What did Trump know, and when did he know it? We need to demand an investigation into Russia’s ties to Trump and his associates.

I’m hesitant to write anything more about the situation unfolding right now in D.C., as things are happening so quickly. I did, however, want to share this timeline with you from today’s Washington Post, as I think it might be something that we return to in the future as we try to determine what Trump knew, and when he knew it.

Dec. 29: Flynn, a former lieutenant general who had been selected as Trump’s national security adviser, speaks to Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Despite Flynn’s later denial and the White House’s later comments, he and Kislyak discuss sanctions and the possibility of relieving them once Trump is president — even as the Obama administration was announcing new sanctions for Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Jan. 12: For the first time, Flynn’s talks with the Russian ambassador are reported by Post columnist David Ignatius. Few details are known, but Ignatius notes that if the two discussed the sanctions, this could violate an obscure law known as the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized citizens from dealing in disputes with foreign governments.

Jan. 13: In his first comments on the matter, White House press secretary Sean Spicer says Flynn told him that he had exchanged text messages with Kislyak before they spoke on Dec. 28. (The date was later corrected to Dec. 29.) But Spicer said it was only to discuss logistics for a call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump after Trump was sworn in as president. “That was it, plain and simple,” Spicer said.

Jan. 14: Flynn assures Pence, who was then the vice president-elect, that the two of them didn’t discuss sanctions, according to Pence.

Jan. 15: Pence says on the Sunday shows that Flynn and Kislyak didn’t discuss sanctions. “I talked to General Flynn yesterday, and the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to the new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats,” Pence says on “Fox News Sunday.”

Jan. 26: The Justice Department, then headed by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (whom Trump would later dismiss for not defending his travel ban), informs White House counsel Don McGahn of Flynn’s misleading statements. It also warns that they were so egregious that he could open himself up to Russian blackmail, given Russia knew he had mischaracterized the call to his superiors, according to Washington Post reporting. White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the specific date on Tuesday. “The first day that the Department of Justice … sought to notify White House counsel was January 26,” Spicer said. “The president was immediately informed of the situation.” Spicer said the White House didn’t believe Flynn had violated the law. None of this was disclosed publicly at the time.

Feb. 8: In an interview with The Post that would be published the following day, Flynn categorically denies having discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Feb. 9: The Post reports that Flynn did, in fact, discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador. In response, a spokesperson amends Flynn’s denial, saying that he “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

Feb. 10: Trump says in brief comments aboard Air Force One that he is unaware of The Post’s report but that he will “look into” it.

Around 5 p.m. Monday: Conway says the White House has “full confidence” in Flynn and seems to excuse him for having forgotten that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Also around 5 p.m. Monday: Spicer issues a contradictory statement. “The president is evaluating the situation,” he said. “He’s speaking to the vice president relative to the conversation the vice president had with Gen. Flynn, and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is: our national security.”

8 p.m. Monday: The Post reports that the Justice Department had told the White House last month “that Flynn had so mischaracterized his communications with the Russian diplomat that he might be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.”

Shortly before 11 p.m. Monday: Flynn resigns.

Tuesday morning: Conway says Flynn resigned voluntarily.

Tuesday afternoon: Spicer, again contradicting Conway, says Trump requested the resignation: “Whether or not he actually misled the vice president was the issue, and that was ultimately what led to the president asking for and accepting the resignation of General Flynn. That’s it. Pure and simple, it was a matter of trust.”

So, just a few unfocused thoughts on what we know thus far.

1. Flynn, who was, for the past several weeks, the head of the National Security Council, apparently did not know that our intelligence agencies were in the practice of monitoring the communications Russian diplomats. I know I mentioned it yesterday, but I still can’t believe that he, as a career military officer, and Trump’s chief intelligence advisor, he didn’t understand that his calls to a Russian diplomat might have been recorded. The ineptitude of this administration is absolutely dumbfounding, and it will ultimately be their undoing. I take some comfort in that.

2. According to the above timeline, White House counsel Don McGahn, on January 26, was told by acting Attorney General Sally Yates (as well as former national intelligence director James Clapper Jr. and CIA director John Brennan) not only that Flynn had been lying, but that the Russians were in a position to blackmail him, as they knew that he had been lying about the content of his calls to Kislyak, and had violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in such discussions with foreign governments. I would have thought that Trump, in order to protect himself, would have said that he hadn’t been made aware of this report made to McGahn. Apparently, though, the White House has decided to acknowledge the fact that he knew. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on the record this afternoon that Trump has known for “weeks” that Flynn lied to Pence and others about the content of his calls. In fact, according to Spicer, Trump heard the news the very same day that Yates told McGahn. Trump was briefed “immediately,” Spicer said today.

3. So, today Spicer said that Flynn was asked for his resignation on Monday because it had been determined that he’d lied to the Vice President about his calls to Kislyak. “Whether or not he actually misled the vice president was the issue,” Spicer said, “and that was ultimately what led to the president asking for and accepting the resignation of General Flynn. That’s it. Pure and simple, it was a matter of trust.” But the thing is, we’ve already established that Trump was made aware of Flynn’s lying on January 26, “immediately” after Yates shared the information with McGahn. So, if he was fired for lying to the Vice President, why did Trump wait until February 13 to ask for Flynn’s resignation, when he had the evidence against him on January 26?

4. So, at 5:00 on Monday, Kellyanne Conway assured the press that Flynn had the “full confidence” of Trump. Then, just six hours later, it was reported that Flynn had resigned. I’d be interested to know what changed over that period of time? Why did the administration decide to jettison Flynn? Did Pence, who maybe really had been lied to, demand that he be forced out? Or did it perhaps have something to do with the news that broke at 8:00 PM that the administration has also been told on January 26 that, because of Flynn’s lie, he “might be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow”? [And you have to respect the intelligence community for how they played this. They told the press, when the President declined to take action against Flynn on his own, that the White House had been told of Flynn’s lying. And, when that still didn’t produce the desired result, they added that the White House had also been warned that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.]

5. It’s being reported now that, not only did Flynn lie to White House staff about these calls to discuss the Russian sanctions levied by the Obama administration, but that he also lied to the FBI, an offense which could bring with it a felony charge… And, if that should happen, one wonders what Flynn might tell prosecutors in order to protect himself… Might he, in order to save his own hide, say that Trump had asked him to contact the Russians, which seems like the most plausible scenario here? [Why else would Trump have kept him after the 26th, when he first learned of the calls?]

6. Regardless of how all of this went down, I hope you’ll agree that we need hearings. Democrats in the House have been demanding a Russia investigation for some time now, but Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has been denying them at every turn, choosing instead, if you can believe it, to investigate the funding of an episode of the PBS cartoon “Sid the Science Kid” about he Zika virus. Thankfully, it looks as though things have begun to turn. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said this evening that an investigation was “highly likely.” And other Republicans are jumping on the bandwagon. Republican Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told KTRS radio the evening, “I think everybody needs that investigation to happen.” And Senator John Cornyn, the Senate’s second ranking Republican leader, and newly appointed member of the Senate intelligence panel, agreed, saying that an investigation would be “appropriate.” But the House, it seems, could still use some convincing. Chaffetz, the last I heard, was still saying, “I think that situation has taken care of itself.” So, if you’re anywhere near a phone today, call your Congressperson. And, if you have time after that, call Jason Chaffetz and tell him to do his job.

7. Assuming we’re right and all of this is happening because America’s intelligence community feels as though the Trump administration is a danger to the country, one wonders if they’ll be satisfied with Flynn’s resignation. Based on this new news item in the New York Times, I’m guessing not. Here’s how it begins… “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.” So now, it would appear, we have at least four members of the intelligence community telling the New York Times that there are more intercepted calls… calls made between members of the Trump team and Russian officials during the general election, at the time that we know the Russians were actively hacking the Clinton campaign in order to assist Trump. So, stay tuned. More dominos may be falling.

8. If I were a betting man, I’d say, in the next few days, we’ll be hearing more people talking about the role of oil in all this, and that mysterious 19% ownership stake in the Russian oil company Rosneft that we were discussing back in January… Just wait.

There’s so much more I want to say, but my weighted blanket is calling.

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20 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Picked up from social media;

    People, I just had a VERY interesting conversation with the minority comment line for the House Intelligence Committee. It turns out that the minority (Democrat) members of the Committee have been QUIETLY investigating the connections between DJT and the Russians for the last month, since the Sally Yates notification and her subsequent firing.

    The woman I spoke to compared the firing of Yates to Archibald Cox’s firing during Nixon. She said, “I’m a lot older than you, and trust me, there are more similarities here than you might realize.”

    She URGED me, SEVERAL TIMES, to have everyone I know call the House Intelligence Committee Majority (Republican) comment line to tell Nunes and the Republicans 1) that you are outraged at Nunes’ statement of support of Mike Flynn (see below) and 2) to open a formal investigation into Russia’s influence over Trump et. al.

    The number for the majority House Intel line is 202-225-4121.

    I just called them. They picked up on the first ring.

    GO TO IT! Circulate this far and wide, please.

  2. Elliott
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I’ll be focusing my attention on Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg. He needs to be tracked down and forced to comment on this.

    http://www.eclectablog.com/2017/02/republican-tim-walberg-is-hiding-from-and-lying-to-his-constituents-refuses-to-meet-with-them.html

  3. Eel
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    We’ve also got this to worry about in Michigan.

    “Could Kid Rock launch a campaign to take Debbie Stabenow’s Senate seat?”

    http://www.wxyz.com/news/could-kid-rock-launch-a-campaign-to-take-debbie-stabenows-senate-seat

    The march toward Idiocracy continues.

  4. Meta
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Today’s Washington Post, in an article about Senate Republicans supporting an investigation, notes that Republicans in the House don’t share their enthusiasm.

    Their pronouncements contrasted sharply with remarks by Republicans in the House, who applauded Flynn’s resignation but for the most part stopped short of calling for further investigation.

    “I’ll leave it up to the administration to describe the circumstances surrounding what brought [Flynn] to this point,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters.

    Some took aim elsewhere. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the most significant question posed by Flynn’s resignation is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the news media.

    “I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” Nunes said. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

    Read more:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/top-senate-republican-blunt-says-congress-should-probe-flynn-situation/2017/02/14/8abbcad4-f2d5-11e6-a9b0-ecee7ce475fc_story.html

  5. Dan Rather by proxy
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.

    When we look back at Watergate, we remember the end of the Nixon Presidency. It came with an avalanche, but for most of the time my fellow reporters and I were chasing down the story as it rumbled along with a low-grade intensity. We never were quite sure how much we would find out about what really happened. In the end, the truth emerged into the light, and President Nixon descended into infamy.

    This Russia story started out with an avalanche and where we go from here no one really knows. Each piece of news demands new questions. We are still less than a month into the Trump Presidency, and many are asking that question made famous by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker those many years ago: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” New reporting suggests that Mr. Trump knew for weeks. We can all remember the General Michael Flynn’s speech from the Republican National Convention – “Lock her up!” in regards to Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton had done one tenth of what Mr. Flynn had done, she likely would be in jail. And it isn’t just Mr. Flynn, how far does this go?

    The White House has no credibility on this issue. Their spigot of lies – can’t we finally all agree to call them lies – long ago lost them any semblance of credibility. I would also extend that to the Republican Congress, who has excused away the Trump Administration’s assertions for far too long.

    We need an independent investigation. Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth. If a scriptwriter had approached Hollywood with what we are witnessing, he or she would probably have been told it was way too far-fetched for even a summer blockbuster. But this is not fiction. It is real and it is serious. Deadly serious. We deserve answers and those who are complicit in this scandal need to feel the full force of justice.

  6. Jay Steichmann
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Probably the most important reason for you/us to keep up pressure on US Representatives is that impeachment starts in the House and the trial is heard by the Senate.

  7. Stuart Hutchings
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    The House will not, because Ryan has more or less admitted, the current Republican leadership views investigation as punishment not inquiry. Keep that in mind when folks look back at the investigations into Sec Clinton the last several years.

    What we can do, is continue to pressure individual Congresspersons, and as much as possible at their offices (respectfully, give no excuse to create a different narrative). And continue to reach out to folks who did not vote to engage, help them vote, and try and peel away folks who voted for this current batch of folks but are not fully on board. Hold your anger, get them to switch.

  8. M
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Hugely important.

    “Congressman Steve King: Leakers should be ‘purged’ from intelligence community”

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/steve-king-intelligence-communities-cnntv/index.html

  9. Chris
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Why shouldn’t the House investigate? 8 different committees investigated Benghazi, including a select committee by the House specifically focused on Benghazi. The more the merrier. Get to the bottom of this.

  10. Rat
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    More people “like” the fact that you sleep under a lead blanket than “like” your demand for an investigation. What does that tell you, Mark?

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Environmental lawyer friend who regularly sues the federal govt says:

    ‘Please, please, ask for an independent (not special) counsel, specifically request a review of the transition team and the Trump Administration, and do not use the word leaks.’

  12. WaPo
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    The Washington Post:

    Officials inside the National Security Council described low morale and concern about the future. The “worthless” message at a five-minute staff meeting Tuesday morning, one official said, was: “Keep working hard. Don’t leave.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/flynn-departure-erupts-into-a-full-blown-crisis-for-the-trump-white-house/2017/02/14/c1f3cb90-f2db-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html

  13. Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    From Twitter.

  14. Demetrius
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Trump in July, 2016:

    “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EZFBB-MntE

  15. Meta
    Posted February 27, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I posted this in another thread, but I thought it belonged here also. It’s another perspective on this whole thing from Tablet Magazine.

    So when does the other shoe drop? Who’s going to break the story proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president of the United States is so deeply connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House has become a Muscovite colony in all but name?

    Time to use some common sense—it’s not going to happen, there is no story. The narrative that Donald Trump is effectively Putin’s prison wife is an information operation orchestrated by Democratic hands, many of whom served in the Obama administration, sectors of the intelligence community, and much of the American press. The purpose of the campaign is to delegitimize Trump’s presidency by continuing to hit on themes drawn from the narrative that Russia “hacked” the election and stole it away from Clinton.

    The narrative is contorted because it’s not journalism. It’s a story that could only make sense in a profoundly corrupted public sphere, one in which, for instance, Graydon Carter is celebrated for speaking truth to power with an editor’s letter critical of Trump in a magazine that has no other ontological ground in the universe except to celebrate power.

    Oh, sure, there are regular hints that there’s still more to come on Trump and his staff’s ties to Russia—the big one is about to hit. But the steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

    No, if Trump really was in bed with the Russians, the story would already be out there, and I’m pretty sure it would have had a Wayne Barrett byline.

    When I worked at the Village Voice in the mid-1990s, my office was right around the corner from Barrett’s and his bullpen of interns, a team that kept the heat on local politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, and others. Barrett was the first journalist who wrote at length about Trump, starting in the mid-1970s. His biography, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, was published in 1992, and reissued in 2016 as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

    When Trump won the nomination and the pace of Trump stories picked up, Barrett became something of an official archivist, with reporters visiting his Brooklyn house to go through his files in the basement. Anyone who wanted to know what Trump’s deal with Russia was, for instance, would want to talk to Barrett because either he or his team of interns, 40 years’ worth, would have it. After all, New York City is the world capital for information on Russians, even better than Israel—because even though the city got a smaller number of post-Cold War immigrants, New York got a higher percentage of mobsters.

    Let’s compare the institution of Wayne Barrett, a subset of the institution of journalism, to the so-called Russia dossier, the document placing Trump in a shady underworld governed by Putin and other Russian thugs. The former includes not only Barrett’s body of work over nearly half a century, but that of the hundreds of journalists he trained, and many thousands of sources whose information is, therefore, able to be cross-checked.

    The latter, a congeries of preadolescent pornographic fantasy and spy tales, was authored by a British intelligence officer who has gone to ground since the dossier was made public. The dossier started as work made for hire, first paid for by Republican opponents of Trump and then the Clinton camp, and is sourced to Russian “contacts” who are clearly using the document as an opportunity to proliferate an information operation for perhaps various and as yet unknown purposes. The former is journalism. The latter, part oppo research and part intelligence dump, is garbage. Clearly, it is also the new standard in the field, which is why journalists on both sides of the political spectrum are boasting about their willingness to let their bylines be used as bulletin boards for spy services and call it a “scoop.”

    Barrett had Trump on a whole variety of issues, but check the records yourself—up until the day of his death, the day before Trump’s inauguration, there’s nothing on Trump and Putin. Does this mean Trump is totally clean? Who knows? But the journalists now clamoring like maniacs about Trump’s ties sure aren’t going to find it. They’re thin-skinned hacks outraged that Trump dared violate the inherent dignity of that most important of American political institutions, the presidential press conference. And as we all know, this is the apex of real journalism, where esteemed members of the press sit side by side with other masters of the craft to see who gets their question televised.

    Does Trump really believe the media are “an enemy of the people”? Please. Let’s remember how he rode his wave to fame on the back of the New York Post’s Page Six (and Graydon Carter’s Spy magazine). He still speaks regularly to the head of CNN (aka “Fake News”), Jeff Zucker, who put him on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice at NBC, where Trump sat atop the Nielsens for 13 years. Trump uses his Twitter feed to boost his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings because the president still has a credit as executive producer. No, Trump doesn’t hate the media. Like Howard Stern, he sees himself as the king of all media. What he’s doing here is playing gladiator in front of an audience that wants to see the lions slain.

    Maybe Trump deserves the heat with the fake Russia stories. He backed the Obama birth certificate story, and what goes around comes around. But the American public sure doesn’t deserve a press like this.

    Trump adviser Steve Bannon calls the media the opposition party, but that’s misleading. Everyone knows that the press typically tilts left, and no one is surprised, for instance, that The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate since 1956. But that’s not what we’re seeing now—rather, the media has become an instrument in a campaign of political warfare. What was once an American political institution and a central part of the public sphere became something more like state-owned media used to advance the ruling party’s agenda and bully the opposition into silence. Russia’s RT network, the emir of Qatar’s Al Jazeera network—indeed, all of the Arab press—and media typically furnished by Third World regimes became the American press’ new paradigm; not journalism, but information operation.

    How did this happen? It’s not about a few journalists, many of whom still do honor to the profession, or a few papers or networks. It’s a structural issue. Much of it is because of the wounds the media inflicted on itself, but it was also partly due to something like a natural catastrophe that no one could have predicted, or controlled.

    Read more:
    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/225587/trump-american-press

  16. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Another article to check out.

    “Trump adviser admits to contact with DNC hacker”

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/323477-top-trump-adviser-admits-to-contacting-dnc-hackers-report

  17. Lynne
    Posted March 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. Anonymous, there was a time when I would have found such a scenario to be shocking.

  18. M
    Posted April 19, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    This news intrigues me.

    Chaffetz won’t run for reelection: http://hill.cm/fiIkht9

  19. John Schindler‏ by proxy
    Posted April 19, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    #NSA friend recently told me that when #KremlinGate shakes out, Nunes will be doing hard time.

  20. Meta
    Posted May 18, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Chaffetz is expected to resign today.

2 Trackbacks

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    […] to influence the last election, but news just broke yesterday that Congressman Jason Chafettz, who recently came to Trump’s defense by claiming falsely that evidence existed backing up the …, wouldn’t be seeking reelection. And, not just that, but he said today that he might not even […]

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