MAGA world is very up-in-arms about some newly unsealed court documents involving the case of Michael Flynn, the US Army Lieutenant General and former Trump national security advisor who pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian government and also worked as a secret lobbyist for the Turkish government while he was in the White House.
The documents at the center of this flurry involve handwritten notes from an FBI agent about the handling of the case. "What’s our goal?" the agent scrawled on one document. "Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Another document shows the same agent expressing concern about the need to "Protect our institution by not playing games," noting that "If we’re seen playing games, WH will be furious."
Flynn's lawyers are trying to use this revelation to reverse his guilty plea and get the case thrown out, citing it as proof of a Deep State FBI something something. "Since August 2016 at the latest, partisan F.B.I. and D.O.J. leaders conspired to destroy Mr. Flynn," they wrote to the judge, "These documents show in their own handwriting and emails that they intended either to create an offense they could prosecute or at least get him fired."
President Trump has long defended Flynn's innocence, so it's no surprise that his lawyers would try to take advantage of this opportunity. But nor should it be surprising that the FBI was trying to make deliberate and strategic bureaucratic decisions. Read the rest
One of the strangest contradictory sensations of the Trump era is the man's relationship towards and with the various U.S. intelligence agencies. In many cases, Trump's broad criticisms about the unaccountable and seemingly limitless scope of intelligence gathering are valid. Or would be, anyway, if the man actually cared about those issues for any reason beyond his larger tantrum over the way those agencies have undermined his ego. Or if he wasn't simultaneously trying to use that same wide jurisdiction to target his own political enemies.
In other words, Trump's not necessarily wrong about the potential abuses of secret and/or warrantless surveillance (or "wiretapping" as he puts it). But he's only mad about those things because they can be used to threaten him and his friends, instead of reinforcing his hunches. Otherwise, illegal spying and invasions of privacy are totally fine with him—as long as they target the right people.
There are moments, then, where it becomes a case of "My enemy's enemy is my friend" — except that "friend" is also an enemy of sorts, which further complicates the whole mess. Case in point: this recent Just Security post by Douglas London, a former CIA operative. In it, London talks about the way that the CIA's priorities have been forced to shift from general intelligence gathering to just kind of soothing Trump's ego, and retroactively justifying all of the man's random baseless instincts:
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The revealing and most disconcerting aspect of this episode was not that Pompeo presumed the worst from his workforce before getting the full story, nor his vicious dressing down of a dedicated senior official and decorated officer.