Michael Flynn
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The bombshells dropping on the Trump presidency are coming at a fast and furious pace right now. I’d like to focus on the latest one from the New York Times.

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

If you’ve been paying attention to this story all along, the first thing that should grab your attention is that Flynn told White House Counsel Don McGahn that he was under federal investigation on January 4th. That was not only a full two weeks before Trump’s inauguration, it was three weeks before Sally Yates told him that Flynn could be compromised because of his lies about meetings with the Russian ambassador. That puts some of his reaction to her in a whole different context.

As the NYT notes, that information didn’t stop Trump from making Flynn his national security advisor or doing anything about it when Yates shared her concerns. It wasn’t until some of this information became public that he fired Flynn. After that, the president might have obstructed justice by asking the former FBI director to stop his investigation of Flynn.

Donald Trump isn’t known for being loyal to people who make him look bad. So the question all this raises is, “Why did the president go to such lengths to both hire and protect a man like Flynn?” Another bombshell from Reuters this morning might give us at least a clue about that.

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters…

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

The conversations between Flynn and Kislyak were therefore about more than lifting the sanctions on Russia. They were about setting up a back channel of communication between Trump and Putin “that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy.”

In case that sounds familiar, a couple of months ago the Washington Post reported that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, held a secret meeting in the Seychelles islands with a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin “as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.”

Keri Geiger and Michael Riley followed up on that report with the news that Prince had been a regular advisor to the Trump team – particularly Michael Flynn.

In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump’s marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with his activities.

There could be more to the story of why Trump was so determined to place Flynn in a critical foreign policy position that didn’t require Senate confirmation, keep him there despite all the warnings, and then ask the FBI director to end his investigation. But the fact that Flynn was working with the Russian ambassador (during the time that country was hacking and leaking information about Trump’s opponent) in order to set up a back channel line of communication between Trump and Putin that would bypass this country’s national security bureaucracy goes a long way towards explaining it all.

I’ll leave it to others who are better versed in spy craft to elaborate. But this all reads to me like Putin setting up the President of the United States to be a Russian asset. That is as serious as it gets.

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