A suspension of belief, as well as a vivid imagination, is sometimes required when grappling with the Russia scandal and its cast of characters. This is not because press accounts are not to be believed. They have been quite accurate. It is because some of the things that these characters have said and done are so unbelievable, and no more so than with Michael Flynn and his son.
Michael Flynn Jr. is a chip off the old block. Like his father, he is a hair-on-fire Islamaphobe, a promoter of the most outlandish conspiracy theories, and of the belief that the laws and norms that you and I are obligated to follow do not apply to them. This makes father and son perfect stooges for Donald Trump, as well as why Special Prosecutor Robert "Maximum Bob" Mueller is in the process of lowering a very big boom on them.
According to a Thanksgiving Day report in The New York Times and then confirmed by The Washington Post, Flynn's lawyer has withdrawn from a so-called joint defense agreement and stopped sharing information with Trump's legal team about Mueller's investigation, which is a sure sign that Flynn has begun discussions with the special prosecutor's office about cooperating with its investigation or negotiating a deal for himself.
Either is ominous news for Trump because Flynn might be able to implicate elder son Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, among others, and even the president himself.
Father and son Flynn have qualified for a smorgasbord of potential charges from Mueller's grand jury, ranging from money laundering to illegal lobbying work, while the number of perjury counts against pere Flynn could number in the double digits.
This does not even include Flynn's role as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russians in the service of Vladimir Putin and the greater glory of Mother Russia and the possibility some of these contacts may have been intercepted through a wiretap ordered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This was alluded to by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who testified she was concerned that Flynn had been "compromised" by Moscow in congressional testimony.
But the caper that is getting so much attention these days falls unequivocally into the realm of the unbelievable:
Shortly after Trump had named Flynn his national security adviser (against the advice of intelligence officials who correctly believed that he had been compromised by Moscow and was subject to blackmail), he and his son cut a deal with the government of Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan some three months in the making. They would kidnap Erdoğan's arch enemy, Fethullah Gülen, a dissident Turkish cleric living legally in the Pennsylvania Poconos, and spirit him off in a private jet to a Turkish prison island for upwards of a cool $15 million. The plot would have been carried out after Flynn Sr. was installed in the White House.
It doesn't matter that the deal fell through for reasons that aren't clear.
The point, should anyone need reminding, is that a retired three-star general -- a man who would shortly assume one of the most sensitive posts in government -- had no problem selling his influence, as well as his soul, in the service of doing dirty work for a foreign government. Like I said, just another Trump stooge.
And there was a sidelight:
In addition to the kidnap plot, Flynn and Turkish reps discussed how to free Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who is moldering in a federal lockup after being busted by the Obama (remember him?) administration for masterminding a huge operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions put in place to discourage it from building nuclear weapons. Flynn joins esteemed company in trying to spring Zarrab: Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey. (Remember them?)
The Turkish government already had paid Flynn $530,000 while he was working for the Trump campaign to do opposition research on Gülen, while Flynn not coincidentally told outgoing national security adviser Susan Rice during the presidential transition to not move forward with an Obama administration plan to arm Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS. This is because Turkey, which has fought Kurdish separatists for years, opposed the plan, and that and the promise of a big payday is all a reprobate like Flynn needed to know.
The Flynns are a classic case of hardheads meeting hardball, and the winners of this mismatch are not in doubt.§
An indictment of Flynn -- that is, if he doesn't agree to cooperate to save fils Flynn's ass -- would lead to the Oval Office because of Trump's repeated efforts ostensibly to protect pere Flynn from then-FBI Director James Comey's nascent Russia scandal investigation. And the reality that the president was not trying to shield his short-lived national security adviser, but himself.
Comey, of course, got sacked when he didn't get the message, which led to Mueller's appointment in one of the more delicious twists in presidential history.
Flynn has an enormous incentive to protect his son, so the chances of him cooperating -- and the footsteps Trump has been hearing growing louder still -- seem pretty darned good.
Speaking of unbelievable, Trump's incuriousness, gullibility and flirtation with treason continues to boggle the mind.
After an informal meeting with Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vietnam over the weekend, Trump rekindled his bromance with the Russian leader, afterwards declaring himself convinced that Putin's denials of election interference are believable. Not leaving it at that, he said the entire scandal is "an artificial Democratic hit job" and called Comey a "liar" and "leaker."
For good measure, he yet again dissed the U.S. intelligence officials who concluded the interference was all too real, calling them "political hacks" before a torrent of stateside criticism rained down on his peculiar hair and the inevitable walk back commenced.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline on the Russia scandal.