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In their scramble to explain a President Trump tweet that seemed to inadvertently support obstruction of justice allegations against himself, sources close to the White House have put out new details about interactions between former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and White House Counsel Don McGahn concerning former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, according to reports by the Washington Post and CNN.

Both reports, however, highlight what appears to be discrepancy between McGahn’s account of their conversations, and what Yates and others close to her have said.

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The German bank that has lent President Trump hundreds of millions of dollars over the years was subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Reuters and Bloomberg reported. Deutsche Bank received a subpoena “several weeks ago” for financial records related to Trump and his family, unnamed sources told the outlets.

“Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the bank told Bloomberg in a statement Tuesday that did not provide any additional information.

The move signifies Mueller’s willingness to cross what Trump and his allies have deemed to be a red line in the investigations into Russian election interference by looking into the President’s finances.

“I think that’s a violation,” Trump told the New York Times in July, though he declined to say whether he would fire Mueller if that line was crossed.

Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to obtain Trump’s Deutsche Bank records as part of their congressional probes. According to Bloomberg, the bank’s management is now more willing to share those records, and Deutsche Bank conducted its own internal analysis that found no evidence that its dealings with Trump were connected to the so-called Russian mirror trades affair, an alleged money laundering scheme to funnel Russian money out of the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, called the reported move a “a very significant development.”

“If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family,” he said.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from House Intel ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

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So many of them knew.

As court filings and emails emerge from the Mueller probe and dogged reporting, Trump officials who denied that Michael Flynn would stoop to renegotiating the outgoing administration’s sanctions on Russia turn out to have been privately informed of Flynn’s pre-inauguration diplomacy in real time.

The Trump camp’s public posture about Flynn’s proposal to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak not to retaliate for Obama’s new sanctions has been a rapidly moving target. The conversation didn’t take place at all, according to unnamed Trump administration sources in January. Or they did, but the two didn’t talk about sanctions. Or they were about sanctions, but only in the context of “outreach to foreign dignitaries,” as White House lawyer Ty Cobb put it.

“It would have been political malpractice not to discuss sanctions,” Cobb told the New York Times in a report published Saturday. There is “nothing to hide,” according to the President on Monday, which doesn’t go very far to explain why so many spent so long trying to hide it.


Jan. 12: A column by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius revealed for the first time that Flynn and Kislyak spoke to each other on Dec. 29, the day President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 election. Though the column did not report what Flynn and Kislyak discussed, Ignatius asked whether Flynn’s comments could have “undercut the U.S. sanctions” and if the spirit of the Logan Act was “violated.”

Jan. 13: The Trump transition team rushed to respond and in doing so seemed to elide the existence of the Dec. 29 call, focusing instead on other, allegedly more anodyne calls between Flynn and Kislyak.

An update to the Ignatius column provided comment from one unnamed transition official who said that Flynn and Kislyak had spoken by phone twice, including a call on Dec. 28, but that the calls were before sanctions were announced and didn’t touch on that topic. A second Trump official told Ignatius that there was a Dec. 28 call in which Kislyak invited a Trump administration official to attend a January conference in Kazakhstan.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer provided an on-the-record response to the Ignatius column in a call with pool reporters. Spicer said that the conversations focused on exchanging holiday greetings.

“On Christmas Day, General Flynn reached out to the ambassador, sent him a text, and it said, you know, I want to wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I look forward to touching base with you and working with you. And I wish you all the best,” Spicer said in the press call. “The ambassador texted him back, wishing him a Merry Christmas as well, and then subsequently, on the 28th of December, texted him and said, I’d like to give you a call, may I? He then took that call on the 28th, and the call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in. And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and to schedule that call. That was it. Plain and simple.”

Jan. 15: Vice President-elect Mike Pence adamantly denied that Flynn discussed sanctions in an extended interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually was initiated on Christmas Day he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place,” Pence said, echoing Spicer.

“It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation,” Pence continued. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Pence pioneered the one Trump administration talking point it has stuck to: talking to “diplomatic leaders, security leaders in some 30 countries” was “exactly what the incoming national security adviser should do.”

“The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama did not come up in the conversation,” incoming White House Chief of Staff  Reince Priebus said in his own interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” claiming he’d discussed the issue with Flynn.

“In fact, it was the sports team that was in an unfortunate plane accident,” Priebus continued. “They talked about setting up a phone call after inauguration. And they also talked about a conference in Syria, or a conference in regard to ISIS in Syria. So those were the only subjects that came up.”

An unnamed transition official affirmed Pence’s remark about Flynn and Kislyak not discussing sanctions to CNN in a story published the same day.

Jan. 24: The FBI interviewed Flynn at the White House about his contacts with Kislyak, and Flynn was less than truthful. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI that day about the content of his conversations with Kislyak, including the Dec. 29 call discussing sanctions.

Jan. 26: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn to tell him that White House officials were giving comment “related to conduct that General Flynn had been involved in that we knew not to be the truth,” as she later testified. Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she expressed grave concern about Flynn’s “underlying conduct” and the fact that the national security adviser “was compromised by the Russians.” The White House said that McGahn recounted his exchange with Yates to Trump immediately.

Feb. 8: In an interview with the Washington Post, Flynn twice responded to questions that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak with a flat “no.”

Feb. 9: The Post published a story including those Feb. 8 denials, and confirming that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during the transition. Though the Post story did not specifically cite the Dec. 29 phone call, it reported that Flynn’s communications with Kislyak were under scrutiny by the FBI. The article included a line from Flynn’s spokesman who said that the retired general now “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be sure that the topic never came up.”

Feb. 13: Hours before his dismissal, Flynn gave an extraordinary interview to the Daily Caller, contradicting his denials to the Post, in which he admitted to discussing Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats to retaliate for Russia’s election meddling, but denied crossing any lines.

“If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed,” Flynn insisted.

Though he claimed the discussion “wasn’t about sanctions,” he admitted it “was about the 35 guys who were thrown out”—which was, in fact, part of the sanctions. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”

The Dec. 29 call “was not to relieve sanctions,” he reiterated. “It was basically to say, ‘Look, we’re coming into office in a couple of weeks. Give us some time to take a look at everything.’”

Feb. 14: The day after Flynn’s firing, Spicer spent the daily press briefing insisting there was nothing suspect about the ousted official’s foreign contacts.

“The job of the incoming NSA is to sit down with the counterparts and start that dialogue, and that’s exactly what he did,” Spicer said, noting that the transition “would constantly read out” reports of “who he was speaking to, how he was getting ready.”

“There’s nothing that the general did that was a violation of any sort,” he responded to a subsequent question. “He was well within his duties to discuss issues of common concern between the two countries.”

The firing was a direct response to “misleading the Vice President and others, and not having a firm grasp on his recollection of that,” Spicer said.

The same day, The New Yorker reported that an anonymous source had described Reince Priebus supposedly angrily dressing down Flynn until Flynn cracked and admitted to possibly discussing sanctions.*

Feb. 16: President Trump gave a wide-ranging press conference in the White House’s East Room defending Flynn as a “fine person” and saying he was simply unhappy with the way “a certain amount of information [was] given to Vice President Pence.”

“Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss the sanctions with the Russian ambassador?” a reporter asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Trump said. “No I didn’t.”

“Did you fire him because—” a reporter followed up.

“No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple,” Trump interjected. “Mike [Flynn] was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

Feb. 19: Priebus gave a pair of interviews claiming that the White House only learned of the sanctions discussions after days of “sort of deposing Michael Flynn.”

“He maintained the fact that he never talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions,” Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” of their initial conversations. “But still, something wasn’t adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn’t believe that it was illegal.”

Priebus was also subjected to an extended grilling from CBS “Face The Nation” host John Dickerson, who asked six times if it was actually appropriate to discuss sanctions or if Trump thought it was.

“There is nothing wrong with having a conversation about sanctions,” Priebus finally said. “And there was nothing wrong about having a conversation about the fact that the Obama administration put further sanctions in place and expelled some folks out of the United States. There is nothing wrong with that topic coming up in a conversation.”


Flynn’s guilty plea Friday for lying to the FBI about the extent of his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak revealed a much more extensive sequence of conversations. It was Jared Kushner, identified in the Mueller probe’s statement of offense as “a very senior official” of the Trump transition team, who first asked Flynn to contact Kislyak, at the time in response to a U.N. resolution condemning the expansion of Israeli settlements, which Kushner wanted delayed or defeated.

When Obama sanctioned Russia on Dec. 28 for its interference in the 2016 elections, Mueller’s team wrote, Kislyak had called Flynn. On the 29th Flynn reached out to “a senior official of the presidential transition team,” identified by the AP as K. T. McFarland, who became Trump’s deputy national security adviser (now his nominee for ambassador to Singapore), who was at Mar-a-Lago with the president-elect and senior members of the transition team.

The two “discussed that members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation” and ultimately decided to ask Kislyak not to escalate sanctions; Kislyak complied, and Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the next day that he would not retaliate, according to the Mueller probe’s statement of the offense filed against Flynn.

The New York Times reported Saturday on an email about Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak from McFarland. Her email about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak went to Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Tom Bossert and at least five other Trump advisers.

In her email, McFarland was explicit. “As part of the outreach, Ms. McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Kislyak, hours after Mr. Obama’s sanctions were announced,” the Times reported.

McFarland also outlined what she believed was the anti-Trump strategy concealed in the sanctions by the Obama administration, designed to “box trump in diplomatically with russia.”

*Priebus, according to Saturday’s Times report, was CC’ed on the email from McFarland discussing Flynn’s sanctions-related talking points with Kislyak and would very likely have had the evidence he was supposedly seeking in his email.

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The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is calling for KT McFarland to “clarify” testimony she gave the committee on what she knew about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador before she receives a floor vote confirming her as an ambassador to Singapore.

“Senator Cardin believes that before Senators are asked to vote on her nomination, Ms. McFarland should publicly clarify the information she said and sent to the Committee that now appears to be incomplete,” Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) spokesperson told TPM in a statement. “The onus is on her.”

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The agreement that Paul Manafort and Special Counsel Robert Mueller had seemed to have come to on releasing him from home arrest has fallen apart due to what prosecutors described in court filings Monday as an op-ed Manafort was “ghostwriting” with a Russia-based colleague “regarding his political work for Ukraine.”

The colleague has been “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” prosecutors said, and the writing of the op-ed was in violation of a prohibition the judge had put on the case banning the parties from communicating through the media.

They were drafting the op-ed “as late as November 30, 2017,” the prosecutors claimed.

Last week, Manafort’s attorneys filed a bail package proposal that indicated that they and Mueller had hashed out a deal, a month after Manafort turned himself him, on the terms of his release.

In Monday’s filing, Mueller’s team acknowledged that they had come to that agreement —albeit with a few more conditions that Manafort’s attorneys had not mentioned in their brief — but later that day “learned facts that are pertinent to the bail determination before the Court.”

Prosecutors indicated to the court that they wanted to file the op-ed draft in question under seal.

“Even if the ghostwritten op-ed were entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would be a violation of this Court’s November 8 Order if it had been published,” they said. “The editorial clearly was undertaken to influence the public’s opinion of defendant Manafort, or else there would be no reason to seek its publication (much less for Manafort and his long-time associate to ghostwrite it in another’s name). It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.”

Read the filing below:

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House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) has suggested he will move to hold top Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress by the end of December, after accusing the DOJ of withholding information about the Russia probe from his committee.

His latest threats come after reports that a top FBI agent had been removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe because it was discovered that he had sent texts, that, as the New York Times described them, “expressed anti-Trump political views.” The agent, Peter Strzok, had worked on the Russia probe before it was taken over by Mueller and also played a key role in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation.

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Donald Trump’s personal lawyer on Monday made the controversial claim that the President cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice.

The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” John Dowd, who is handling Trump’s defense in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, told Axios.

This is a new assertion for Dowd, who over the weekend took credit for writing a tweet sent from Trump’s personal account that said the President felt compelled to dismiss national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence—and the FBI—about his contacts with Russia. Legal observers said that the tweet, which was written in Trump’s characteristic bombastic style, strengthened the case that Trump knowingly obstructed justice when he later dismissed FBI Director James Comey.

Trump’s legal team offered a string of rapidly changing explanations for the message. Dowd at first said that the tweet simply paraphrased language in a statement issued by White House special counsel Ty Cobb about Flynn pleading guilty to one count of lying to federal agents. Dowd later said that he drafted the message and White House social media director Dan Scavino posted it.

“The tweet did not admit obstruction,” Dowd insisted to Axios. “That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.”

Contrary to the veteran D.C. lawyer’s claim, it is not settled law that the president cannot be accused of obstructing federal probes. The articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon accused him of helping impede investigations into the Watergate break-in.

It is not the first time Trump and his supporters have claimed that he is above the law. Shortly after his election, Trump said that he wasn’t legally obliged to sever ties with his businesses because “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” The Constitution bans elected officials from accepting payments from foreign governments and engaging in bribery and fraud.

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Among the many new questions following former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to lying to the FBI is: Why did he lie in the first place?

By the time Flynn was interviewed by the FBI in late January 2017, his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak had been publicly reported. As Flynn’s guilty plea alleges, other members of Trump’s orbit had not just been aware of the contacts since they happened but had discussed them and even directed them in real time.

Here’s a run down of the sequence of events that makes Flynn’s decision to try to conceal the content of his contacts with Kislyak so mystifying.

We now also know that other people in Trump’s orbit knew about, and even directed, Flynn’s message to Kislyak about the sanctions.

As the Mueller filings detail, before talking to Kislyak, Flynn called a “senior official of the Presidential Transition team” who was with “other senior members” of the team at Mar-A-Lago, and they discussed that the “members of the Presidential Transition team at Mar-A-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.”

And yet by Jan. 24, he made “materially false statements” in a FBI interview about whether he discussed sanctions with Kislyak on a Dec. 29 phone call, among other things. The interview took less than two weeks after Washington Post columnist David Ignatius first reported the call.

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It was reportedly Jared Kushner who directed Mike Flynn to call officials from Russia and other countries regarding an Israel-related UN Security Council resolution weeks before President Donald Trump took office, according to a slew of reports out Friday.

An unnamed individual referred to only as a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” emerged in charging documents filed Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of Flynn’s plea deal for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

The Washington PostNBCBuzzfeed and Bloomberg’s Eli Lake spoke to sources who identified Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser as the “very senior member” who told Flynn to try to delay a vote on a resolution critical of Israeli settlement construction.

“Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” a person who was in the room with Flynn told Buzzfeed, adding that Kushner emphasized that the move “was a top priority for the President.”

Flynn, who took the call at the Trump’s transition team Washington, D.C. offices, also told the staff that “the President wants this done ASAP,” according to Buzzfeed’s source.

That tracks with what a former transition official told Bloomberg about Kushner ordering Flynn to ask every foreign minister or ambassador from a country on the council to delay or oppose the resolution, which condemned Israeli housing construction in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank as a violation of international law.

Trump and Kushner both have warm relationships with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fervently opposed the resolution.

Flynn’s statement of offense says that he contacted Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, to make his request on Dec. 22, spoke to him about it again on Dec. 29, and subsequently lied about it in an interview with federal agents.

Kushner reportedly met with Mueller’s team in November for an interview that focused primarily on Flynn’s Russia contacts.

Former prosecutors told TPM that the generous terms of Flynn’s plea deal suggest he must have critical information about other Trump officials even closer to the center of power than he was. Kushner fits that bill.

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The explosive news that ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials was delivered in a brief, tidy package: a one-and-a-half-page document laying out the single count against him.

Former federal prosecutors told TPM that Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a calculated move to keep Flynn’s charge limited, and that, given what is known about Flynn’s myriad inappropriate foreign dealings, they wouldn’t have done so unless the former intelligence official had divulged some very juicy secrets.

“What’s interesting to me is what he’s not charged with,” said Steven Miller, a former anti-corruption federal prosecutor. “This is a very narrowly drawn structural plea bargain. By virtue of a single count he can’t get more than a five-year sentence. You don’t get that unless you’re giving something serious to the government. And the number of players left are relatively small: it’s [Jared] Kushner, it’s [Donald] Trump Jr., it’s the Trump campaign, and it’s the President. So I think this is something that would cause all of them to be extraordinarily worried.”

“It’s a neon sign that there’s massive cooperation underway by Flynn,” Miller added.

Jens Ohlin, an expert in criminal law at Cornell Law School, concurred, saying what essentially amounts to a “sweetheart deal” would not be offered unless Flynn could incriminate a bigger fish.

“The government would not agree to this deal if Flynn was merely providing information on someone who is in a peripheral place in the criminality,” Ohlin said. “So if he’s providing information in exchange to this deal its because it’s someone who is even more centrally located than Flynn.”

Shortly after Flynn entered a guilty plea in Washington, D.C. federal court, the White House released a statement downplaying the news. White House attorney Ty Cobb’s claim that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn” was rapidly proven false by the release of Flynn’s statement of offense.

That document affirmed that “a very senior member” and “senior official” of the Trump transition team told Flynn to contact Russian and other foreign government officials to discuss critical foreign policy decisions.

Former prosecutors say that Flynn must have entered into a proffer, or “queen for a day,” agreement with Mueller’s team in which he divulged every detail he knew relevant to their investigation. The government found the information sufficiently valuable that they agreed to strike a deal, despite Flynn’s undisclosed lobbying on behalf of Turkey and reported discussions about spiriting an exiled Muslim cleric loathed by Turkey’s government out of the U.S.

The decision not to include a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his Turkey lobbying or other possible charges in Flynn’s plea agreement is not as unusual as it may seem.

“They have discretion to do whatever they want,” Seetha Ramachandran, a former Justice Department official and assistant U.S. attorney said of federal prosecutors. “The practice really varies between different federal districts. Some U.S. attorneys offices and parts of [Main] Justice want a cooperator to plead guilty to everything they’ve ever done. Some use a more bare-bones type of guilty plea. So I think it really varies. He’s chosen this strategy.”

Mueller’s camp has carefully managed the release of information about other Trump officials who may be caught up in the probe, but details on Flynn’s work to lobby on behalf of Israel with Kushner are already emerging in the press. Much more will come out in the days to come, legal experts predicted.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Steve Vladeck, a national security expert at the University of Texas School of Law.

“The question is whether we’re going to start hearing stuff from Flynn’s camp about what he’s sharing with investigators, whether we’re going to see more movement, more indictments coming down in the next couple of weeks from Mueller. The real story of today is that there’s a guarantee that there’s big news coming down the pike.”

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