Breitbart News Senior Editor Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, broke down the story behind National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s resignation on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily.
He began with a list of major players in the story: “You’ve got, of course, General Flynn. You’ve got President Trump. You’ve got the intelligence community. Essentially, what happened is General Flynn had a conversation with the Russian ambassador in December. This was after the attack and the murder of the Russian ambassador in Turkey, where Flynn called to give his condolences. For some reason, and that is open to question right now, the intelligence community was monitoring that phone conversation. Given that it involved a U.S. citizen, General Flynn, it seems to imply that they did so with some authority, meaning that they’d been given a court mandate to do so.”
“At any rate, in that conversation, Flynn talked generally about U.S.-Russian relations,” Schweizer continued. “What happened, of course, later, he was challenged on what he talked about. He told Vice President Pence that the conversation did not include sanctions. It’s unclear if the conversation did because there’s been no transcript received.”
“What people have to do is step back from this situation, which led to Flynn’s resignation, and look at who the actors are,” he advised. “In this particular case, the interesting actor is the U.S. intelligence community. What do we know? We know that, of course, they’re going to monitor contacts with Russia. Russia is an adversarial power in a lot of respects.”
“But we also have to factor in, Alex, the simple fact that Flynn was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and at that time was very much a critic of the intelligence community,” Schweizer reminded SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “He said that they did not produce good product, that the intelligence community got a lot of money but what was coming out as a result was not particularly impressive. In other words, he was somebody that really challenged and in some respects embarrassed the intelligence community.”
“That has to factor into, was that a motive behind what the intelligence community did in this case?” he asked. “I think that’s something everybody has to look at. What is surprising to me in this is that the conversation has all been about what Flynn said or what Flynn didn’t say, which, again, we don’t know. But there has not been a larger question raised about the broader factors that are at play here and why, particularly, Flynn seems to have been targeted.”
Based on current reporting, Schweizer said the leaks that brought down Flynn appear to have originated within the Department of Justice, which “initially informed the White House of the errors of Flynn’s public statements of what he talked about.”
“So this is generally not something that the NSA itself would directly do. You would have some sort of law enforcement function, whether that’s the FBI or the Department of Justice itself,” he explained.
“But what’s curious in this case is that it’s unclear what people are suggesting or what actual evidence there is,” he observed. “For example, the New York Times today has a front-page piece which I think balance is actually pretty fair. When you initially read it, it talks about the fact that U.S. intelligence was monitoring the fact that four people close to Trump had contact with Russian intelligence. Now when you hear that, you think, ‘Oh, my gosh, what’s going on?’ But when you actually read the article, you find out that, first of all, it’s unclear that they even knew they were talking to Russian intelligence officials. They all deny that they did. And when you’re doing any kind of business in Russia – the Clintons have certainly done this, as well – chances are you’re probably going to encounter an intelligence official.”
“But then, when you look at who the actual people are that had those discussions, one of them, of course, is General Flynn. The others are individuals who ended up either being fired from or leaving the Trump campaign: Roger Stone, who was fired by Trump from the campaign; Carter Page, who did a lot of energy business in Russia, not part of the Trump administration; and then, of course, Paul Manafort, who was fired as the campaign manager and who also had business dealings in Russia. So even the Times piece itself sort of admits that there’s no evidence of what this actually means,” he said.
“That’s the problem when you do things by leak, Alex. You get these little titillating tips: ‘Oh, this sounds so intriguing; they had contact with these people.’ But you don’t know what they talked about. You don’t know what they’re inferring. And the article points out when this information was taken to the FISA court, which is the super-secret court that gives you the opportunity to wiretap, there was not sufficient evidence for them to be granted a warrant to further monitor these communications, which implies to me that, clearly, this was really much ado about nothing,” said Schweizer.
Marlow noted that the buried lede in the New York Times piece Schweizer discussed was that no evidence of wrongdoing had been uncovered.
“That’s exactly right,” Schweizer agreed. “We pointed out, Breitbart reported, we did a piece in the Wall Street Journal – there are lots of people in Washington, D.C., that have business ties in Russia. The Clintons, during her tenure as secretary of state, there was this thing called Skolkovo, this big plan to develop a Russian Silicon Valley. In that case, you actually had Russian officials who were in very sensitive positions, and it would not be inconceivable that those officials were involved with Russian intelligence. They were actually donating to the Clinton Foundation.”
“My point would be, look, there is nothing wrong at all. In fact, I think the FBI should investigate when they have concerns about officials having some contact with powers that are rivals or even sometimes hostile to the United States. But the problem with this aggressive leaking – in the case of Flynn, in the case of this other reporting – it is excessive, and it is partial, and it leads to creating an impression that is not necessarily accurate, and in this case, does not seem to be accurate in inferring anything that’s going on,” he said.
“Then the question becomes, ‘What is the motive?’” he asked. “What we do know is this: that General Flynn and also Trump in his statements, agree or disagree, have been highly critical of the intelligence community and what they have done or failed to do when it comes to issues of the war on terrorism and other issues. That has to enter into the question: is this a motive on the part of people, whether they’re at DOJ, they’re legacy individuals from the Obama administration, or whether people that have an ax to grind with somebody else?”
“Look, I think the FBI should look into the things they’re going to look into, and they should do it quietly and professionally, but these sort of waves of leaks that offer a slight peek as to what they’re looking on, and everybody goes into a frenzy that it means something dramatic, to me, is very troubling, and is, frankly, character assassination,” Schweizer charged.
Marlow suggested the assault on Flynn was part of an effort by Democrats and their friendly media to question the very legitimacy of the Trump presidency and create the sense that Hillary Clinton was actually the legitimate president, despite having lost the 2016 election.
“I would say if the Clinton people want to go there, they are going to be in for some serious trouble,” Schweizer said. “Just look at the Flynn case, for example. You have people saying that General Flynn – when he was a private citizen, a retired U.S. Army general – goes and gives a speech in Russia for Russia Today, arguing that that somehow has compromised him. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton did that for tens of millions of dollars. It’s ridiculous.”
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