No, Michael Flynn didn’t vi­o­late the Lo­gan Act

Albuquerque Journal - - OPINION - RICH LOWRY Colum­nist

In De­cem­ber 2016, Michael Flynn was three weeks from be­com­ing the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to the next pres­i­dent of the United States.

This is a per­ti­nent fact in eval­u­at­ing the con­duct un­der­ly­ing his plea deal with Robert Mueller. Flynn ad­mit­ted to ly­ing to FBI agents about his con­tacts with Rus­sia and other for­eign gov­ern­ments dur­ing the tran­si­tion. He’s pay­ing a steep price for his dis­hon­esty, but from what we know so far, it’s not clear what’s sup­posed to be the larger scan­dal.

In these con­ver­sa­tions, Flynn didn’t “col­lude” with the Rus­sians about hacked emails. He in­formed them of Don­ald Trump’s pos­ture on a pol­icy ques­tion. Flynn went be­yond the an­o­dyne for­eign con­tacts typ­i­cal of a tran­si­tion. This may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate, but it isn’t a scan­dal or — as the more out­landish anti-Trump­ists ar­gue — a vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral law.

Flynn’s most con­tro­ver­sial act came af­ter the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Rus­sia sanc­tions on Dec. 29. At that point, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had ex­actly 22 days left in of­fice. This isn’t usu­ally the junc­ture at which ad­min­is­tra­tions launch new for­eign-pol­icy ven­tures, for the ob­vi­ous rea­son that they aren’t go­ing to con­sti­tute the gov­ern­ment of the United States much longer.

Usu­ally, ev­ery­one re­al­izes that the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion has its own pre­rog­a­tives that de­serve re­spect. When the out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ge­orge H. W. Bush em­barked on the hu­man­i­tar­ian in­ter­ven­tion in So­ma­lia in De­cem­ber 1992, it co­or­di­nated with the in­com­ing Bill Clin­ton team, which sup­ported and con­tin­ued the mis­sion.

Obama’s sanc­tions weren’t un­der­taken in a co­op­er­a­tive spirit — in fact, the op­po­site. As The New York Times re­ported at the time, it ap­peared Obama “in­tended to box in Pres­i­dent-elect Trump, who will now have to de­cide whether to lift the sanc­tions on Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies when he takes of­fice next month.”

Flynn’s re­sult­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, Sergey Kislyak, wouldn’t be con­sid­ered an out­rage in a less-poi­sonous po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

One, Flynn had no power to vi­ti­ate the Obama sanc­tions in late De­cem­ber 2016. All he could do was urge the Rus­sians, in the words of Robert Mueller’s state­ment of of­fense, “not to es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion and only re­spond to the U.S. in a re­cip­ro­cal man­ner.” It’s hard to see how ask­ing for a re­cip­ro­cal re­sponse from the Rus­sians un­der­mined Obama pol­icy, un­less the en­tire point was to cre­ate a spi­ral­ing blowup with the Krem­lin at the out­set of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Two, the mes­sage Flynn de­liv­ered couldn’t have been news to the Rus­sians. Trump had been broad­cast­ing as loudly as pos­si­ble for a year and a half that he wanted a rap­proche­ment with the Rus­sians, and he tweeted praise of Vladimir Putin af­ter Rus­sia didn’t re­tal­i­ate.

Three, the Obama sanc­tions weren’t ex­actly a ma­jor de­par­ture. Pres­i­dent Obama ex­pelled 35 sus­pected Rus­sian op­er­a­tives, closed down two Rus­sian es­tates in the U.S. and sanc­tioned a grand to­tal of four Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. If this felt like a rushed, last-minute ges­ture to­ward tak­ing Rus­sia’s mal­ice se­ri­ously af­ter look­ing the other way for years, it’s be­cause it was.

Fi­nally, what­ever Flynn told the Rus­sians wasn’t as im­por­tant as the fact that in less than 30 days, Pres­i­dent Trump would have the author­ity to pur­sue any pol­icy he wanted.

The idea that Flynn could be pros­e­cuted un­der the Lo­gan Act for his role is a fan­tasy. The last time any­one was in­dicted un­der the act was 1803, and the statute is meant to pre­vent pri­vate med­dling in U.S. for­eign pol­icy, not to tie the hands of high-level of­fi­cials of an in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The fact re­mains that Flynn lied to the FBI about his con­ver­sa­tion with Kislyak re­gard­ing the sanc­tions, and also re­gard­ing an anti-Is­rael U.N. res­o­lu­tion.

Per­haps Flynn felt a cog­nizance of guilt for rea­sons that aren’t im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent, and per­haps he knows worse things about the Trump tran­si­tion and the cam­paign. For now, his un­truths look much more blame­wor­thy than his ac­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.