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Nunes's Hands Are Dirty

Here’s a quick backgrounder (sub req.) on why Devin Nunes, again in the news today, is himself implicated in Mike Flynn’s effort to surveil and obstruct the Russia probe from his first days running the National Security Council.

Who Lied to Who When and Why It Barely Matters

On this weekend’s back and forth on who Mike Flynn lied to, who knew he’d lied and why it might matter, let’s step back for a moment. With regards to Flynn lying to the FBI we’re now looking at the narrow factual question of whether Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to the FBI; whether McGahn told Trump; and whether Trump knew this in the intervening days before he fired Flynn when he asked James Comey to drop the investigation. We are collectively running through this chain of connections because of our semi-reasonable but likely outmoded tendency to take the various claims we’ve heard from the White House at face value: especially the claim that Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Pence, etc.

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Taking Stock, Pt. 1: The Race for Russia

As we sift through the details of the Flynn court documents we inevitably see them through a distorted prism because we know 2017 as it happened rather than as the Trump team intended it to unfold. This is particularly important for the roughly three months between candidate Trump’s election victory on November 8th, 2016 and Mike Flynn’s ouster on February 13th, 2017.

We see Flynn’s covert communications with Ambassador Kislyak; we see the escalation of the FBI’s scrutiny of Flynn; we know other top Trump officials, like Jared Kushner, were meeting with Kislyak and others and also possibly trying to execute financial transactions with Russian government officials. It’s all sort of a jumble. But the logic of events only really comes into focus when we realize that there was a sort of race taking place between the Trump team’s effort to arrange a rapid rapprochement with Russia in the first weeks of January and February and a mix of the intelligence community, the national security apparatus and the press piecing together what had happened during the 2016 election. Imagine it as a starting pistol firing off on the morning of November 9th, with both teams racing to get more of their critical work done by the end of January.

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We'll See More of This

Note a few things we now know from the follow-on reporting on the Flynn plea agreement.

The senior transition official who Flynn called into to confer on his conversations and negotiations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak was KT McFarland. Flynn conferred with McFarland and McFarland conferred with a group of other senior officials which, as I noted last night on the basis of the contemporaneous pool reports, appears to have been Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus.

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Statement from President's Lawyer

Statement from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb …

“Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.

“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”

Trump May Have Tipped Us Off

There’s no way to know for sure. We’ll never know definitively. But this morning, before the Flynn news broke, I was thinking that President Trump’s behavior has seemed more wild and erratic in recent days. Yes, the baseline standard is pretty high. But over the last week or so we’ve seen a number of reports of Trump saying wilder things in private to associates and advisors. He seemed to be gravitating back to the kinds of transgressive behaviors and assertions he makes when he’s under threat or pressure.

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