We interrupt our continuing coverage of the not-strictly-criminal tax-cut bill — although in whatever final form the bill takes, we know it will take money from tens of millions of Americans to give to the rich — to return to our continuing coverage of the now-official criminality tied directly to the White House.
Now that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, that takes us and him and, most significantly, the Mueller probe to a whole new place, including the doorstep of someone described in the “Statement of the Offense,” as agreed to by Flynn, as “a very senior member” of the Trump transition team.
Sources tell The Washington Post that the “very senior member” is Jared Kushner. Let that sink in. Flynn has told Mueller’s team that the “very senior member,” who was at that moment at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump and other key members of the team, directed and approved his Dec. 29 call to discuss Obama’s Russian sanctions — announced just the day before — with Kislyak. When Flynn heard that Vladimir Putin had agreed to be restrained in his response to the sanctions, he again talked to “senior members” of the transition team.
So, when it comes to asking who knew what and when he/she knew it, we wouldn’t be talking only about Trump, but potentially people very close to Trump. Now let that sink in.
We’ve long known about these calls and other meetings. We’ve known that the Trump transition team was basically conducting foreign policy, which is against the law, but not a law anyone ever gets charged with. We know all this because it has all been faithfully reported by the, uh, fake news.
The Dec. 29 call was the one that got Flynn fired for lying, although not for 17 days after Sally Yates — you remember Sally Yates — had warned the White House that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail for having lied to the FBI. It wasn’t until four days after The Washington Post publicly revealed all this that Trump finally fired Flynn.
Why did Flynn lie to Pence? Here’s a guess: Maybe because “very senior members” in the Trump transition team were covering up the Russia contacts.
Why did Flynn lie to the FBI, which he knew was a very serious offense that could send him to prison? Here’s a guess: See above.
What’s clear is that Flynn, who has said publicly that he will cooperate with the Mueller investigation, has been flipped. The fact that he is facing only one charge — and there are a long list of potentially very serious charges against him and also against his son — is a very large hint that he had flipped. Every legal expert, and also the rest of us, could see that much.
Flynn, who was introduced to much of America as the “lock-her-up” guy at the Republican convention, is facing up to six months — but it could have been much longer. I guess he knew that. He must have when he said at the GOP convention if he “did a tenth, a tenth of what (Hillary Clinton) did, I’d be in jail today.”
OK, we know how that turned out. Flynn won’t be in jail for at least a while because he’ll be busy cooperating with Mueller, which, according to the agreement, could mean everything up to and including testifying before a grand jury or at trial. What we don’t know is what else Flynn knows. When legal experts weigh in, they assure us that Flynn wouldn’t have walked away with a single charge unless he has a lot more to offer.
That is what has to be scaring everyone in the Trump White House, not to mention anyone who has ever been near the Trump White House. The Trump team could try to say that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager who has also been charged by Mueller, wasn’t central to the Trump campaign. They got laughed at when they said it, but there’s no getting around Flynn, who was a trusted key adviser before he got the national security job and, apparently, even after he was fired.
Collusion, after all, isn’t the only question for the Mueller probe. What Flynn knows could lead directly to what Kushner knows or to what Trump knows. Which leads directly to the question of why Trump was working so hard to protect Flynn, which, as has been widely noted, doesn’t seem to be very Trump-like behavior. Which leads directly to why Trump asked then-FBI Director Jim Comey if he could let Flynn off easy. Which leads directly to the question of why Trump fired Comey, who had refused.
And that leads directly to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Trump himself admitted he was thinking about the Russia “thing” when he fired Comey, but he didn’t say what part of the Russia thing. That may be the biggest question possibly answered by Flynn.
If it turns out that Trump was protecting himself, or some “very senior member,” in firing Comey, that sounds a lot like obstruction of justice, which, even in that scenario, probably wouldn’t give a Republican Congress much pause. But who knows if that scenario is even the dreaded worst-case scenario?
We know Trump and his lawyer have been saying the Mueller probe could be wrapped up by Christmas. But, for the White House, you have to believe it won’t be a very happy holiday.