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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The key question out of the Flynn plea agreement is the identity of the person referenced as a “senior official of the Presidential Transition Team” and another termed a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team”.

Here’s why this is important.

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Statement from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb …

“Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.

“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”

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There’s no way to know for sure. We’ll never know definitively. But this morning, before the Flynn news broke, I was thinking that President Trump’s behavior has seemed more wild and erratic in recent days. Yes, the baseline standard is pretty high. But over the last week or so we’ve seen a number of reports of Trump saying wilder things in private to associates and advisors. He seemed to be gravitating back to the kinds of transgressive behaviors and assertions he makes when he’s under threat or pressure.

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I.F. Stone famously said “All governments lie.” This may be the first time I’ve heard this maxim invoked as a defense. The initial spin from the Trumpers about the Flynn plea deal is “everyone lies!”

Watch.

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We are just getting the initial information about about this Mike Flynn charge – one count of providing a false statement to the FBI. CNN has just reported that Flynn is expected to plead guilty to this crime.

Here is some important context for understanding what is happening here.

Given everything we’ve seen reported over the last year about Mike Flynn, this is a relatively minor charge. Lying to the FBI is a serious crime, with significant penalties. In theory, Flynn faces up to five years in prison on this one count. But if the bulk of reporting on Flynn is close to correct, there’s a lot more that Mueller could have charged him with.

It certainly seems like Flynn is getting off pretty easy here, relative to what he could have been charged with. That strongly suggests a cooperation agreement and one in which Flynn agreed to and showed he was in a position to offer a lot of critical information and/or testimony.

That’s not the only possibility. Maybe there’s much less here with Flynn than we’ve been led to believe, based on press reports. But the first possibility seems much more likely.

Another key point: If the premise of significant cooperation is correct, you can only get a deal like this if you help with more significant crimes which almost always means people higher up the chain. We should resist the idea that that has to mean President Trump. But it’s a very small group of people including Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and maybe a very few others. This is simply because Flynn was at the very top of the campaign.

ed.note: This post initially referred to two counts of providing false statements. That was incorrect. It is one count for which two examples are provided.

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Mueller charges Mike Flynn with making false statements to FBI.

We’ll be bringing you more info as it comes out. On its face, this seems almost certainly like Flynn is being charged with a good deal less than he could be charged with – presumably because of a cooperation deal. I stress “seems”. What we know is that he’s been charged with lying to the FBI.

9:19 AM: Flynn to appear in court this morning at 10:30 AM, according to Jeff Toobin on CNN.

Here’s a quick backgrounder (sub req.) on how to interpret what we’re hearing in terms of the larger Russia investigation.

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Given how this year has unfolded, we should not underestimate Republicans’ ability to snatch legislative defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, it looks like Republicans will get their prized ‘tax reform’. Yes, the bill is horrendous policy on numerous fronts. But don’t ignore the fact that Republicans appear to be building a perilous trap for themselves to fall into. Yes, they’re jamming it through before anyone can get a good look at what’s in it. Even they don’t know what’s in it. But remember, they and we will have all 2018 to find out.

Let’s walk through this.

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CNN is now reporting that the CIA/State shake-up story that roiled the news this morning was in fact an effort to send a message to and shame Rex Tillerson. That is hardly surprising given President Trump’s way of doing business for decades. But there’s more to it than that.

This new report at least suggests that the initial news reports this morning were false.

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