TrumpWatch, Day 295: Mueller Investigates Flynn Over Plot to Return Cleric to Turkey

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Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (R) and his son Michael Flynn Jr.

More claims against Flynn, dismissed in February because of discussions with Russian Ambassador to US


Developments on Day 295 of the Trump Administration:

Podcast: Trump in Asia…No Disasters So Far?

Report: Flynn and Son Offered $15 Million by Turks

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating senior Trump advisor and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his son over a claimed plot in December 2016 to return an exiled cleric to detention in Turkey.

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the allegations include an offer of $15 million to the Flynn to forcibly remove Fethullah Gülen, who fell out with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and now lives on a farm in Pennsylvania.

The sources said that the FBI questioned at least four people over the meeting in New York at the “21” Club, but that they do not have direct knowledge of the details.

In March, former CIA Director James Woolsey spoke of an earlier meeting in September 2016 between Flynn and Erdoğan’s representatives:

What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation — it’s not entirely clear what transpired because of that. But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey’s political situation.

Erdoğan accuses Gülen of responsibility for a failed July 2016 coup. Turkish authorities have arrested thousands of peoples and/or purged them from public service, accusing them of being supporters of the cleric.

Flynn’s spokesman has denied any meeting, and his lawyers denied the latest story in a written statement on Friday:

Out of respect for the process of the various investigations regarding the 2016 campaign, we have intentionally avoided responding to every rumor or allegation raised in the media. But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: they are false.

However, Flynn reportedly expressed concern this week about the potential legal exposure of his son Michael Flynn Jr.

Before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016, Flynn Sr’s consultancy Flynn Intel Group was paid $530,000 for lobbying on behalf of the Turkish Government. He failed to register as “a foreign agent” for the work because, according to his lawyer, he was working for a Turkish businessman.


Trump: Putin “Said He Didn’t Meddle” in My Election — “I Really Believe That”

Donald Trump assures everyone that Vladimir Putin told him that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 Presidential election.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, Trump said he and had “two or three very short conversations”:

He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did….

Every time he sees me he says: “I didn’t do that,” and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.

Trump made a similar statement after he spoke with Putin at the G20 summit in Germany in July.

He added yesterday that Putin was “very insulted by [the question], which is not a good thing for our country”.

Before the brief meeting, Putin declared, “Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of continuing domestic political struggle.”

In a later statement, Trump lashed out at former heads of US intelligence who have spoken about the Russian influence operations.

I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks….I mean, you have [former CIA Director John] Brennan, you have [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper and you have [former FBI Director James] Comey….So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.


“Putin’s Niece” Identified in Trump-Russia Contacts

The mysterious woman referred to as “Putin’s niece” in the court records of George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign staffer who tried to set up a meeting between senior Trump staff and Russian officials, has been identified.

A New York Times review of the case of Papadopoulos, who pled guilty in early October to lying to investigators, says the woman is Olga Polonskaya, a 30-year-old Russian from St. Petersburg and the former manager of a wine distribution company. She was introduced to Papadopoulos by London-based academic Joseph Mifsud, a go-between with Russian officials, as Putin’s niece — even though the Russian President has no such relative.

The discussion in London was on March 24, a week before Papadopoulos told a meeting of Trump’s “national security team” of the desire to set up an encounter between Trump and Putin.

See Timeline: Trump-Russia Connections and Clinton’s E-mails

In April, Mifsud told Papadopoulos in London that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of e-mails”.

The Times explains how Mifsud was approached in 2014, at his office at the London Academy of Diplomacy, by a Russian intern who had worked in the government as a legislative aide and later joined a Russian state newspaper.

Natalia Kutepova-Jamrom introduced Mifsud to senior Russian officials, diplomats, and scholars and — despite Mifsud’s lack of qualifications — arranged for an invitation for him to join the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, an elite gathering of Western and Russian academics that meets each year with Putin.

Mifsud introduced Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the Valdai conference and a liaison with the Russian Foreign Ministry, to Papadopoulos.

Polonskaya’s brother Vinogradov denies that she had anything to do with these maneuvers and was in London discussing a possible internship with Mifsud, a friend, the morning before the meeting with Papadopoulos. He said that she only exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Papadopoulos, and that she understood about half of the discussion, e-mailing him, “because my English was bad”.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” Sergei Vinogradov said. “She’s not interested in politics. She can barely tell the difference between Lenin and Stalin.”


Bannon Renews Promise of War on GOP Establishment, Demise of Majority Leader McConnell

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon renews his declaration of a war on the GOP establishment, including a promise that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be in his post in November 2018.

In an interview with The New York Times, the chief executive of the attack site Breitbart hailed Trump’s election as “MAGA [Make America Great Again] Day”, “a high holy day…like Bastille Day”, and targeted “the Senate and Mitch McConnell…[as] the most outrageous in their lack of support of President Trump’s agenda”.

As soon as he was dismissed from the White House this August, Bannon declared “#WAR” on the establishment Republican, grooming candidates to stand against the GOP’s Congressional incumbents next year. In a preview of the battle, Bannon and Breitbart backed Roy Moore — now in trouble over revelations of his approaches to young women almost 40 years ago — in his victory over incumbent Luther Strange in the Republican primary for Alabama’s special election. The hard-right activist is also claiming credit for the decisions of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake to retire, and is promising more triumphs:

We had, you know, Big Luther in Alabama. We had Corker in Tennessee, and we had Flake in Arizona, and there’ll be more. There’ll be more. Don’t think that — don’t think that you know not one of these senators has run out there and said publicly and said, “I want the endorsement of Mitch McConnell.” Yet they’re all coming to us.

in response to the question, “Do you think Mitch McConnell will be majority leader at this time next year?”, Bannon said, “I absolutely do not think he will be majority leader.”


Senate Committee Approves “Unqualified” Federal Judge

A Senate committee has accepted a Trump nominee as a federal judge in Alabama, even though Brent Talley has never tried a case, was unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association’s judicial rating committee, and has practiced law for only three years.

Talley has also used his blog to deride “Hillary Rotten Clinton” and pledge support for the National Rifle Association.

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Talley on a party-line vote for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

Talley, who has degrees from the University of Alabama and Harvard Law School, clerked for two federal judges and worked as a speechwriter on the Presidential campaign of Mitt Romney in 2012. He later became the protégé of GOP Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate in January to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The standard euphemism is ‘extraordinarily rendition’, or, translated into cleartext, a ‘state-sponsored international kidnapping’, no bland ‘return’, and it is comical to watch a warcriminal Gestapo thug like Woolsey clasp the pearls to his bosom in feigned horror at the thought, after it has only been official Yanki policy for 16 years or so.

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