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Marcy Wheeler: Mike Flynn’s Guilty Plea to FBI Will Shape How GOP Handles Russia Investigation

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Update: ABC is reporting Michael Flynn prepared to testify that President-elect Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians during the transition, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

Just before news broke that President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn will plead guilty this morning to lying to the FBI, we spoke with national security reporter Marcy Wheeler, who anticipated the news and said it could “dramatically change how Republicans face the Russian investigation.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, The New York Times reported President Trump pressured senior Senate Republicans over the summer, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to drop Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia—news coming amidst reports that Mueller’s investigators recently questioned senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over a meeting with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

MARCY WHEELER: Right, and this is actually one of the reasons why this switch isn’t going to happen, because I don’t think Pompeo is confirmable by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, because we’ve learned a lot more of his implication in the Russian story.

The Kushner meeting was reported as kind of the last—one of the last things that Mueller had to put into place before this plea agreement that people have been talking about with Mike Flynn. And that suggests that there is more news about to drop regarding Mike Flynn, that I think is going to really dramatically change how Republicans take the Russian investigation.

Somehow, you know, Flynn had been avoiding discussing plea agreements for months and months and months, and then, really in the last two weeks, all of a sudden it seems like it’s about to happen. Mueller has more leverage over Flynn in the last couple weeks. It may be Turkey, because a key witness in New York has turned state’s evidence and apparently has information on Flynn. I think there’s some other information.

And so, Flynn, we expect, is moving towards a plea agreement. We expect—or I expect—that’s going to add a lot more pressure on Trump. And I’ve been saying for months that the way to get to Kushner is through Flynn, because a lot of the events in which Flynn was involved, such as meeting with Sergey Kislyak in December, they connect very closely with activities that Kushner is known to be involved with.

So that seems to be where things are moving. And, you know, this Pompeo news seems impossible against that background, because Pompeo has helped Trump to cover up this Russia thing. And I don’t see Bob Corker, and I don’t see Marco Rubio, who are both Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, I don’t see them supporting Pompeo having an even bigger role in the administration as this Russia stuff kind of opens up.

AMY GOODMAN: And Flynn and Turkey, can you explain what’s been uncovered at this point?

MARCY WHEELER: So, Flynn was a consultant for the Turkish government, but through some cutouts, right? And he is alleged to have, A, discussed on two different occasions basically kidnapping a cleric who lives in Pennsylvania that the Turkish government considers one of their big enemies. They blame him for the attempted coup earlier in the year. So that’s one thing, is that he has talked about kidnapping an American permanent resident on behalf of another government.

The other thing is that there was a guy named Reza Zarrab who was charged in a laundering—a sanctions avoidance laundering case in New York, basically laundering money to get gold to Iran. That connects very closely with Turkey’s president. But that guy, Zarrab, made a plea agreement, basically, and that just came out this week. The trial in which he is testifying is rolling out. But he is believed to have some information about Flynn’s efforts to free him on behalf of the Turkish government.

And again, this is another case where Flynn didn’t disclose these moneys. He was working as the transition national security adviser and being paid by a foreign government. There is a much stronger case against him on this Turkish stuff even than on the Russian stuff. And so, I think not only is it easier to charge him with this stuff—and that would be kind of similar to what happened to Paul Manafort—but also it would—one of the things that has been reported to happen is it would implicate his son, Mike Flynn Jr., who was involved in some of these things. And so, one of the motives that Flynn might have for flipping, for cooperating with Mueller, is to keep his son out of prison.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, do you think this could account for all these developments this week, could account for the further unraveling of President Trump, right? Tweeting out these racist, Islamophobic videos, talking about, you know, President Obama once again—as he led the birther movement, Trump did—and all of the things he’s done—you know, the Pocahontas comments in the midst of a Navajo code talker ceremony in the Oval Office in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson. But all of this coming one after the other has Republicans scratching their heads, as well.

MARCY WHEELER: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to measure the next outrage from the president, but I do think that he’s hearing footsteps. I do think he continues to try and convince those around him that he’s not at any risk of this investigation. That’s ridiculous at this point. It’s clear that Mueller is investigating him for obstruction, if not far more. And these attempts to distract attention—but I also think—and this will segue into your next piece, but I also think he’s also attempting to distract from the fact that he’s about to, in the name of tax reform, carry out this vast looting of the American poor and middle class. So, you know, it serves two purposes: distract from Russia, but also distract from the tax bill that they’re rushing through Congress this week.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Marcy Wheeler, we want to thank you so much for being with us, independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties, runs the website EmptyWheel.net. We’ll link to your piece, “Throwing H2O on the Pompeo to State Move.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to talk about a little-known provision of the tax law that has to do with opening up the Arctic to drilling. And then we will go to Mogadishu. We’ll talk about the latest on a massacre that took place there. What was the U.S. involvement? And finally, we’ll look at the Impeach Trump movement. Stay with us.

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