“Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,” the New York Times reports.
“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… 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.”
“The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation. But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, called for an investigation into connections between President Trump and Russia, and want former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to testify, CNN reports. Meanwhile, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told KTRS radio that an investigation “needs” to happen. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Tuesday that he wants to know if somebody on President Donald Trump’s transition team “directed” former national security advisor Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions in a call with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
Meanwhile, Flynn himself may be in some legal trouble. “FBI agents interviewed Michael Flynn when he was national security adviser in the first days of the Trump administration about his conversations with the Russian ambassador,” the New York Times reports. “The interview raises the stakes of what so far has been a political scandal that cost Mr. Flynn his job. If he was not entirely honest with the FBI, it could expose Mr. Flynn to a felony charge.”
Ryan Lizza: “Both Congress and the FBI are looking into Flynn’s links to Russia. There are several former Obama officials who saw transcripts of his calls with the Russian Ambassador. The dripping has only just begun.”
Mika finally gets it: there is no reason to interview Kellyanne Conway, for you will only made complicit in spreading lies. Conway’s credibility is forever destroyed. In a normal world, she would never work again.
Dan Rather says RussiaFlynnghazi may become as big as Watergate: “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.”
Dan Balz on Government by Chaos: “Trump’s campaign was never entirely smooth, but instincts that served him so well then appear to be less helpful now that he is in office. As president, Trump’s early moves — with some exceptions — have been marked by poor judgment, botched execution, hubris among some advisers, and a climate of fear and disorder all around.”
“The complexities of governing have quickly caught up with a politician determined to shake up Washington as quickly as possible. The president gets credit from many Americans for keeping his campaign promises, but government by chaos is not a known recipe for success. The result is an administration that begins its second month weakened and on the defensive. What Trump takes away from all this will determine the future of his tumultuous presidency.
David Kurtz: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Flynn affair: “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.”
That was the same mindset – an aversion to accountability in exchange for perceived short-term political gain – that produced an explosion of GOP corruption in the mid-aughts. There’s little evidence the party learned from that sordid period, and Trump seems likely to reproduce it, except bigger, more garishly, and with more conspicuous gilding. And his congressional enablers seem ready to help out, if only by omission of real oversight.”
Rick Klein: “The Facebook account has since been deleted, and the pictures themselves – the president and his top aides smiling at a pleasant dinner with the prime minister of Japan – are innocent enough. But the idea that they were discussing the details of a North Korean missile launch, inside cellphone camera range (if not quite earshot) of members of the Mar-a-Lago Club – is head-scratching. ‘Trump turned his table into an al fresco situation room,’ the Washington Post reported.”
“Even if that’s not exactly what it was – we don’t know what, specifically, was discussed – the idea that this is the new normal is astounding. After a campaign where email security and hacking was kind of a big deal, this is kind of nuts. And isn’t the White House contention that only ‘logistics’ was discussed in public on Saturday night reminiscent of initial explanations for the Flynn phone call?”
The director of the Office of Government Ethics said that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway misused her official position by hawking Ivanka Trump’s product line on TV and recommends the White House punish her, The Hill reports.
“The White House has posted inaccurate texts of President Trump’s own executive orders on the White House website, raising further questions about how thorough the Trump administration has been in drafting some of his most controversial actions,” USA Today reports.
“A review of presidential documents found at least five cases where the version posted on the White House website doesn’t match the official version sent to the Federal Register. The differences include minor grammatical changes, missing words and paragraph renumbering — but also two cases where the original text referred to inaccurate or non-existent provisions of law.”
Politico: “Disparate factions of the GOP are drawing hard lines on what they’re willing to support — or not — when it comes to repealing the health care law. And the sparring raises the question of what, if anything, can pass Congress over the next few weeks.”
“The more centrist wing of the party wants to slow the entire process down. They say Republicans need to act deliberately to avoid public panic over millions potentially losing their insurance. The party, they argue, needs to put forward a replacement plan — or at least as much of one that can pass using a special, majority-vote mechanism — before it ditches the law. Forget the 2015 repeal bill that Barack Obama vetoed, they add: It’s not relevant now that Republicans own the problem.”
“Conservatives are in a different place entirely. Senate hard-liners are joining with the House Freedom Caucus and some top Republican Study Committee members to demand a back-to-basics approach: Kill the law now, even if there’s no clear picture of what replaces it.”
Zachary Karabell on what Trump has, or rather, hasn’t done in his first three weeks: “There is a wide gap, a chasm even, between what the administration has said and what it has done. There have been 45 executive orders or presidential memoranda signed, which may seem like a lot but lags President Barack Obama’s pace. More crucially, with the notable exception of the travel ban, almost none of these orders have mandated much action or clear change of current regulations. So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done. It is the illusion of a presidency, not the real thing.”
It is worth remembering that, right now, due to GOP infighting, the legislative momentum on Capitol Hill has ground to a standstill, despite the fact that a new president historically gets his most consequential legislation passed during his first year, even first months in office.
Brian Beutler says the Trump is screwed.
So let’s assume Flynn just jumped on a grenade for his boss. Trump may have believed Moscow would never rat Flynn out, and may still believe Flynn will never claim—or prove—he was just following orders. But the truth is, Trump can’t be sure his own involvement won’t be exposed. And that compromises him, as well. It’s not just that Pence, Flynn, and Spicer should feel as if Trump hung them out to dry—it’s that he did so in a way that gives powerful people, perhaps even Russian intelligence officials, leverage over his administration.
The story is explosive, in other words, even when it’s walled off from other things we know: That Flynn and Kislyak were reportedly in contact, not just during the transition, but before the election. That other members of the Trump team and their Russian contacts are reportedly under federal investigation, stemming from a broader investigation into Russian subversion. That those inquiries are apparently significant enough that FBI director James Comey was initially reluctant to alert the White House to Flynn’s susceptibility to blackmail out of fear it would undermine the bureau’s work. That the intelligence community has corroborated certain non-sexual claims in the Trump-opposition dossier. […]
It’s hard to focus on regressive tax cuts if the president of your party is at the center of a major national security scandal. Republicans might be able to slow down the unraveling with this kind of willful blindness to the significance of what just happened. But they probably can’t stop it altogether. They will be lucky if this ends with senior members of Trump’s White House and doesn’t ultimately ensnare Trump himself.
Trump will eventually be impeached and removed from office involuntarily. The only question is who will do it? Republicans or Democrats?