As I’m sure you know by now, Michael Flynn has pled guilty to two minor charges—relative to what Mueller could have levied against him—potentially in exchange for full cooperation with the special counsel. We can only speculate about what Flynn’s testimony might include when it comes to further evidence of collusion with Russians during the 2016 election, but it might be worth unpacking just one of the incidents he’s pled guilty to in order to take stock of just how much trouble the Trump administration is in.
To begin, here’s a timeline on what happened around Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions.
December 29, 2016
The Obama administration announced that it would impose additional sanctions and expel 35 operatives in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
On that same day, Flynn called the Russian ambassador to ask him to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that have been imposed against Russia.” Also discussed was the possibility of sanctions relief once Trump was president. In court documents filed by Mueller’s team, we now know that Flynn communicated with a senior presidential transition team official at Mar-a-Lago to discuss this conversation both before and after it occurred.
December 30, 2016
Vladimir Putin surprises everyone by announcing he will not retaliate.
“As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind,” Putin says. “Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”
January 24, 2017
Flynn is interviewed by the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and lies repeatedly.
January 26, 2017
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates meets with White House Counsel Don McGahn to warn the administration that—due to his lies—Michael Flynn has made himself vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. According the former press secretary Sean Spicer, the president was informed.
January 27, 2017
McGahn asks for another meeting with Yates to pursue additional questions about the Flynn matter.
That evening, Trump has dinner with then-FBI director James Comey and implies that loyalty will be required for him to keep his job.
January 30, 2017
Trump fires Yates, suggesting that it is because she refused to defend his travel ban—which was later blocked by the courts.
February 14, 2017
Trump asks Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.
Trump fires Comey.
It will be Mueller’s job to establish the connection between the events that occurred prior to Trump’s inauguration on January 20th (which point to collusion with the Russians) and those that came afterwards (which make the case for obstruction of justice). Taken together, they provide a damning case against this president.