We’re at the end of a long week. But I want to flag a flurry of stories I suspect are adding up to something bigger.
Mike Flynn was negotiating a deal with Turkish interests to kidnap a US resident alien and deliver him back to Turkey for $15 million. Mueller is looking at this.
Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange looking for Clinton campaign emails right at the time they signed on to work for Trump.
Mueller is now probing a pre-election meeting between Flynn and pro-Russian Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). This new thread seems to connect to possible issues with Russia rather than Turkey. Possibly, it connects the two. Rohrabacher has openly been pushing Russia’s case in Washington. He’s also been in active contact with Assange.
There have already been published reports that Mueller believes he has more than enough to indict Flynn and likely also Flynn’s son. All of these threads together suggest a much broader range of wrongdoing than we had understood until now. A key point is that it seems to mix clearly criminal activity, perhaps working with people tied to the Russian government, and a more mundane push to bag as much money as possible. As we’ve discussed, spies look for crooks. They can both be bought and blackmailed, a powerful combination.
I think we know Paul Manafort. He’s a money guy and a crook. Fundamentally he’s no mystery to me. We know the type. Flynn remains far more opaque. The mix of a distinguished career in Army intelligence followed by what many see as a dramatic turn in outlook and behavior. Some who know him think he was always like that. The chain of command made it less visible. It came into its own when he got an executive command. Or maybe something changed. He seems like a true believer when it comes to a certain vision of the Middle East. He’s also clearly very corrupt. I think we know who Paul Manafort is. At least speaking for myself, I don’t think I know who Mike Flynn is.
Final point: Paul Manafort was apparently involved with numerous acts of money laundering, non-registration as a foreign agent and more. Flynn’s activities seem much further out on the edge. Kidnapping? Very convoluted freelancing tied to various countries in the Middle East? Still opaque connections with Russia? In the middle of last year, Flynn cowrote a book with Michael Ledeen. If you don’t know that name he was a key player in the Iran-Contra scandal and what you might call Washington’s avatar of illegal foreign policy freelancing, Middle East region conspiracy theories and more. He’s also a lifelong student of and devotee of Italian fascism. He’s quite a piece of work. A lot of this stuff is wild enough to have a Michael Ledeen feel to it. Keep an eye out for whether his name bubbles up in this. I suspect it will.