What was Flynn's "underlying conduct?"

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017

Cooper to interview Yates:
Anderson Cooper is going to air an interview Sally Yates tonight. The interview has already been taped. Let's hope he asked her a basic question concerning Michael Flynn.

In "Trump years," it seems like it happened long ago. In fact, it has only been eight days since Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She described the warnings she delivered to White House counsel Don McGahn—warnings concerning the mighty Flynn. She said she warned McGahn about an array of problems, including Flynn's "underlying conduct:"
YATES (5/8/17): The first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.

Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn't true...

We told him the third reason was, is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren't the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.
Oof! Yates told McGahn that Flynn could conceivably be blackmailed by the Russians. She told him that false statements were being made to the public.

But she also said she told McGahn that Flynn's "underlying conduct" was "problematic in and of itself." In fact, she said that was the first point she made.

In the past week, different people have understood that remark in different ways. What exactly did Yates mean when she referred to Flynn's "underlying conduct?"

Let's start with the Washington Post's David Ignatius. In a May 10 column, he seemed to say the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was simply Flynn's discussion of sanctions with Ambassador Kislyak:
IGNATIUS (5/10/17): The mystery at the center of the Flynn case is why Trump didn't react sooner to warnings about Flynn's involvement with Russia...

We don't have answers. But one obvious possibility is that Trump didn't take action because he already knew about Flynn's Dec. 29 discussion with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions, and knew that Flynn had misrepresented the Kislyak call to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Flynn's discussion with the Russian ambassador at such a sensitive time, when the United States was punishing Russia for hacking the 2016 election, was arguably a violation of the Logan Act, which bars private meddling during a confrontation with another country. It was "problematic" behavior, as former acting attorney general Sally Yates said in her riveting testimony Monday.

But this wasn't a hanging offense, and it probably wasn't even a prosecutable one.
Ignatius seemed to think that Yates was simply referring to Flynn's "problematic" discussion of sanctions with Kislyak—a discussion which, or so many people suggested, could have been a violation of the Logan Act.

Ignatius has made similar statements on Morning Joe. Is that what Yates meant?

Last night, on The Eleventh Hour, Jeremy Bash had a different idea. He told Brian Williams this:
BASH (5/15/17): The "underlying conduct" of Mike Flynn, the underlying conduct Sally Yates complained to the White House about? That was probably disclosure of national security information to the Russians...
In Bash's view, Yates may have been referring to a whole second-order offense. Flynn may have flirted with a Logan offense by discussing the sanctions. But the "underlying conduct" to which Yates referred was probably a separate offense—a disclosure of national security information.

What did Yates mean by her statement? Will she tell Cooper if he asks? We don't know, but we hope he asks and she answers. Our reason is this:

Needless to say, a certain unnamed cable star drew a great deal of excitement from Yates' remark last week. On May 9, she went on, at some length, about this provocative question. Excitingly, she suggested that Flynn's "underlying conduct" must be some troubling new misbehavior of which we're still unaware. Several Democratic pols were pushing a similar-sounding line.

For ourselves, we were inclined to assume that Yates was simply referring to Flynn's discussion of sanctions. That unexciting interpretation seems to be supported by part of her statement above. ("We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct"—that is to say, they had been misled, by Pence and others, about Flynn's discussion of sanctions.)

We were inclined to think that was what Yates meant. That said, there's no way to know till she's asked.

Until that time, a certain drama-spewing host will be inclined to add to the excitement by imagining rich new offenses. It would be a good idea to find out what Yates meant.

Cooper's interview is in the can. If only for clarity's sake—remember that?—we very much hope he asked.

14 comments:

  1. When classified info and national security are involved you cannot expect clear, detailed explanations. Flynn is not only the target of FBI investgation but most likely of the grand juries being convened. Yates must be circumspect. The point is the White House's reaction. Somerby's demands are unreasonable. Yes, there will be speculation as a consequence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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  2. I hope Yates gets asked about the blackmail charge. If both sides knew what he discussed on that phone call, there seems to be no chance of blackmail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, if you and your mistress have a conversation and you both know what was said, it doesn't matter if your wife finds out? No blackmail potential there either?

      Delete
    2. There would be no potential for blackmail once a Justice official has informed the president of the specifics of any problematic conversations Flynn had with the Russians and Flynn, himself, has been told that both officials at the Justice Department and the president have that information. At that point the only threat of the Russians going public with the story would be that it might create a political problem for the president but, in the meantime, the Russians would be assuming they had leverage over the National Security Advisor which, in actuality, they did not have.

      Delete
    3. Threatening to make the info public is leverage sgainst both Flynn and the president. That's why any president but Trump would cut Flynn loose, pronto. Real Presidents are worrying about reelection and the midterms. That's why Trump's behavior screams collusion.

      Delete
  3. "God is indeed a jealous God -
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    - Emily Dickenson

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