Accuracy in Media

On Thursday, AIM published a piece about an article in the Washington Post that claimed President Trump and his aides were formulating a plan to attack the honesty and character of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn should Flynn make criminal accusations against the president to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  

Friday, without any further corroboration, the Post went from printing a story based on interviews with three anonymous sources – one denied by White House officials that did go on the record – to assessing problems with “Trump’s strategy.”

The headline says it all: “The big problem with Trump’s strategy to attack Michael Flynn’s credibility: His own mouth.”

The plan the Post is sure is in motion even though it can’t get one source to confirm it on the record calls for Trump and associates to attack Flynn’s credibility if he gives Mueller damaging information, but won’t work because Trump has said too many nice things about Flynn in the past to credibly attack his character now.

“The White House has fired a warning shot in Michael Flynn’s direction, with the Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig reporting that it plans to label him a liar who can’t be trusted if he makes claims against it,” Blake wrote.

“The strategy isn’t that shocking” and the White House is making it “crystal clear that Trump’s loyalty to his former national security adviser is far from absolute.”

Flynn pleaded guilty to a minor charge of lying to the FBI, and mainstream media have assumed the minor crime he pleaded to and the minimal sentencing recommendation Mueller indicated he would submit to the judge meant Mueller was tattling on Trump in exchange for leniency for him and his son, who prosecutors considered charging but then declined to.

Trump has called Flynn a “wonderful man,” after firing him in February and “a very good man” during an interview in May. He has said he regrets firing Flynn and talked to Flynn’s son as recently as last week about the possibility of a pardon, even though Trump and others believe Flynn ultimately may not need a pardon because his conviction may be vacated.

But it’s the loyalty Trump doesn’t totally have that will get him in trouble, Blake writes.

“None of this paints the picture of a president who thinks Flynn lacks credibility or character; instead, Trump has repeatedly testified in the court of public opinion in support of Flynn’s character – even doing so after learning about many of his alleged misdeeds.

“Any effort to impugn Flynn’s character should be undercut by Trump’s repeated public defenses of that same character.”

Trump fired Flynn for lying about meetings with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents. As a witness, he would have to explain himself why someone who was fired by the president for lying and convicted of lying and was before the court only as part of a plea agreement should be believed at all.

Moreover, Trump believes himself to be innocent and does not believe Flynn has any beans to spill to the special counsel. His lawyers have told him they don’t consider Flynn a threat and the fact Flynn pleaded to making false statements to the FBI rather than any form of conspiracy indicates Flynn can’t be connected to any conspiracy involving the president or his aides.

The Post is trying to cut off a line of retreat for the president. Mueller has indicated to the White House he is through interviewing people there and reviewing all the records he requested, and Trump’s lawyers not only believe the president has nothing to fear but have urged Mueller to point this out and clear his name.

If there is anything damaging to come on Trump, it will have to come from Flynn. The Post doesn’t want Trump to be able to challenge the integrity of a witness who was fired for lying, convicted of lying and before the court only as part of a plea agreement.

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