Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI, Says He Will Help With Special Counsel Investigation; Unqualified Tampa Interpreter Was Not Requested By Police Department, Released From Prison in 2016 For Grand Theft/Fraud Convictions; Senate Republicans Passes Tax Bill; Special Counsel Mueller Removed FBI Agent From His Team in July Amid Concerns of Political Bias Revealed By Texts; News Briefs: Trump Endorses Roy Moore, Trump To Reduce Federal Utah Monuments By 85%, ABC News Suspends Reporter
Hello, welcome to the Daily Moth! It is Monday, December 4. Hope your weekend was good. Ready for news?
On Friday morning, Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about two phone calls he had with a Russian ambassador, on December 22 and 29, 2016.
December 29 was when former President Obama issued new sanctions against Russia for election interference.
The FBI said Flynn asked the Russian ambassador to not escalate their response to the sanctions, and that the Russian ambassador told Flynn they would “be relaxed.”
On January 24, 2017, the FBI interviewed Flynn about this phone call — and Flynn lied to them— meaning he told the FBI he didn’t discuss the Russia sanctions on the phone call, while he did.
Flynn said he was not acting alone, but was in touch with top Trump transition officials on what to do with the Russian ambassador.
The FBI said on December 22, Flynn called the Russian ambassador on what to do with a previous U.N. vote related to Israeli settlements, that was also “approved” by top Trump officials (now assumed to be Jared Kushner).
These phone calls in December was after Trump was elected in November, but Obama was still president. This could be a violation of the law, as it is illegal for an unauthorized person to negotiate with a foregin government that has a dispute with the U.S. This is the “Logan Act,” but it is doubtful that it will be used to indict others, as it is an old law and has not been used to prosecute people in modern U.S. history.
After Flynn pled guilty, he revealed that he is now cooperating with the FBI in their investigation on if the Trump team colluded with Russians during the 2016 election.
This is big, because Flynn was one of the top people on Trump’s campaign team and knows more than the other person who pled guilty to the FBI, campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos, who also said he would cooperate with the FBI.
His guilty plea means he faces up to 6 months in prison, but it is a small punishment compared with what he could have gotten. It appears the FBI also said Flynn’s son could be indicted, which might have pushed Flynn to work with the FBI. Flynn was also under investigation for several other things, with his “hidden” business and political dealings with Turkey.
Flynn was close with Trump during the campaign and the National Security Adviser for the Trump administration, but was fired less than a month because it was revealed to the press that he lied to the Vice President Pence about a phone call he had with a Russian ambassador.
On Saturday Trump tweeted that he had to fire Flynn (back then in February) because he lied to the Vice President and to the FBI, which he has pled guilty to. Trump said it was a shame because his actions were lawful, that he had nothing to hide. Trump also said FBI’s reputation is in tatters.
We remember that the previous FBI Director Comey said that Trump asked him to “let Flynn go” in a private meeting at the White House in February. Trump tweeted last weekend that this isn’t true. This is important because it concerns if Trump obstructed justice when he fired Comey in May — whether this was an attempt to get Comey to back off Flynn.
But Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, recently said he wrote the tweet about Trump firing Flynn based on lying to the VP and FBI — then added that Trump can’t obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer as the President and has the right to express his view of any case
Now we will see what kind of information Flynn is sharing with Mueller, and whether this information will bring more charges against people in Trump’s team — either for collusion or for obstruction of justice.
Remember the unqualified interpreter for last week’s Tampa Police press conference where they announced the arrest of the “serial killer?”
This story appeared on the “Tampa Bay Times” yesterday with quotes by Deaf people who said they couldn’t understand the interpreter.
The Tampa Police Department said they never requested an interpreter and are doing an internal review to see who sent this interpreter.
The newspaper identified her as “Derlyn Roberts.”
I received a message that had links to previous arrest records by her. So I did some more research and saw that she had a serious criminal history — she was arrested in 2010 and convicted of grand theft, fraud, and other charges when she used a false name to set up a school and pocketed $300,000 in scholarship money in 2004.
She received a probation, but violated her probation in 2012 and received a 15-year prison sentence. She was released from prison last year (after being behind bars for 4 years).
So clearly there’s something amiss — how could Tampa Police unwittingly allow an unqualified interpreter and a convicted fraudster work alongside them in a press conference that had national news watching?
As mentioned before, I reached out to the Tampa Police Department last week to ask about this — I got in touch with Stephen Hegarty, who is one of their spokespeople.
Stephen said he accepted responsibility for this because he was the one who arranged the press conference. But he did not say he requested for an interpreter, which is what another spokesperson for the Tampa Police said — that they never requested for one.
Last week I was told that she was “available.” So it appears she was present in the room, and it is possible she indicated she could interpret and was allowed to do so.
Tampa Police did use a qualified interpreter on the next day, identified as Ben Zapata, who works for Purple Communications.
I recently asked the Tampa Bay police department on if they paid her for her work, whether they knew she was convicted of fraud, and further comment on what they will do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
This must be very frustrating for Deaf people in Florida, especially in the Tampa area, as they’ve had to go through an unqualified interpreter for Hurricane Irma.
The Tampa Times article quoted previous FAD President Lissette Molina Wood said there isn’t a requirement in Florida to have interpreters be certified, only that they be “qualified.” They have tried to get the Florida legislature to pass a bill requiring this, but has not been successful.
Perhaps Florida can look to Wisconsin — last week I reported that the state legislature had a hearing to change how interpreters are licensed in the state — by establishing a statewide board, a “checklist” of qualifications including BEI/RID certifications, and powers to discipline people who interpreted without a license.
The most stunning example of a “fake interpreter” would be South Africa’s Thamsanqa Jantjie, who “interpreted” for a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in 2013.
At midnight on Saturday, Senate Republicans successfully passed their tax bill. Here’s four things in it:
— $1.4 trillion in tax cuts
— Lower the corporate tax rate from 20% from 35%
— Will allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
— Repeals the individual mandate in Obamacare
Also, the standard deduction will be almost doubled.
Republicans had said the tax cuts would spur economic growth that would pay off the loss in tax revenue. But an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation said this bill would increase the federal deficit by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, even if there is economic growth.
Now the Senate bill will have to be reconciled with the House bill. There are some big differences between the two. It will have to be worked out in a conference with representatives of both the House and Senate before it can be signed into law by Trump.
The bill’s passage has excited Wall Street, with stocks rising.
But Democrats have strongly criticized the bill, saying Republicans didn’t allow them to see the 477-page bill until just a few hours before its vote, made many last-minute changes including handwritten notes on the bill, and that it benefits wealthy people and big corporations while raising taxes on the middle class.
The Wall Street Journal said this tax bill is unique in that it was very fast — that there was only several weeks from committee to passage, comparing it with previous major legislative efforts that took six months to more than a year.
The Republicans hope to have the reconciled bill signed by Trump before Christmas.
The Washington Post reported that Special Counsel Mueller removed a FBI agent, Peter Strzok, from his team of investigators in July because there were concerns raised by the Justice Department that Strzok had texted another FBI employee, a lawyer named Lisa Page, about his political views — that he was against Trump and supported Clinton. Strzok was having an affair with Page at the time and often texted each other about the presidential campaign.
Strzok was one of the lead investigators in Hillary Clinton’s private email server and is thought to be the agent who interviewed Clinton.
The Special Counsel team said when they learned about the texts, they removed Strzok from the team. He was reassigned to the FBI’s human resources department.
Lisa Page was also involved with the investigation, but left.
President Trump seized on this news as “proof” that he was unfairly targeted — saying it made sense and that the FBI agent was tainted and dishonest.
It is possible that during this investigation by the Justice Department we will see what those texts said.
All this has raised more questions by Trump supporters and Republicans who say Mueller’s team has too many people who are biased in favor of Democrats, pointing out some investigators’ previous contributions to Democratic candidates.
Three news briefs related with politics:
— President Trump has called Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and endorsed him, calling him a “fighter.” He has also recently tweeted in support of him.
Roy has been embroiled in scandal after he was accused of molesting and pursuing sexual relationships with minor girls 40 years ago. Roy has denied all of the accusations.
The Alabama special election is next Tuesday, December 12. Roy Moore is currently leading in some polls, while other polls say the Democratic candidate Doug Jones is leading.
Trump will appear at a rally in Pensacola (near Alabama) this Friday. We might see Trump making remarks in support of Roy Moore.
— President Trump will reduce the Bear Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah by 80% and 45%, reducing its protected land sizes. The monuments currently has just under 2 million acres and has a lot of archaeological sites and dinosaur fossils.
The Trump administration said previous President Obama did a massive “land grab” and caused a loss of jobs and reduced public access.
This is a “win” for Republican lawmakers, oil/fossil fuel companies, rural Westerners, while it is a “loss” for environmentalists, recreation groups, and five Native American groups who had previously fought to protect the lands.
— ABC News has suspended their journalist Brian Ross for a month for an erroneous report in which he said on Friday Trump told Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials before the election. Later on Friday night he corrected himself, saying it was after the election.
The report possibly caused the Dow Jones stock index to drop 350 points, possibly over fears that this news showed wrongdoing.
ABC News issued an apology on Saturday afternoon, saying it was a serious error. Ross said he accepted being disciplined.
President Trump tweeted congratulations to ABC News for suspending Ross, then tweeted that investors who lost money from the stocks dropping should hire a lawyer and sue Ross.
That is all for today. See you tomorrow and stay with the light!