilty plea.

The media controversy over who wrote President Trump’s Dec. 2, 2017 tweet shifted attention away from a key point about the tweet itself: It is a double-barreled lie that obscures the facts surrounding a more important story.

Here is the tweet at the center of the storm:

The Media Controversy

Immediately after it appeared, pundits began debating whether Trump had incriminated himself. Some thought that Trump had admitted to obstructing justice.

Here’s their argument: Trump tweeted that he “had to fire Gen. Flynn because [Flynn] lied” — but not just to Vice President Pence, as Trump and the White House had maintained since February. Trump’s tweet also says that he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI. That means that on Feb. 14, 2017 — the day after Flynn resigned — when Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to back off on the bureau’s investigation of Flynn, Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI about his late-December 2016 conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In that scenario, Trump’s request that Comey “let this go” is an attempt to obstruct justice.

Then on Saturday Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, claimed he authored the tweet. So, Trump defenders argue, because Trump didn’t write it, Trump didn’t incriminate himself. But that’s tenuous. Because Trump did not disavow or delete this “official statement by the president of the United States” — a definition that the Trump administration itself provided — the tweet became what lawyers call an “adoptive admission” that binds Trump. In other words, Dowd has created a nightmare for himself and his client.

But here’s the other thing: The tweet is riddled with lies.

The Lies

The truth is that Trump didn’t fire Flynn for either of the reasons he gave in his tweet. If he had, Flynn would have left his top national security post weeks earlier. Again, John Dowd’s words put his client in a tough spot. Dowd said White House counsel Don McGahn had told Trump in late January that he believed Flynn had probably misled the FBI and lied to Pence about the substance of his calls with Kislyak. But Trump didn’t fire Flynn until The Washington Post broke the story on Feb. 13. The unavoidable inference is that Trump did not fire Flynn because he lied; he fired him because the media discovered the lie and reported it.

The More Important Story

The media focus on Trump’s tweet has obscured the key facts underlying Flynn’s guilty plea, and Trump has no incentive to help the public see those facts clearly.

    • In late December 2016, Trump’s national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn — in consultation with a senior official of the Trump transition team later identified as K. T. McFarland — spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about newly imposed US sanctions for election interference. Flynn’s mission was to persuade Kislyak that the Trump administration would reward Putin for a restrained response, and he succeeded.
    • After his phone call with Kislyak, Flynn “spoke with senior members of the presidential transition team about [his] conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding the US sanctions and Russia’s decision not to escalate.” We don’t know if Flynn’s conversations included Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but Pence was chairman of the transition team.
    • On Jan. 24, 2017, four days after the inauguration, the FBI interviewed Flynn. He lied, adhering to the White House line that Pence had established: Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak “had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
    • For more than two weeks, Flynn remained in the nation’s most sensitive national security post until The Washington Post broke the story about Yates’ warning to McGahn. Then Trump and the White House said that Flynn was fired because he had lied to Pence about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.
    • On Feb. 14, 2017 — the day after Flynn’s resignation — Trump told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey took Trump’s request as a directive to terminate the Flynn investigation. Three months later, Trump fired Comey.
    • Comey later testified, “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Properly considered, Trump’s tweet should bring into clear view the enduring theme of the Trump-Russia investigation: When facing questions related to Russia, Team Trump answers with lies — sometimes layers and layers of them.

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH DEC. 4, 2017

It was Flynn’s week, but we haven’t heard the last of him.

A personal prediction as to those higher in the food chain: Flynn has put Jared Kushner. Mike Pence, and Donald Trump (father and son) on the hot seat.

  • May 19-22, 2016: Trump, Don Jr. and Torshin at the NRA [revision of previous entry]
  • July 15, 2016: Flynn Denounces Turkey’s Erdoğan
  • Nov. 12, 2016: Russian Claims Conspiracy Helped Trump Win
  • Nov. 25, 2016: Trump Names McFarland Deputy National Security Adviser
  • Dec. 22, 2016: Flynn Communicates With Kislyak About UN Resolution
  • Dec. 28-29, 2016: Flynn Discusses New Sanctions With Kislyak
  • Dec. 31, 2016:
    Flynn Relays Kislyak Talks To Trump Team
  • Early January 2017: Flynn Promotes Nuclear Power Plant Program for Mideast
  • Feb. 15, 2017: Trump Says Flynn Has Been Treated Unfairly
  • April 9, 2017: McFarland Asked To Resign
  • Aug. 7, 2017: Trump Asks GOP Senators To End Trump-Russia Investigation [revision of previous entry]
  • Aug. 9, 2017: Trump Blasts McConnell Over Russia Investigation [revision of previous entry]
  • Sometime in November 2017: Mueller Quizzes Kushner About Flynn
  • Nov. 25, 2017: Woolsey With Trump At Mar-A-Lago With Trump
  • Nov. 26, 2017: Trump Tweets
  • Nov. 27, 2017: Flynn’s Lawyer Meets With Mueller
  • Nov. 28, 2017: House Democrats Want Barrack To Appear
  • Nov. 28, 2017: Trump Tweets
  • Nov. 29, 2017: Trump Tweets
  • Dec. 1, 2017: Flynn Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements [revision of previous entry]
  • Dec. 1, 2017: James Comey Tweets
  • Dec. 2, 2017: Trump Tweets
  • Dec. 3, 2017: Trump Tweets

 

FLYNN FALLS; EVEN BIGGER TIMBER IN TROUBLE

If you think Mike Flynn has problems, they’re nothing compared to those even higher on the Trump food chain — Pence, Kushner, and Trump himself. Newly posted at Billmoyers.com

A Timeline: Michael Flynn, Russia, and the Trump Administration

A look at everything we know about Retired General Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. For a short time, Flynn served as the Trump administration’s national security advisor. Following a guilty plea for lying to the FBI, he’s now likely cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, leaves following his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse, December 1, 2017, in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Trump-Russia investigation has reached a historic and defining moment. Former national security advisor Michael Flynn was an early and enthusiastic Trump supporter who remained a constant presence in Trump’s inner circle from the summer of 2015 to his resignation on Feb. 13, 2017.

Flynn also generated controversy and, based on previously published reports, faced potential legal exposure far beyond the crime of making false statements, to which he has now pled guilty. Almost certainly, that means he has cut a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. In return for admitting that he made false statements to the FBI about his discussions with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and avoiding potential liability for other criminal wrongdoing, Flynn will likely provide evidence that incriminates others in Trump’s orbit. Who are the targets? The list is long, but top candidates include Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump.

For Trump’s presidency, it’s possible that the Russia story may have moved from what Winston Churchill called “the end of the beginning” to the beginning of the end.

Click here to review the new Flynn Timeline.

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH NOV. 27, 2017

During a relatively quiet Thanksgiving week, Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn accounts for some interesting new entries on the Trump-Russia Timeline.

Here’s a list of what we added with our Nov. 27 update:

  • July 1987: Trump’s Early Interest in Soviet Union Real Estate [revision of previous entry]
  • Late 2004 through 2015: Manafort Travels to Moscow [revision of previous entry]
  • February 2014 through October 2015: Yanukovych Falls; Manafort Continues Trips to Kiev
  • Nov. 19, 2015: Rohrabacher: “Forget Putin…”
  • August 2016: Flynn’s Consulting Firm Lobbies for Turkish Interests [revision of previous entry]
  • Sept. 20, 2016: Flynn Meets With Rohrabacher
  • Nov. 8, 2016: Flynn Publishes Op-Ed on Turkey
  • Nov. 19, 2017: Mueller Seeks Justice Dept. Documents
  • Nov. 21, 2017: WSJ: Mueller Investigating Kushner’s Foreign Contacts
  • Nov. 22, 2017: Trump Walks Away From SoHo
  • Nov. 23, 2017: Trump Won’t Pay Flynn’s or Manafort’s Legal Fees
  • Nov. 23, 2017: Flynn Lawyers No Longer Sharing Information With Trump Lawyers

READ, LISTEN, OR BOTH — BUT PLEASE PAY ATTENTION

Two links for your consideration:

— Bill Moyers and I discussed connecting some of the Trump-Russia dots here: “The Trump-Russia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense Of It”

— Ian Masters interviewed me on his radio program here: “A Timeline and Roadmap of the Mueller Investigation”

 

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH NOV. 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another week; another Putin insider gets added to the list of known Russians in the Trump campaign’s orbit.
This time, it’s a Russian banker.
But there’s more…

The latest updates to our Trump-Russia Timeline:

  • Nov. 16, 2013: Trump Announces Plans for Moscow Skyscraper
  • Nov. 16, 2013: Russian Bank Announces $2.4 Billion Construction Loan for New Agalarov Development
  • March 20, 2014: US Imposes Sanctions Against Russia Over Ukraine
  • July 11, 2015: Russian Asks About Sanctions At Trump Rally
  • May 19-22, 2016: Trump, Don Jr. and Torshin at the NRA
  • Aug. 25, 2016: Clovis Becomes Trump Campaign National Co-Chair
  • Sept. 20, 2016: WikiLeaks Tweets Anti-Trump Group’s Password
  • June 2017: Akhmetshin and Kaveladze Meet in Moscow
  • July 12, 2017: Emin Agalarov Tries to Recant Previously Published Interview in Forbes
  • Mid-October 2017: Mueller Subpoenas Russia-Related Documents From Trump Campaign
  • Nov. 14, 2017: Sessions Says That He Has Not Lied About Trump Campaign Contacts With Russia [Revision of previous entry]
  • Nov. 16, 2017: Senate Judiciary Committee Complains About Kushner’s Incomplete Document Production
  • Nov. 17, 2017: Trump Reportedly Now Paying Own Legal Bills