Friday, May 17, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He pretended nobody ever warned him about Michael Flynn.

In court filings released yesterday, it was revealed that Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—who has since pleaded guilty to crimes uncovered by the Mueller probe—had been pressured by Trump's representatives to refuse to cooperate. The sentencing memo says that 

[Flynn] informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation

Specifically, the memo reveals that Trump's personal lawyer left Flynn's lawyer a voicemail imploring him to let Trump's defense team know if Mueller was targeting Trump—for "national security" reasons—and reminding him of Trump's "feelings toward Flynn." When Flynn's defense team refused to cooperate, Trump's lawyer followed up with a threat. More disclosures are expected as Flynn's sentencing proceeds.

Today, in an apparent effort to distance himself from the once-again metastasizing Flynn scandal, Trump took to Twitter to claim he'd never been warned about Flynn.

In reality, Trump was repeatedly warned, both before and after his term began. 

Then-President Obama explicitly and urgently warned Trump within days of the 2016 election to not hire Flynn, who at the time was a Trump campaign official. Obama had fired Flynn for insubordination and abuse of subordinates, which may have pushed Flynn into Trump's camp. 

In the week after the election, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter warning Vice-President-elect Mike Pence that Flynn was vulnerable to conflict of interest charges due to his undisclosed lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government. (Some of Flynn's criminal convictions stemmed from his attempts to hide this illegal lobbying.)

Trump campaign surrogate Chris Christie also warned Trump against having anything to do with Flynn, although Christie himself was in the process of being purged from the transition by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. (As a U.S. Attorney, Christie successfully prosecuted Kushner's father in 2005 for campaign finance fraud, tax evasion, and witness tampering, and Kushner has openly held a grudge ever since.)

Six days after Trump's inauguration, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates made an highly unusual trip to the White House to personally warn White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail because he'd lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Yates was fired four days later. Flynn continued to take part in the Trump administration's outreach to Russia, until Trump was forced to finally fire him eighteen days after Yates' warning when the story became public.

Why should I care about this?

  • Reality doesn't change just because a president's story does.
  • Lying about things that have been in the public record for years is insulting to the people being lied to.