Al Franken

Feed My Franken-Stein

One of my laments about the modern American action genre is that whatever happens to be driving the plot–whether it’s a terrorist attack that threatens to destroy the last best hope for peace, or a reformed hacker forced out of retirement to do one last job and secure his freedom once and for all–it always ends up being some secret conspiracy cooked up by corporate mercenaries or rogue government spooks, not the fringe extremist group that everybody says is guilty but just got set up to take the fall.  I’ve gone on at length about this trope as manifested in the ABC show Designated Survivor, but you can pretty much find it everywhere from the movie version of The Sum of All Fears to old episodes of Miami Vice.  Bottom line:  if it looks like ISIS did it, you can be sure it was really a corrupt White House in cahoots with Big Oil to start a war somewhere for profit.

All of this, of course, assumes a government that is as competent as it is sinister–and that’s where the suspension of belief starts to get a leeeetle heavy.  Because seriously, when the federal government can’t even keep track of people who have overstayed their visas, how are we supposed to believe that they can follow every step of our intrepid hero in real time?  And can the same kind of folks who stick unsecured email servers in bathroom closets and send classified materials to the computer of a man who exposes himself online to underage girls really be counted on to keep the lid on a vast, intricate conspiracy?  Color me skeptical, but I don’t think so.

Which is why I was amused when I saw this story on The Hill about the latest bit of kooky goodness to be served up during a Senate hearing.  Instead of al Qaeda, though, we get Al Franken–and yes, he is speculating about possible nefarious ties between Donald Trump’s White House and Vladimir Putin’s Russia:

Franken presented a lengthy hypothetical to former acting Attorney General Sally Yates around Russian connections to former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the 18-day delay between when she made the White House aware of Flynn’s apparent lies to top Trump officials and when he tendered his resignation.

“We’re trying to put a puzzle together here, everybody, and maybe, just maybe, he didn’t get rid of a guy who lied to the vice president, who got paid by the Russians, who went on Russia Today, because there are other people in his administration who met secretly with the Russians and didn’t reveal it until later, until they were caught,” Franken posited during the Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee’s hearing on Monday.
“That may be why it took him 18 days — until it became public — to get rid of Mike Flynn, who was a danger to this republic.”

“Care to comment?” Franken asked Yates.

“I don’t think I’m going to touch that, senator,” she replied.

I’m betting it’s not the first time Franken heard a woman tell him that.

Still, as conspiracy plotlines go, it’s pretty thin gruel.  Occam’s razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one–or, in terms of government speak, one should never attribute to malfeasance what can be easily explained by incompetence.  The media, after all, were quite fond of reporting the utter chaos that was supposedly going on inside the White House during those first few weeks.  Is it really so inconceivable that the whole Flynn thing just slipped through the cracks?  Or that maybe the president knew about Flynn but didn’t consider it that big of a deal until it leaked to the media?  Apparently, these possibilities have never occurred to Al Franken.  He seems to think it’s more likely that the entire administration is being run by Russian agents.

To which Charles Krauthammer, who holds Donald Trump in about the same regard as I hold Miley Cyrus, could only say, “Who gave him the tinfoil hat?”

Minnesota must be very proud.

House Oversight Committee: Michael Flynn Violated the Law by Not Disclosing Russian Payments

There are still so many questions outstanding in the probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The House Oversight Committee has joined the fray, with revelations of their own.

To begin with, it seems Flynn very likely ran afoul of the law, when he failed to disclose payments he received from Russia on paperwork submitted to renew his security clearance.

From The New York Post:

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the committee. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate and there are repercussions for the violation of law.”

He also traveled to Moscow in 2015 and had dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin – something that has raised questions about the permissions received for that trip, given the current turn of events.

Lying on national security documents is a crime, as well as a military officer taking payments from a foreign government, the bipartisan leaders of the committee said.

The comments came after reviewing classified documents for the first time on Flynn’s national security clearance application in 2016.

“They are extremely troubling,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said after emerging from the classified briefing at the Capitol.

Furthermore, the White House has refused to turn over information requested by the House Oversight Committee, stating that they don’t have all the documents the committee is seeking.

Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, has offered that his client was in touch with the Defense Intelligence Agency about his trips to Russia and payments received from RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda arm.

“General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DoD, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings,” Kelner told the Wall Street Journal.

Several weeks ago, Flynn’s lawyers made it known that their client was willing to testify for immunity, something Flynn, himself, has said is not asked for unless someone is guilty of something. Maybe this is why.

This latest revelation is another troubling spark to many that have already gone before.

How long before this whole investigations is a full-blown fire?

BREAKING: Nunes Temporarily Steps Aside On Trump-Russia, Is This Leftist Lawfare?

This is a good example of lawfare gone wild, with enough truth baked into to make it stick.

The AP reported Thursday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is stepping aside from the Trump-Russia investigation due to accusations filed against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“Several leftwing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Nunes said in a statement. “The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power.”

Speaker Paul Ryan called the ethics accusations “a distraction” and stood by Nunes’ decision to step away, putting Reps. Mike Conaway and Trey Gowdy at the helm.

“I will continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as committee chairman, and I am requesting to speak to the Ethics Committee at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims,” Nunes said.

Nunes obtained document references leaked through the intelligence community, and used the White House’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to view those documents without informing his committee members. Then Bloomberg’s Eli Lake blew the lid off the leaking, exposing former Obama minion Susan Rice as the unmasker-in-chief for Trump “incidental” surveillance.

Here’s the problem, which Lake clearly stated: Is the story about Trump’s Russia ties, or is it about Obama’s surveillance of Trump using the Russia investigation as cover?

Let me suggest that both stories are something-burgers. Depending on where the facts lead, we will know whether Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, was justified in unmasking the names of Trump transition officials or whether the media’s obsession with the government’s Russia investigation was warranted.

I don’t think Rice’s unmasking can be justified. But now, Nunes is out of the way (temporarily), leaving the Democrats room to try to paper that over while playing up the “White House coverup” angle because Nunes went there alone.

The ethics accusations are also something-burgers, but really thin and weak. Politically, it’s better for Nunes to step away. It’s lawfare and political grandstanding by the Democrats, to be sure. They and their media lapdogs really don’t want this investigation cleared up. They want to make hay with it until Trump’s term is done or he quits.

Any Republican who dares to use the Left’s own tactics, leakers, news sources, or the White House to expose the truth will be attacked with lawfare to get them out of the way. Democrats did it to Attorney General Jeff Sessions (which was absolutely a nothingburger), and now they’ve done it to Rep. Devin Nunes.

Jason Chaffetz: Why is Michael Flynn Asking for Immunity?

Thursday’s news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had reached out to the FBI, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence committees, stating he was willing to testify, in exchange for immunity has raised a lot of questions.

Foremost has to be: Immunity from what?

Flynn was forced to step down from his role as national security adviser in February, after it was learned that he lied to Vice President Pence about conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

On Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to call the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election a “witch hunt” and said Flynn should seek immunity.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee spoke with Fox News later in the morning and seemed to disagree with the president.

“No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Chaffetz said. “Look, it’s very mysterious to me, though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity. A, I don’t think Congress should give him immunity. If there’s an open investigation by the FBI, that should not happen. I also don’t believe that actually that the president should be weighing in on this. They’re the ones that actually would prosecute something.”

“And I don’t think Donald Trump should be weighing in on this at this point,” he said. “But I don’t think there should be given immunity, either. I mean, immunity from what? We don’t know what that is.”

I have to agree with Rep. Chaffetz, here.

We don’t know what this is.

I’ve heard from several lawyers who seem to be of the same belief, that when it comes to seeking immunity, it could be something, but could just as easily be a big, procedural nothingburger.

What does not need to happen is for a sitting president to take to social media and turn the heat up, by shining a bigger spotlight on the issue.

Let the process play out.

Asked if Flynn’s request for immunity indicated that he may be guilty of something, Chaffetz conceded that “it doesn’t look good.”

“If all of a sudden you have somebody stand up and say, ‘Hey, I need immunity,’ you know, it kinda raises your eyebrows,” he said. “Even General Flynn back in the day said and used that same thing against Hillary Clinton. So, you know, it comes around to bite you, and I just think they need to get to the facts.”

Chaffetz is referring to a comment Flynn made in September 2016, regarding the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, where her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and four aides all asked for immunity.

While speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Flynn said you don’t ask for immunity unless you’re guilty of something.

Well, that’s unfortunate.

Chaffetz went on:

“There are some swirling things that need to be answered,” he added.

And he is right.

There are things that need to be answered, but with each new day, there seems to be another twist of intrigue to this tale.