MOSCOW (Sputnik) Michael Flynn announced his decision to resign on February 14 amid a growing controversy surrounding his conversation with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration. In his resignation letter, Flynn noted he had not given Vice President Mike Pence complete information about his conversations with Kislyak.
“In relation to the scandal that was built up regarding Flynn, who only worked as Trump s adviser for several weeks, the US security services told reporters absolutely officially, albeit anonymously, that for example communications, as they said, of our ambassador Kislyak are being routinely monitored,” Lavrov told a press conference.
Flynn s phone talks with Kislyak have raised questions about whether the he broke a law forbidding private US citizens from engaging with foreign nations about diplomatic disputes. Retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr. has been named acting US national security adviser following Flynn’s resignation.
I said, Fetch Chardonnay, not Riesling.
By this point, the Justice Department had informed Trump officials of concerns about Flynn s conversations with the Russian Ambassador and his public accounting of them. The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama Administration, told the White House that she worried Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail by Russian agents, the Washington Post reported. Yet Flynn remained an important player in national-security matters. He was always in the room, and on every call, one Administration official told me.
Each morning, Flynn attended Trump s intelligence briefing the President s Daily Brief. Bannon joined occasionally, as did Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A., and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff. Flynn conferred with senior intelligence officials on how to best tailor the briefing for Trump. Presidents are particular about how they receive information, Michael Morell, a former acting C.I.A. director, who prepared and delivered the President s Daily Brief to several Presidents, told me. George H. W. Bush preferred text on a half page, in a single column, limited to four or five pages; the briefer read fifteen to twenty pages aloud to George W. Bush, who preferred more material and liked to discuss it with the briefer; Barack Obama studied the material alone, over breakfast. Trump s briefings were being shaped to address macroeconomics, trade, and alliances, Flynn told me, in a telephone conversation earlier this month. The P.D.B. is not always about just your enemies.
Congress created the National Security Council in 1947, in the hope of establishing a more orderly process for co rdinating foreign and defense policy. Six years later, Dwight Eisenhower decided that the council needed a chief and named the first national-security adviser a former soldier and banker, Robert Cutler. The position evolved into one of enormous importance. McGeorge Bundy, who served under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, regarded himself as a traffic cop controlling access to the President. Under Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger dramatically expanded the role, often meeting directly with the Soviet Ambassador, and bypassing the State Department.
The temptations of power nearly overwhelmed Ronald Reagan s Presidency, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, when national-security staffers were discovered to be running covert actions involving Iran and Central America. The scandal prompted some to call for the national-security adviser to become a Senate-confirmed position. Heading off these demands, George H. W. Bush chose a retired general, Brent Scowcroft, who had held the job under Gerald Ford, to return to the role, confident that Scowcroft would respect the lines between intelligence work, military operations, and policymaking. He will be an honest broker, Bush said.
Since then, according to Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush s second-term national-security adviser, the honest broker has become the model for Republican and Democratic Administrations alike. That meant overseeing a process that is fair and transparent, where each member of the council can get his views to the President, Hadley said. In late November, Hadley met with Flynn, who was seeking advice, at Trump Tower. Hadley left the meeting optimistic that Flynn meant to act as a facilitator in the traditional way.
I feel like everybody s podcasting and nobody s podlistening.
In mid-June, 2010, the magazine piece, The Runaway General, appeared. McChrystal was quoted calling Vice-President Joe Biden shortsighted for his opposition to the surge in Afghanistan; one aide mocked Biden as Bite Me ; and another aide dismissed Jim Jones, Obama s first national-security adviser, as a clown. Obama fired McChrystal the day after publication. Flynn chafed at the decision. It s hard to see someone you know have to go through that, a close associate of Flynn s told me. You don t heal from that overnight.
Flynn prepared to leave Afghanistan, as McChrystal s successor, David Petraeus, brought in his own staff. Before Flynn departed, he stopped by the Joint Intelligence Operations Center to say goodbye. Speaking to dozens of analysts, Flynn delivered a forty-five-minute lesson, covering some of the bloodiest engagements in American history: the Battle of Antietam, in 1862, when twenty-three thousand people were killed or wounded in a single day; Operation Torch, in 1942, when several hundred soldiers died establishing beachheads in North Africa as part of the Allied invasion. His point was that no one in Washington can ever appreciate what is happening on the battlefield, and that there aren t as many Americans dying now as before, the intelligence analyst who worked with Flynn said. But it was confusing, and these would be the same kind of discussions you d have with him about the nature of the insurgency you d leave his office and spend an hour trying to figure out what he was trying to say.
I said, I wonder what it means, not Tell me what it means.
Employees started to complain. Many sought reassignment with other agencies. Morale was in the toilet, Shelby said. To higher-level observers, Flynn looked like this bold leader, willing to make changes in the face of opposition. But, the further down you went, the more negative impact there was, because it was complete chaos.
Moreover, Flynn could be sloppy with numbers and details misstatements that his staffers derided as Flynn facts. His habit of chasing hunches also exasperated some staff members. In September, 2012, after the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate and annex in Benghazi, Flynn urged an investigation into an Iran connection; his insistence that Iran was involved stunned subordinates, according to the Times. (Flynn denies that he asked for a probe.) An intelligence analyst who worked with Flynn during this period told me that his iconoclasm sometimes went too far. By nature, Flynn takes a contrarian approach to even the most simple analytic issues, the analyst said. After Benghazi, I remember him using the phrase black swan a lot. What s a black swan ? He was looking for the random event that nobody could predict. Look, you certainly have to keep your eye on the ball for that, but there s a reason why it s a black swan. You shouldn t dedicate a ton of time to that.
In 2013, Flynn arranged a trip to Moscow to speak to a group of officers from the G.R.U., Russia s intelligence agency, about leadership development. His decision to go was a controversial one. Flynn believed that there were opportunities to find common ground with Russia. But Steven Hall, the C.I.A. s chief of Russia operations at the time, was skeptical. He wanted to build a relationship with his counterparts in the G.R.U., which seemed, at best, quaint and na ve, Hall told me. Every time we have tried to have some sort of meaningful co peration with the Russians, it s almost always been manipulated and turned back against us.
Several months after Flynn returned from his Moscow trip, he hoped to reciprocate by inviting several senior G.R.U. officers to the United States. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, cautioned him against it. Russia had recently annexed Crimea, and Russian special-forces operatives were fomenting a violent clash between rebels and Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine.
By then, Flynn had become a target of scorn for many inside the department. His deputy, David Shedd, became one of his harshest critics, and did little to hide his disdain. I was walking by the front office once and heard David Shedd say, I m going to save the agency from the director, Simone Ledeen, who works in counter-threat finance at a multinational bank, said. Ledeen had worked for Flynn in Afghanistan, at the office for the director of national intelligence, and in the D.I.A., doing threat-assessment research. (She is also Michael Ledeen s daughter.)
Normally, a D.I.A. director serves for three or more years, but, in late 2013, Clapper and Michael Vickers, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, were concerned about the tumult inside the agency and told Flynn that his tenure would last just two years. Flynn unsuccessfully tried to extend his term when his successor s nomination was delayed. Shedd later became the acting director.
On August 7, 2014, at a ceremony in the atrium of the D.I.A. s headquarters, Flynn retired from the military, after thirty-three years. His wife and two sons attended, as did Michael Ledeen. The senior military intelligence official, who was present, told me that Flynn was obviously bitter: He was loading up, and he was not going to go quietly.
Flynn, who was fifty-five, began fashioning a post-military life. He started his own business, the Flynn Intel Group, which offered clients a range of private intelligence and security services. He did some freelance consulting and also worked with SBD Advisors, a strategic consulting firm whose roster included the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen; former chief of the Special Operations Command Admiral Eric Olson; and other retired military officers. In January, 2015, Flynn signed with Leading Authorities, a speakers bureau, which promoted his expertise in leadership, cybersecurity, and terrorism.
Look, until there s a Tinder for pandas, we have to meet the old-fashioned way: being locked in a room together by scientists.
On Fox News, NBC s Meet the Press, CNN, and elsewhere, Flynn became increasingly critical of the Obama Administration. He lashed out at the Iran nuclear deal, the Administration s ISIS strategy, and its approach to radical Islam generally. Several Republican hopefuls preparing to run against Hillary Clinton asked for his advice. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, brought Flynn on as an informal adviser for her Presidential bid. She told me that she found him refreshing. He is a very down-to-earth, approachable guy, she said. She was also impressed by his candor. Flynn, she said, doesn t pull punches.
In August, 2015, Flynn went to New York to meet Trump for the first time. They were scheduled to talk for thirty minutes; the conversation lasted ninety. Flynn was deeply impressed. I knew he was going to be the President of the United States, he told me.
Two months later, Flynn appeared on RT, the English-language Russian television channel, formerly known as Russia Today. The outlet was widely regarded as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, even before a recent U.S. intelligence report on Russian hacking and the Presidential election said that the channel had become an important part of a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government. Flynn discussed the civil war in Syria, where Russian jets were flying bombing sorties in support of President Bashar al-Assad s regime. He contrasted Putin s resolve with what he described as Obama s dithering in the region: There s no coherence or no clarity to the strategy.
Yes, we re all white, but we re post-racial white. April 7, 2014
Flynn s own views seemed to be tilting increasingly toward the fringe. He, as Trump has, publicly insinuated that Obama was a secret Muslim, and not a true American. I m not going to sit here and say he s Islamic, Flynn said of Obama, during remarks last year before the American Congress for Truth, an anti-Muslim group. But Obama didn t grow up an American kid, Flynn said, adding that the President s values were totally different than mine.
Flynn also stoked fear about Muslims and, in a tweet that used the hashtag #NeverHillary, shared an anti-Semitic comment that read, in part, Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore. (He subsequently deleted the tweet, calling it a mistake. ) I m not perfect. I m not a very good social-media person, he told me in one of our conversations. Stanley McChrystal and Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, both contacted Flynn and tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to tone it down.
Flynn predicted a Trump win, but he was making contingency plans. He began reorienting his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, so that it would be able to compete for lobbying clients after the election. The firm arranged to work with Sphere Consulting, a public-relations and lobbying business in Washington.
In August of last year, a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdo an hired Flynn Intel Group on a lobbying contract to help promote the view that Turkey s business climate was a positive one. This was a challenging task, given that Erdo an had survived a coup attempt just the month before, and was, in retaliation, rounding up anyone considered insufficiently faithful to his regime. Flynn had previously been critical of Erdo an, whom he viewed as an Islamist threat. He put those concerns aside now as he vouched for Erdo an s government, writing an op-ed for The Hill that heralded Turkey as our strongest ally against ISIS.
Flynn remembered Election Night fondly, a moment of triumph. I like to think that I helped get Donald Trump elected President, he told me. Maybe I helped a little, maybe a lot. One of Trump s first major decisions was to appoint Flynn his national-security adviser, calling him an invaluable asset to me and my Administration. Flynn told me, Service was something our family was always encouraged to do. He went on, I made some mistakes, but I m still serving. It s like being a priest, you know. I ve been called to serve.
And that s when he realized he wasn t on the partner track at all! March 10, 2014
The end for Flynn came rather abruptly. He had spent the weekend with the President and the Prime Minister of Japan at Mar-a-Lago, Trump s resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where they had used a table in an open dining area as an impromptu and unsecured situation room after a ballistic missile test by North Korea. But, back in Washington on Monday afternoon, there was confusion about Flynn s standing. During a television interview, Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser, said that Flynn enjoyed Trump s full confidence. Then, within the hour, Spicer said that Trump was evaluating the situation. Flynn went about his duties as usual that afternoon, participating in foreign-policy discussions in the Oval Office, an Administration official told me.
Sumter County, Florida, February 17, 2017 The Davis/Stephens family has owned the 16,000 acre Ventura Ranch property for over 40 years. It is among the largest land holdings in Florida which prizes a land management program that has both restored and preserved native Florida habitat and wildlife. The diversity of habitat including improved pasture, Florida flatwoods with wiregrass understory, varieties of planted pine, rolling terrain, wetlands and natural springs, are truly magnificent. Its multi-generational ownership has labored to incorporate sustainable agricultural uses throughout the property.
In March of last year, Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC ( Sabal Trail ), a joint venture of Spectra Energy Corp. and NextEra Energy, Inc., filed eminent domain proceedings in federal court to acquire a five-mile long corridor, 100 feet in width, diagonally through the heart of the Ventura Ranch property. Sabal Trail is in the middle of constructing its 240 miles of 36-inch-diameter pipe running through Florida in order to transport 1 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas at extremely high pressure. The federal court has granted Sabal Trail immediate possession wherein the company is able to proceed with the construction of its pipeline without interruption and later pay property owners the just or full compensation for the taking of easements. An easement allows the easement holder to put property to use for a particular purpose, reserving to the underlying property owner rights that are not inconsistent with the easement holder s use. In essence, the underlying property owners rights become subservient to the easement holder s rights. One may ask, What does that look like? Well, for Ventura Ranch, one of the chief concerns of any large landowner is how to secure a property of its size from uninvited guests. The risks associated with liability for people and property loom large when uninvited guests roam around a large property doing uninvited things. Fire, too, is a significant threat. Ventura Ranch expends tremendous resources in implementing a fire-control burn program throughout all of its habitat and hunting preserves. However, a fire which breaks out in an uncontrolled manner can wreak devastation to substantial acreage in a short amount of time.
This past Sunday evening, Scott Stephens, a family member who lives and works on the Ventura Ranch property, decided to show his wife and young children where Sabal Trail was constructing its pipeline on the Ventura Ranch property. He wanted them to see the massive pipeline works before Sabal Trail placed all of it in the imposing trench next to the place where the pipe was being welded together. Sabal Trail had already stripped and cleared a 100-foot wide swath of forested area to have sufficient room for its construction activities. It would be something to mark in the family history associated with the ranch, the day that the pipeline first came through the land. Driving up to the north end of his property, Stephens found that Sabal Trail had two security guards posted at the north gate of the Ventura Ranch property. The two guards were professional and courteous to the Stephens family, but Stephens grew suspicious toward the end of their visit when observing a new Sabal Trail security guard arrive to take over the night s watch. This new guard drove up in a flat-bed truck with a bar-b-q cooker in tow. Stephens drove back to his home, put his children to bed, and then returned with another Ventura Ranch employee at about 9:45 p.m. to see if there was anything amiss at the north gate. Stephens is an avid hunter, works year-round to preserve the habitat and wildlife throughout the ranch property, and is probably the family member with the most sensitivity to the risks of what uninvited guests can do when having access to land which in most instances is excluded from public use because it s private property. What Stephens saw even amazed him. The Sabal Trail security guard had fired up his bar-b-q and had invited as many as four other people to join him for a Sunday night party. Alcoholic beverages were also provided. At about 10:30 p.m., Stephens decided to confront the guard and his party-going friends, taking photographs of each of their driver s licenses. One of the party-goers was underage. Outraged, Stephens called the project manager for Sabal Trail to report the incident. While apologizing, Sabal Trail has since informed Ventura Ranch that it had fired the offending security guard and would now be only retaining the services of off-duty Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Officers to provide security services to Sabal Trail. What is underscored from such an incident is how private property owners whose land is taken under eminent domain and then made subject to an easement are at the mercy of Sabal Trail with respect to how the pipeline company puts to use the property. Ventura Ranch is not able to exclude those who Sabal Trail authorizes to be on the easement property neither is Ventura Ranch able to screen or require Sabal Trail to only employ responsible vendors whose employees meet certain baseline qualifications. It is always hit or miss. If something goes awry, it s only an apology that follows. In fact, the very people who are hired to patrol and keep out uninvited guests are the ones who host the party.
Sabal Trail contends that if their pipeline is buried, no one will ever know it s really there on the property. Those who have had their properties cut through the middle with a pipeline easement know better. It s the pipe and everything that comes with it, including the loss of being able to exclude others. It s these other folks who introduce a whole other kind of potential risk to property owners who would rather be left alone.
Source: Ventura Ranch