Today’s Flynn Story: More Questions Than Answers

Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.

If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal.

But there’s another layer: what was the business deal? News of that broke last week, and it simply doesn’t make sense. I’m going to make this a short post, so I won’t list all the questions I have about that deal. Just a few.

What are the companies IP3 and ACU? The IP3 website does not work well and contains very little. The reactor project seems to be all they’ve got, although they make it sound like more. The ACU website is similarly sketchy.

Bud McFarlane? Really??? The guy who took a cake and a Bible to Tehran in 1986 as part of Iran-Contra?

What does Flynn, or any of these people, know about nuclear reactors? Why is the program continuing? Rick Perry just came back from Saudi Arabia and a bunch of photo ops. He was talking to them about selling them reactors.

Why were Russian reactor firms involved? The purpose of the deal has been said to be to sell American reactor technology.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland has made a timeline available of Flynn’s activities in this deal.

I’m continuing to monitor and research this and will report when I’ve got something. But so far, the deal just doesn’t make sense.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

40 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    debbie says:

    But so far, the deal just doesn’t make sense.

    That is what makes it a Flynn deal.

  3. 3
    TenguPhule says:

    What does Flynn, or any of these people, know about nuclear reactors?

    They’re very expensive and can be used to justify large guaranteed loans from banks, which can in turn be sliced up and resold as bundled financial products.

  4. 4

    I will be only mildly surprised if all their hooting and hollering about Hillary giving our nuclear whatever to Russia turns out to be projection.

  5. 5
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    Bud McFarlane founded Global Energy Investors LLC, which sponsored energy and environmental projects in Brazil, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and China

  6. 6

    @TenguPhule: Or used for money laundering.

  7. 7
    ByRookorbyCrook says:

    Sham businesses being used as fronts to move large amounts of capital between Russia and the U.S.? And Generalisimo Flynn was involved, but the details are fuzzy? Does not fit at all.

  8. 8
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I suspect its a bit harder to do that with heavy water then it is with heavy gamblers.

  9. 9

    @TenguPhule: These are light water reactors.

  10. 10
    ByRookorbyCrook says:


    @Cheryl Rofer: I suspect its a bit harder to do that with heavy water then it is with heavy gamblers.

    Why not both? There is a lot of money with questionable origins that needs to be moved around and waiting for the real estate and gambling shuffle alone takes time. More avenues means more money and more potential to skim off the top.

  11. 11
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Picky Picky Picky. :P

  12. 12
    Roger Moore says:

    What does Flynn, or any of these people, know about nuclear reactors?

    Less than Rick Perry, which is saying something.

  13. 13
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Less than Rick Perry, which is saying something.

    I’m not even sure that’s humanly possible.

  14. 14
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Certainly not sentiently possible

  15. 15
    Roger Moore says:


    I’m not even sure that’s humanly possible.

    Have you looked at the rest of Trump’s cabinet recently? They’re making a serious effort to prove the possibility of negative intelligence.

  16. 16
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Have you looked at the rest of Trump’s cabinet recently?

    Yes, they all hate their departments because they’ve actively worked against them in the past.

    Perry doesn’t even have that going for him. He literally didn’t know what his department did until they told him.

  17. 17
    hoodie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Ding-ding-ding. Reactor projects are black holes that go on forever with endless schedule slips and cost overruns, absorbing massive amounts of cash in elaborate concrete pours that are more likely to end up as skate parks than reactor sites. And in the middle east, yet, where they have such a robust regulatory infrastructure and no worries about nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands. The whole thing is nuts. Flynn is a kook and a crook.

  18. 18
    Amaranthine RBG says:

    I’m all for putting Flynn and others in jail for a long time, but I don’t see how any of today’s implicate the only real prize – Trump.

  19. 19
    chopper says:

    @Amaranthine RBG:

    hey look, it’s Undermine RBG. go die in a fire, douchebag.

  20. 20
    Jeffro says:

    Ah, I see that approximately 83% of the above comments already say what I was about to say: “If they had any brains, they wouldn’t be criminals, now would they?”

    They all thought they were going to help each other out and cash out BIGLY! Looks like it didn’t work out that way. Thank goodness Flynn Sr gives a shit about what happens to Flynn Jr, or he’d still be telling Mueller to fuck off while waiting for his special TrumPardon to arrive.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I won’t be surprised in the least.

  22. 22
    Yoda Dog says:

    @Amaranthine RBG: Dude, why do I suddenly get hungry every time you post?

  23. 23
    Anne Laurie says:

    Yeah, I’m guessing the primary purpose was money-laundering. But what are the chances this was also a way to profitably “repurpose” some of the post-Soviet nuclear material we’ve been told has yet to be accounted for? If only by labelling (relatively) small amounts of low-quality ore as something worth selling to people who might not be able to tell the difference?

  24. 24
    Central Planning says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Isn’t all their screaming, yelling, and moralizing about liberals/Democrats really what they themselves are doing?

  25. 25
    clay says:

    @Amaranthine RBG: Well, if Trump approved of, or even knew about, Flynn’s plans, then that would implicate him. And Flynn didn’t get a plea agreement because Mueller felt sorry for him…

  26. 26
    Dave says:

    @Major Major Major Major: At this point I’d still be slightly surprised if they were planning to sell a Boomer missles included to the highest bidder. But only just slightly.

  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    If we only talked about the deals these morons are involved in that make sense, we’d have nothing to talk about.
    Your cats make deals every day that make more sense than these guys. Where to crap, to cover it up so it doesn’t stink. That puts your cats at least a thousand miles ahead of these assclowns.

  28. 28
    JoeyJoeJoe says:

    I was watching Hardball. Rep. Denny Heck, who’s on the Intelligence Committee, actually used the phrase “Tick Tock” (he omitted “motherfucker”) in response to the idea that Mueller has DT’s tax returns.

  29. 29
    Ken says:

    It would be funnier if it’s a scam, and Flynn and friends were the patsies. “Da, tovarisch Flynn. Our company is poised to make trillions building these nuclear wessels. You can, how do you Americans say, get in on the ground floor for a few million.”

    The only sad thing is, this would mean the sanctions kept them from being scammed.

  30. 30
    MaryLou says:

    There may have also been some expected opportunities for future ‘security’ being provided by US private security firms, eg, Eric Prince.

  31. 31

    On the theory that these guys are too dumb to make sense: This is entirely possible. Beltway bandits like IP3 and ACU regularly bid on projects for which they have no expertise. They figure they can subcontract or bs their way through. It is one of my working hypotheses. It’s not one I like, because I’d prefer to believe that these guys have something going for them to, like, make three-star general, but the inclusion of Bud McFarlane and his history argue for the hypothesis. I had a conversation recently with a colleague on how disorienting it is to uncover the dumbth in all this.

    @Anne Laurie: By and large, nuclear material is accounted for around the world. The US and Soviet Union made so much, and the records are imperfect enough that we will never know exactly. But most experts are reasonably confident there aren’t significant amounts hidden away. The US bought enriched uranium from Russian weapons to use in its reactors over the past decade or so. The program has ended, but for a while something like 10% of electrical energy in the US came from decommissioned Soviet nuclear weapons. There are stocks of plutonium and enriched uranium from weapons in both countries, but they’re not going anywhere any time soon.

    The deal seems to have been for nuclear reactors, which include a lot more than the nuclear materials and have, it seems to me, lots of potential for money laundering, which is the most obvious explanation. Security systems described in various ways at various times seem to have been part of what was for sale as well. I have lots of questions there too.

  32. 32
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks! I’m glad to know that actual experts agree there aren’t actually significant amounts of nuclear material unaccounted for!

    (But I still wonder if it’s possible, given the “everybody knows” myths loose on the interwebs, that a couple grey-area businessmen/grifters might think they could pretend to buy a reactor and then sell “guaranteed explosive radiation stuff” to people with more money than sense… )

  33. 33

    @Anne Laurie: There have been a number of people selling “fissionable material” (that isn’t) to law enforcement people in stings. In a very few cases, it was actually a tiny amount of the stuff, but mostly not.

    Considering that there were actual Russian nuclear organizations involved in this, yeah someone could be trying to (and succeeding in) putting one over on beltway bandit types. That ties in with one of my questions and the hypothesis of excessive stupidity.

  34. 34
    Van Buren says:

    If someone pitched all this as a movie plot 5 years ago, it would get dismissed as being too far-fetched. Now, it barely raises an eyebrow.

  35. 35
    Robert Sneddon says:

    The Russian government is pushing international sales of the VVER light-water reactors quite hard with complete turnkey “packages” of finance support/build/fuel cycle operations for aspiring nuclear-power nations like Vietnam and Armenia which are all NPT signatories and subject to IAEA inspection. There are five VVER-AES reactors under construction in China (2), Belarus (2) and India (1) at the moment, a bunch more contracted to start “sometime” and a few long-term negotiations under way. They’re also building new reactors at home to displace gas burning generation capacity so they can sell the gas abroad, like a number of other gas and oil states. Two operating licences for 1GW new-builds at Leningrad and Rostov were just issued by the Russian regulatory organisation.

    Bushehr 1 in Iran was competed by the Russians as a hybrid VVER-series reactor and Iran wants another two VVERs, to be paid for in part by oil barter. Still not at the pouring concrete and bending metal stage though.

  36. 36
    Manyakitty says:

    @Robert Sneddon: But nothing in the ME, which makes sense, because why on earth would they need one? If anything, it makes sense for them to consider solar, or maybe a solar/wind combo.

  37. 37

    @Robert Sneddon: Yes, and they have been doing so for several years now. So why would they need Flynn’s help, and why would he be selling Russian reactors?

  38. 38
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Manyakitty: Several countries in the ME are building reactors — the UAE is building four Korean-designed reactors now, the first of which should be on the grid next year. The Saudis are looking at building fifteen or more reactors but they’ve not signed anything substantive yet. They’re cosidering going nuclear for the same reasons, they’d rather sell oil and gas into the world market than burn it at home to generate eletricity and of course Iran already has its Russian-completed reactor and is looking for two more new-builds.

    The Koreans are in the lead for the Saudi project since they’re delivering provably on-time maybe on-budget in the UAE (if the published financials are to be believed, the SK government and industry is a trifle lax when it comes to accurate information about finances). Russia isn’t best buds with most of the ME of course which doesn’t help but other nations such as Egypt are still talking to Rosatomexport about buying VVER-series PWRs.

  39. 39
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: They don’t need Flynn’s help per se but he’s got connections in the US military/industrial complex and can maybe make things easier for Rosatomexport in places where the US military holds sway. He doesn’t have an in with the Chinese or the South Koreans so he can’t help them with their reactor exports in the same way.

  40. 40
    Barry says:

    Remember, the competent guys work at Goldman Sachs, and don’t get caught.

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