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Drop the Mike

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Drop the Mike

Lucien Wolstenhome, Staff Writer

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With the Russia investigation now approaching a size and scope reminiscent of Watergate, we Americans are witnessing a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.  Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 may very well be looked upon as the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, since White House officials, lawyers, and Cabinet members alike are now undoubtedly clinging to any last bit of hope that might remain after the events of that day.

Late that morning, former National Security Advisor and General Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and simultaneously agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Perhaps this agreement to cooperate with Mueller was a result of sheer luck, but the facts suggest otherwise.  This plea deal was the first giant leap for the Russia investigation, and somewhere right now, Mueller is patting himself on the back.

Mueller, looking at Watergate and his experience in the F.B.I. with hindsight, knows that he will ultimately uncover the truth about President Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, or obstruction of the Russia investigation. He knows that starting on the lower end of the Trump team chain of command may ultimately lead to a cascade of crucial revelations that can take down the man on top.  There was an abundance of lower-level administration or transition team officials to choose from – Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn. Of these three, two – Papadopoulos and Flynn – have already pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and have agreed to cooperate with Mueller.

But why plead guilty if Trump has the power to pardon?  For starters, the constitutionality of a pardon in this situation is questionable.  As Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word on MSNBC pointed out in the opening of his December 1 segment, the Constitution has a “built-in” check on the President’s pardon power: the President cannot use his pardon power in “cases of impeachment.”  Because Papadopoulos and Flynn are part of the larger Russia investigation that Trump is the ultimate subject of, the pardon power would border on being unconstitutional.

But there is a deeper, more personal reason here.  During the Watergate investigation in 1973-1974, Nixon fired many operatives who were in danger of indictment in an attempt to distance himself from the investigation.  This plan, however, backfired. Most of the Nixon officials who were fired ultimately lost their personal and political loyalty to the President. They felt they had been “thrown under the bus” and thrust into legal jeopardy without the aid of the man who put them there in the first place.  One such official – former CIA employee and Nixon campaign official James McCord – wrote a letter to Judge Sirica before his sentencing, claiming that Nixon and his team had forced him into committing perjury before the FBI, exposing obstruction of justice.

This crucial McCord episode in January of 1973 parallels the situation with Mr. Flynn in December of 2017. Flynn, too, was fired and thrown under the bus in February 2017 in order to distance the Trump team from the pending Russia investigation. Trump claimed that following Saturday that he fired Flynn because he lied to the F.B.I., but knowing that Trump is a compulsive liar, is it possible that Flynn was forced into lying to the F.B.I. in the first place?  Why else would a general risk being caught just to defend Trump?  Looking at the McCord situation with hindsight, he knew that cooperating in a plea deal with Mueller was the only way out, and the only way to get back at Trump for throwing him out to fend for himself.  Now, if Flynn tells Mueller under oath that he lied because he was “pressured” into doing so, that would be strong evidence of obstruction, just as McCord’s letter was in 1973.

As the first year of the Trump administration draws to a close with an uncertain future ahead, Special Counsel Bob Mueller is getting ready to drop the mic once and for all.  One cannot drop it – in triumph – without a mic in the first place.  But now that he has a “Mike” in Michael Flynn on his side, he is ready to make the final triumphant push towards justice.

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