Michael Flynn And Christopher Steele Add To Donald Trump’s Russia Problem
Another day, another set of shady ties to Russia…
Over the course of less than 24 hours, Russia has become an exponentially larger problem for Donald Trump. First, the Washington Post reported, citing nine current and former intelligence officials, that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied about not discussing sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The story has since been corroborated by the New York Times.
Now, per CNN, the dossier first leaked by Buzzfeed — compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele —has gained a substantial amount of credence as US intelligence officials have confirmed parts of its findings.
The story on Flynn is relatively straight-forward. Flynn claimed that no discussion was had about current and pending sanctions on Russia by the Obama administration for the country’s role in hacking the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
That was a lie.
According to officials who had access to the content’s of the conversation, which Flynn had to have known were being listened to considering who was on the other line, Flynn not only discussed the sanctions but went so far as to advise against retaliation as Trump would likely be convinced to lift them anyway.
That advice seems to have made its way back to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin since that’s exactly the course he took, causing Obama administration intelligence officials to look deeper at Flynn’s conversation.
That brings us to the dossier, which has been a source of endless late-night material and continued embarrassment for the Trump administration.
At its release, both Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed it as “fake news.” At the time, there was really no way to dispute their assertion, but that is no longer the case.
According to CNN, certain details have been confirmed. These details include conversations taking place between Russian officials, mostly. The confirmations do not include any of the more interesting parts of the dossier and may or may not actually involve Trump — the officials would not say directly.
However, the officials have confirmed certain names, dates, and places contained within the dossier concerning officials that US intelligence believe were “heavily involved” with the Russian-led hackings.
That’s a lot of information at once, and highly abridged, at that. The real question is what does this all mean?
It means Trump has a bigger Russia problem than first thought.
Flynn’s communications appear to be illegal under the Logan Act of 1799, which forbids private citizens from engaging in foreign policy matters, although no one has ever been convicted under the statute. But even if he avoids criminal proceedings, he has a big problem with the administration, namely Vice President Mike Pence who publicly defended Flynn.
“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence told Face the Nation after the reports came out about Flynn’s call.
Given Pence’s backing of a now-false narrative, it begs the question of what Pence knew at the time and what he’s known since. Did Pence simply take Flynn at his word? Did he only find out he’d been lied to once the report came out? If so, how is it possible journalists got information the Vice President couldn’t?
If nothing else, it makes the administration look incompetent at best and liars at worst.
The confirmation of parts of the dossier, on the other hand, lends credence to the rest of it. It is certainly possible that some parts are true and others are not, but confirming even a small percentage of the dossier will convince otherwise skeptical intelligence officials to look deeper into the more scandalous parts.
Should even one of those details be confirmed, such as the Trump administration’s knowledge of the hackings or the infamous golden tape, it could send the Trump Train off the tracks once and for all.
Russia giveth (a presidency), and Russia taketh away.