My first thought after reading this is that there have been reports for several months that President Trump has been trying to talk his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka to get out of D.C. and to go back to their lives in New York.
In those reports, Trump’s concerns have been noted to be that he felt the bad publicity surrounding the ongoing Russia probe and every little thing that has gone into his presidency could damage their brand.
In other words, he wanted to get his kids away from the line of fire. His oldest child, Donald Trump Jr. is already neck deep, due to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
With the news of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI, and news that he’s ready to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s team, it may already be too late.
The top Trump team member who is, according to early reports, being pegged as the one who asked Flynn to reach out to Russia is Jared Kushner.
According to Bloomberg:
Two former officials with the Trump transition team who worked closely with Flynn say that during the last days of the Obama administration, the retired general was instructed to contact foreign ambassadors and foreign ministers of countries on the U.N. Security Council, ahead of a vote condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn was told to try to get them to delay that vote until after Barack Obama had left office, or oppose the resolution altogether.
That is relevant now because one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”
The big question now seems to be: Was it illegal?
Trump had already won the election. This was the transition period, with only a month left to the horrendous Obama administration.
As a final knife in the back to our Middle East allies, Israel, Obama instructed his ambassador to the UN to abstain from the vote – something that hasn’t been done since 1980.
Before that happened, however, Kushner reportedly told Flynn to get every ambassador or foreign minister from a nation represented on the UN Security Council he could reach and ask them to delay or vote against the resolution.
It is also reported that this was under coordination with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
For now it’s unclear what to make of all of this. Lying to the FBI is a felony and always a serious matter. We also know from Flynn’s “statement of the offense” that he lied to FBI agents as the bureau was investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any links between Russia and the Trump campaign in this period. Nonetheless, nothing in the Flynn plea sheds any light on whether the Trump campaign actually colluded with Russia to influence the election.
So is that all there is?
ABC News reported Friday that Flynn is prepared to tell Mueller’s team that Trump had instructed him to make contact with Russia during the campaign itself. If those contacts involved the emails the U.S. intelligence community charges Russia stole from leading Democrats, then Mueller will have uncovered evidence of actual collusion between the president and a foreign adversary during the election. Impeachment could then be in the cards.
The reports coming out earlier today were that Flynn is saying Trump asked him to set up a backchannel line of communication with Russia, in order to work together on stopping ISIS in Russia.
One stretch is possibly the Logan Act, which makes it illegal for a private citizen to contact a foreign government, attempting to undermine the foreign policies of a sitting president.
A Logan Act investigation would explain the bureau’s interest in Flynn’s conversations about the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israel. This is what Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Friday: “This shows a Trump associate negotiating with the Russians against U.S. policy and interests before Donald Trump took office and after it was announced that Russia had interfered in our election. That’s a stunning revelation and could be a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign power.”
This thing seems to be branching out in a lot of little tributaries. Will it ultimately lead to a bigger pond, with bigger fish?