Today we saw the arrest of Michael Flynn’s former business partner Bijan Rafiekian for his alleged role in a plot by Turkey to illegally lobby the United States government. We didn’t know when this arrest would happen, but considering that Flynn gave up everyone and everything in his plea deal, this was inevitable. Here’s the odd part: the connection to Ryan Zinke, who just abruptly resigned from Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Ryan Zinke’s various scandals have long made clear that he’s a corrupt criminal of the worst kind: a politician who can be bought by anyone, no matter how shady. The publicly visible investigations into Zinke are closing in on him, but they have been for awhile now, and there was no indication that anything was about to imminently happen to him when he suddenly resigned on Saturday.
It is the transition period, after all, so maybe Zinke simply decided that his best criminal defense strategy going forward was to quietly vacate the office while no one was looking. But then came today’s arrest of Bijan Rafiekian. How is this connected? We’re not sure that it is. But according to a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing, the Flynn Intel Group – run by Flynn and Rafiekian – made two political donations in 2016. One was to the Donald Trump campaign. The other was to Ryan Zinke’s reelection campaign for Congress. Fascinatingly, the document says that Rafiekian can’t remember how much he donated to Zinke.
Why would Bijan Rafiekian have used the Flynn Intel Group to donate money to Ryan Zinke, at a time when he was an obscure and fairly powerless one-term Congressman from Montana? Donald Trump then turned around and named Zinke to his cabinet, at a time when Michael Flynn was one of Trump’s closest political advisers. Now, in the brief period between Flynn’s plea deal becoming public and Rafiekian being arrested for it, Zinke suddenly resigns. Yes, this could totally be a coincidence. But if so, it’s a remarkable one.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report