Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Wall Street Journal has a story on Michael Flynn’s plot to kidnap Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and “deliver” him to a Turkish prison. We knew about this plan, but the WSJ provides more details. The article is behind the paywall, but I go access by clicking on Twitter link.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating an alleged plan involving former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI….

The people who described the alleged proposal said they didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge from Mr. Flynn or his associates about its purported details. It isn’t clear how advanced Mr. Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan to remove Mr. Gulen is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation.

But federal investigators’ interest in whether Mr. Flynn was pursuing potentially illegal means to forcibly deal with Mr. Gulen indicates that the former Trump adviser faces another investigation stemming from his work on behalf of Turkish government interests, both before and after the presidential election.

Fethullah Gulen

One more interesting bit:

One person familiar with the alleged discussions about Mr. Gulen said Mr. Flynn also was prepared to use his influence in the White House to further the legal extradition of the cleric, who lives in Pennsylvania.

According to the WSJ, there were two meetings to discuss the kidnapping. The second one was attended by former former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was concerned enough to tell then Vice President Joe Biden about it. It seems both Mike Flynns are in serious trouble.

Randall D. Eliason of George Washington University Law School writes at The Washington Post: How Robert Mueller can play hardball with Michael Flynn.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team are no strangers to the practice of prosecutorial hardball. That skill may be coming into play once again if, as news reports indicate, the special counsel is turning his attention to former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and Flynn’s son Michael G. Flynn, who worked with his father’s lobbying firm and was also involved in the Trump transition. The elder Flynn has long been thought to be in Mueller’s sights, and CNN reported Wednesday that Flynn and his wife are worried about their son’s legal exposure as well.

Andrew Weissmann

If in fact prosecutors have built cases against both men, they now have a huge, juicy carrot to dangle in front of the elder Flynn: Plead guilty and testify against others, and we’ll go easy on your son. Given the former national security adviser’s prior positions with the Trump campaign and administration, that prospect has to make other potential targets of Mueller’s inquiry extremely uneasy.

Members of Mueller’s team are very familiar with — and have not been shy about employing — the tactic of persuading a witness to cooperate in exchange for leniency toward a family member. His chief deputy is Andrew Weissmann, a career prosecutor with a reputation for aggressiveness. More than a decade ago, Weissmann served on and ultimately headed the Enron task force, the team of prosecutors charged with investigating the financial collapse of the huge energy corporation. Weissmann and the other Enron prosecutors wanted the cooperation of Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, whom they had indicted on dozens of federal charges. When prosecutors later added additional charges against Fastow, they also indicted a new defendant: Lea Fastow, Andrew’s wife, who had also worked at Enron. With the felony charges pending against Lea Fastow, the couple faced the prospect of spending years in prison while their two young sons were raised by others.

Eventually Andrew Fastow was sentenced to 10 years in prison and his wife got one year, which she was allowed to serve before Andrew went to prison so they could care for their children. It looks like we’re about to find out what Michael Flynn will do to protect his son.

A couple more Russia investigation stories:

George Papadopoulos

ABC News reports that George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with the Mueller investigation in return for a reduced sentence, initially lied to FBI investigators “out of loyalty to Trump.”

Trump had publicly denied that there had been any contact between his campaign and Russian officials, and Papadopoulos did not want to contradict the official line, the source said.

“It’s all fake news,” Trump said of any alleged connections in January. “It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen.”

Papadopoulos met with the FBI agents investigating those alleged ties shortly thereafter, and he later acknowledged that he lied during that meeting about the timing of certain contacts.

How may other advisers lied out of loyalty to the liar in chief? And how many of those advisers will end up turning on Trump? Mueller is on the case.

NBC News: Trump Bodyguard Keith Schiller Testifies Russian Offered Trump Women, Was Turned Down.

After a business meeting before the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to “send five women” to Donald Trump’s hotel room in Moscow, his longtime bodyguard told Congress this week, according to three sources who were present for the interview.

Two of the sources said the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, viewed the offer as a joke, and immediately responded, “We don’t do that type of stuff.”

The two sources said Schiller’s comments came in the context of him adamantly disputing the allegations made in the Trump dossier, written by a former British intelligence operative, which describes Trump having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the pageant. Schiller described his reaction to that story as being, “Oh my God, that’s bull—-,” two sources said.

Keith Schiller

The conversation with the Russian about the five women took place after a morning meeting about the pageant in Moscow broke up, two sources said.

That night, two sources said, Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump’s hotel room for a time and then went to bed.

One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump’s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.

Schiller is one of Trump’s closest and longest-term employees. He would probably lie for his boss. So why didn’t he just say there was nothing to the story at all? A couple of legal experts on TV have suggested that Schiller may be afraid that someone else overheard the offer and thus he’s afraid to give a complete denial.

AP Exclusive: Russia Twitter trolls deflected Trump bad news.

Disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year’s presidential election while straining to refocus criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to an Associated Press analysis of since-deleted accounts.

Tweets by Russia-backed accounts such as “America_1st_” and “BatonRougeVoice” on Oct. 7, 2016, actively pivoted away from news of an audio recording in which Trump made crude comments about groping women, and instead touted damaging emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Since early this year, the extent of Russian intrusion to help Trump and hurt Clinton in the election has been the subject of both congressional scrutiny and a criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. In particular, those investigations are looking into the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

AP’s analysis illuminates the obvious strategy behind the Russian cyber meddling: swiftly react, distort and distract attention from any negative Trump news.

Read the rest at the AP link above.

Meanwhile Trump is bumbling through his Asia trip, working on destroying U.S. credibility around the world.

Quartz: Beijing is playing Trump “like a fiddle,” an ex-ambassador to China says.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s recent hosting of Donald Trump was a masterclass in how to make the US president comfortable—feed him familiar food, take him on his favorite outing, golf, and tell him how much you like him.

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter – RC1F6C531670

But Chinese president Xi Jinping added a creamy layer of pomp and circumstance to the mix when the White House delegation reached Beijing. Trump has been feted with everything from an unprecedented private dinner in the Forbidden City to a red carpet welcome in Tiananmen Square, the Beijing landmark where hundreds of students were killed by the Chinese military in 1989.

Trump has responded in kind, calling Xi a “very special man” with whom he has “great chemistry.” While US businessmen had high hopes that Trump and his back-to-the-1980s China advisors would wring concessions from Xi to cut the $350 billion trade deficit, the only concrete result has been a mish-mash of previously announced deals and non-binding agreements that probably aren’t worth the $250 billion both governments claim….

Beyond the numbers, it’s Trump’s embrace of Xi that has diplomats and human rights activists around the world concerned. China’s government is “playing Trump like a fiddle,” said Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013. “You don’t have good chemistry with a Chinese leader who doesn’t speak your language and is geared to not develop chemistry,” he said.

Read more at Quartz.

Putin is playing Trump too. Trump has been dying to meet with him again, but it’s not going to happen. Putin was just jerking him around and trying (successfully) to humiliate him.

Da Nang, Vietnam (CNN)President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold a formal meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here in Vietnam, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.

But the two world leaders did briefly meet during the so-called APEC class photo, where all the heads of state come together to take a photo before the summit officially starts. Trump and Putin shook hands and had a briefly spoke before the photo was snapped….

Citing “scheduling conflicts on both sides,” though, Sanders said no formal meeting will take place during the two-day gathering, but that an informal interaction between the two world leaders was likely to happen, a notion reinforced by her Russian counterparts.

“Regarding a Putin meeting, there was never a meeting confirmed, and there will not be one that takes place due to scheduling conflicts on both sides,” Sanders said. “There is no formal meeting or anything scheduled for them.”

Sure Sarah. Poor Donald was so looking forward to a private audience with his idol. But it was not to be.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

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37 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I didn’t write about Roy Moore and the scaredy cat Republicans, because I didn’t want to get nauseated again.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Another good article on China from the LA Times: Trump’s Asia trip shows U.S. at risk of being sidelined in the region’s economic future.

    From Tokyo to Seoul to Beijing, the American president has been feted with maximum ceremonial honors — a “state visit-plus,” the Chinese called it. Asian leaders listened politely to his demands that they accept what he considers fairer trade terms and that they buy more American goods.

    Nowhere in Trump’s tour, however, have any of those leaders entered into serious negotiations or made significant concessions.

    “Quite frankly, in the grand scheme of a $300- to $500-billion trade deficit, the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Beijing on Thursday, referring to the U.S. trade deficit with China. “In terms of really getting at some of the fundamental elements behind why this imbalance exists, there’s still a lot more work to do.”

    Instead of offering concessions, both the United States’ historical allies, Japan and South Korea, as well as China, its most serious Pacific rival, signaled that they had taken Trump at his word: His “America First” policy means the United States will become less and less a player in the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world.

    That reality was underscored Thursday when trade ministers from the so-called TPP-11, the signatories to the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement minus the U.S., said at a meeting in Vietnam that they had agreed on how to revise the agreement to proceed without Washington.

    • quixote says:

      Not sure about “at risk.” As someone who keeps an eye on New Zealand / Australian news, I’d say the sidelining has already started.

      The US has such a massive role in the world economy that sidelining it is a bit like altering the flow of the Mississippi. Seems like not much happened except that after a few years downstream communities find out that their riverboat piers are now miles away from the river.

      Reading the Australasian press, the US already has some catching up to do, but the damage (to the US for China’s benefit) is going to continue for at least three more years.

      Unless they get rid of the Orange Dogpile and his whole Administration, which the smart money says is not going to happen. But I live in hope….

    • dakinikat says:

      Yeah. I’ve been warning about that since the idiot made the suggestion.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    • Boo Radly says:

      Earlier in tRump’s campaigning, a reporter asked him about Putin/Russia’s perchance to kill his contrary followers. tRump got one of his creepy grins on and said, “you don’t think this country doesn’t”. Made my skin crawl. Duterte as well as Putin are real ‘he-men’ don’t you know. Anyone else see this particular event?

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    Flynn is just evil. Something flipped the switch in his brain that caused a lifetime servant of the military to turn on his country.

    But the lure of money will do it overtime.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    The winds are blowing here in Western MA at about 35 mph. Just chased my trash barrel down the street!

    Hope you don’t have the same problems, bb.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Thx for the Flynn stuff. Wonder when the arrest warrants get released?

    • Pat Johnson says:

      We all need to be thankful to Sally Yates for outing Flynn. One can only imagine what he was up to and if he succeeded what it would have meant to our country as a result.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Diana Nyad is talking about being sexually abused by her high school coach on MSNBC.

    Here’s her essay in the NYT: Diana Nyad: My Life After Sexual Assault

  8. bostonboomer says:

    LA Times: Trump judge nominee, 36, who has never tried a case, wins approval of Senate panel

    Brett J. Talley, President Trump’s nominee to be a federal judge in Alabama, has never tried a case, was unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Assn.’s judicial rating committee, has practiced law for only three years and, as a blogger last year, displayed a degree of partisanship unusual for a judicial nominee, denouncing “Hillary Rotten Clinton” and pledging support for the National Rifle Assn.

    On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, approved him for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

    • NW Luna says:

      The whole Republican Party is mindlessly goosestepping behind Trump. What cowards! This country will be maimed for decades.

      • Enheduanna says:

        GOPers could care less about separation of powers or checks and balances. With tRump they will have succeeded in turning the judiciary into a cudgel against progressive change for this country. It’s a horrible blow to women and marginalized people.

      • jane says:

        Republicans do not care about the Constitution or a two party system. They have openly advocated, through talk radio, a one party government for years. Rush Limbaugh said “No Democrat should ever be elected to any office, not even dogcatcher”. That is their goal.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  10. NW Luna says:

    Ignore the articles ridiculous digs (about not campaigning in Wisconsin among others); there’s some good reporting also.

    Hillary Clinton has hailed Democratic victories in elections this week as proof that “the fever has broken” and the fightback against Donald Trump has begun.

    The defeated presidential candidate was speaking to nearly 2,500 people at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater on Thursday, exactly a year after she delivered her concession speech to tearful supporters in New York.

    Praising an outpouring of activism and engagement in the resistance to Trump over the past 12 months, Clinton said: “And just this week we saw what a difference that can make because in elections across America – hope beat hate, right?” The audience erupted in cheers.

    The 70-year-old praised a huge grassroots organisational effort that involved volunteers knocking on thousands of doors. “And none of that would have happened if people had got so discouraged that they decided to give up and leave politics to the dark forces that have been in the ascendancy over the last years in states like Wisconsin and now in Washington.

    In her book she suggests that voter suppression in Wisconsin – which some experts say wiped out tens of thousands of votes – was more significant than her failure to hold rallies. On Thursday she described it as a civil rights issue and said: “There is no better example of an attempt to rig an election than the massive voter suppression we experienced here in Milwaukee … Wisconsites who desperately wanted to vote were turned away at the polls despite having all kinds of identification.”

    The former secretary of state also attacked Trump for handing China the initiative in renewable energy and for stating, during his visit to Beijing, that he gives China “great credit” for taking advantage of the US on trade. “That is not the right answer.” She predicted that the Chinese president would run rings around Trump. “I know Xi Jinping,” she said. “I know Xi Jinping is sitting there thinking, ‘Man, this is going to be easier than I thought.’”

    • Enheduanna says:

      I got a thank you note from Hillary today for a card I sent her about a year ago (LOL – she must have been swamped). It isn’t hand-signed or anything but she did thank me specifically for the card which was WWII vintage birthday card. She must STILL be employing people to wrap up her campaign obligations.

      IIRC Luna, you inspired me to send the card! txs!

    • joanelle says:

      Interesting that they included Hill age in the article. Not commonly done for others that I’ve seen