PROOF OF CONSPIRACY | SETH ABRAMSON | St. Martin's Publishing Group






ON SALE 9/3/19


The extent to which the “grand bargain” Flynn is discussing with the Russians in the weeks before the 2016 election is the same as the bargain discussed by MBS, MBZ, and el-Sisi on the Red Sea a year earlier is unknown—but there are compelling indications that the two are in fact one and the same. Per Mother Jones, one of the Flynn associates who speaks with Flynn about his pre-election contacts with Kislyak reports that “Flynn discussed with Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine.”125 A second Flynn associate tells Mother Jones that “Flynn said he had been talking to Kislyak about Syria, Iran, and other foreign policy matters that Russia and the United States could tackle together were Trump to be elected.”126 A third associate of Flynn’s speaks of identical subject matter being discussed by Flynn and Kislyak, without specifying the timing of the discussion: the “associate recalls that shortly after the election, Flynn told him he had been in contact with Kislyak about Syria,” writes Mother Jones.127 The Mueller Report will indicate, with respect to Flynn’s pattern of behavior in 2016, that his known telephonic negotiations with Kislyak in December 2016 only occurred after repeated check-ins with the campaign to be certain he was authorized to say what he planned to say.128 Whether Flynn followed a different protocol with respect to any pre-election negotiations he had with Kislyak is unknown.

The December 2018 report by Mother Jones, written by David Corn, author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, implicitly makes the case that—if Flynn indeed had the contacts he claims, and if he indeed sought approval for his pre-election Russia contacts just as he did for all his post-election ones—the Trump campaign committed the federal crime of “aiding and abetting” Russian election crimes after the fact, as it offered the Russian Federation policy inducements after it learned, via the briefing Trump and Flynn received in August 2016, that the Kremlin was committing crimes against the United States.129 Aiding and abetting a crime that has already been committed or is in the midst of commission is an act that falls under a different federal statute, with different statutory elements, than a before-the-fact “conspiracy”—the statutory offense investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller with respect to the Trump campaign and two Russian government entities, the Internet Research Agency and Russian military intelligence (GRU).130 As Corn writes for Mother Jones, if “Flynn held clandestine meetings or communications with Kislyak during the 2016 general election, it would mean Trump’s chief national security aide was secretly interacting with the representative of a foreign power as that government was mounting information and cyber warfare against the United States. Such an interaction could signal to the Vladimir Putin regime that Trump didn’t mind the Kremlin’s interference in the election and would be willing to work with Moscow despite its efforts to subvert the U.S. election.”131 Moreover, writes Corn, “If Flynn held such conversations with the Russian ambassador, this could have bolstered the Kremlin’s preference for Trump . . . especially if there was any talk of a sanctions-for-Syria deal.”132 Such actions could therefore be considered “inducement” under the federal aiding and abetting statute (18 U.S.C § 2), with their immediate and foreseeable effect being that the Kremlin would continue to commit computer crimes against the United States.133

Eight days after Michael Flynn and his son meet with Sergey Kislyak at his D.C. home in December 2015, and just four days prior to MBS’s announcement of a counterterrorism alliance almost certainly requiring Russian cooperation, Flynn—who is in contact with the Saudis on foreign policy issues (see chapter 5)—receives $45,000 from RT, the Kremlin-financed news network, to attend and speak at a gala event in Moscow; at the event, which his son also attends, Flynn dines with Vladimir Putin.134 As NBC News will note, Flynn was “already advising” Trump at the time of both his face-to-face meeting with Kislyak in D.C. and his face-to-face meeting with Putin in Moscow, and was almost certainly brought to Moscow because of that role. “It is not coincidence that Flynn was placed next to President Putin [at the RT gala],” former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tells NBC in April 2017. “Flynn was considered a close Trump adviser. Why else would they want him there?”135 Whether Flynn and Putin discuss in more detail the secret counterterrorism plan Trump had hinted at in Iowa four weeks earlier—a plan the evidence suggests was Flynn’s—is unknown.

While in Moscow, Flynn “trie[s] repeatedly to meet officers at the C.I.A.’s station in Moscow—housed inside the American Embassy—to press for closer ties with Russia’s spies.”136 The CIA declines to have anyone meet with him, however.137

In his address to an audience of influential Muscovites at the RT gala, Flynn offers a plan for the Middle East consistent with the contours of the Red Sea Conspiracy that George Nader had (with the assistance of MBS, MBZ, and el-Sisi) orchestrated just weeks earlier. In Flynn’s own words, “I basically told the audience that Russia should get Iran to back out of the proxy wars that Iran is running so we [can] stabilize the Middle East. That was my whole purpose for going.”138 The plan for “stabilizing the Middle East” Flynn presents in Moscow in December 2015 will mirror the so-called Middle East Marshall Plan Flynn supports a year later as Trump’s designated national security advisor (see chapter 7).139 The plan calls for “Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin . . . [to] co-operate on a project that would boost Middle East economies” by “ending Ukraine’s opposition to lifting sanctions on Russia by giving a Ukrainian company a $45 billion contract to provide turbine generators for [nuclear] reactors to be built in Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations. The contract to state-owned Turboatom, and loans to Ukraine from Gulf Arab states, would ‘require Ukraine to support lifting United States and European Union sanctions on Russia.’”140

That Flynn in December 2015 would have wanted to relay to Sergey Kislyak in D.C. and Vladimir Putin in Moscow the same Middle East Marshall Plan that he was then supporting and would still be supporting in November 2016 is nearly certain. The reason: Flynn was working in secret for an American company called ACU Strategic Partners on a closely related plan from summer 2015 through at least June 2016—and indeed, other documents will suggest, until he was fired as Trump’s national security advisor in February 2017.141

In summer 2015, Flynn had taken a trip to Saudi Arabia to “talk about nuclear power plants”; shortly thereafter, “the Saudis made a $100 billion deal with the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, to build 16 nuclear power units.”142 Documents subsequently produced confirm, according to McClatchy DC, that Flynn made his trip to Saudi Arabia “on behalf of a U.S./Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors.”143 According to Newsweek and McClatchy, Flynn’s summer 2015 trip was part of a “joint venture . . . involv[ing] U.S. companies, a Russian state-sponsored company, and Saudi financing, and was geared towards providing nuclear power to the Arab world.”144 One indication that Flynn sees the complications inherent in attempting to broker such a transnational deal is that he fails to disclose this trip to Saudi Arabia when he seeks a new federal security clearance in late 2016.145 Moreover, he fails to properly disclose a second, October 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia that is part of the same joint venture. In hiding the details of this second trip from federal authorities, he makes up the name of the hotel he allegedly stayed at, and obscures his business interests in Saudi Arabia under the false claim that he was in the kingdom “for six days to speak at a conference.”146 He also fails to disclose the identity of the “friend” who traveled with him to Saudi Arabia and the company that paid for his trip.147 It is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison per offense to “knowingly falsify or conceal a material fact” on a federal security clearance application.148

Flynn makes at least two additional trips for ACU during the summer of 2015: one trip to Egypt and one to Israel, both in June.149 The Washington Post confirms that these trips are related to the same joint venture as Flynn’s trip to Saudi Arabia, that being ACU’s “hope[ ] to build more than two dozen nuclear plants in [the Middle East], in partnership with Russian interests.”150 As with his trip to Saudi Arabia, Flynn will fail to disclose these Middle Eastern business trips: federal law requires that all such trips be disclosed in security clearance paperwork.151 It is unclear why Flynn would want to hide his efforts to connect the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel just a matter of weeks before becoming an adviser to the Trump campaign in August 2015, though it is noteworthy that within a month of Flynn’s return from his trips to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel Trump publicly announces his opposition to sanctions on Russia—a prerequisite for broader cooperation between the very countries Flynn was at the time secretly working with.152 That Maria Butina (the Russian “journalist” whose question at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in July 2015 allows Trump to express his opposition to U.S. sanctions on Russia) is indicted as an unregistered Kremlin agent three years later further complicates all of these events.153

Shortly after ACU’s managing director, Alex Copson, hires Flynn in April 2015, Flynn begins linking ACU’s multinational nuclear power deal to American national security, “warning publicly,” according to the Washington Post, “that America’s national security would be at risk if the United States allowed Russia and other countries to spearhead nuclear energy projects in the Middle East”—though his odd solution to the problem is to partner with Russia, rather than to supplant it as the major player in the Middle East energy market or else flatly oppose any nuclearization of the Middle East altogether.154 In Israel in June 2015, Flynn “assure[s] Israeli officials that ACU’s plan [to contract Ukrainians to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East as part of a deal that would end Russian sanctions] could prevent Israel’s enemies from obtaining material for nuclear weapons”—an apparent reference to Iran, which just weeks later will announce the “nuclear deal” with the Obama administration aimed at curtailing its nuclear weapons program.155 The rhetorical link Flynn seeks to establish between his 2015 and 2016 private consulting arrangements and America’s national security offers significant intelligence on what Flynn might have discussed with Trump when the two men first met at Trump Tower, at Trump’s invitation, in August 2015—and what Trump may have been referring to when he said in Iowa that November, “I know more about ISIS than the [active-duty U.S.] generals do.”

As Lawfare has observed, “In order for [the ACU] deal to go through, Flynn would have to convince the Trump administration to ‘rip up’ the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia for their interference in the U.S. election,” so it is little surprise that by December 2017, as the digital media outlet notes, “a whistleblower has come forward with information suggesting that Flynn’s true motive to soften these sanctions wasn’t to ease tensions with Russia, but to further the financial interests of those selling these reactors.”156 Just as significant, Flynn’s advocacy with ACU for a nuclear deal involving Russian entities, and later for a similar deal—with another company, IP3—involving Chinese entities, poses a clear national security threat as, per the report in Lawfare, while “U.S. civilian nuclear technology sales require significant national security provisions . . . Russian and Chinese technology agreements do not.”157 Specifically, deals involving American nuclear technology require what is called a “123 agreement,” an Atomic Energy Act–derived standard that precludes American materials and technology from being developed into nuclear weapons when sold to a foreign power.158

To the extent the “consortium” idea Flynn was advocating around the globe in 2015 and 2016 opened the door to sales of U.S. nuclear materials and technology without a 123 agreement—and to the extent Flynn was simultaneously opposing the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, which was provably curtailing Iran’s nuclear program—the retired lieutenant general’s foreign policy agenda has made more likely a nuclear confrontation in the Middle East in the medium term.159

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