Yesterday, Donald Trump suffered two big losses, one in the courts and one with ETHICS, after the Ninth Circuit ruled against Trump on the Muslim ban and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz turned Kellyanne Conway over for disciplining after she endorsed Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on Fox News (Chaffetz would later get gloriously reamed at a Town Hall meeting in Utah).
This next scandal, however, could be big — and that’s not hyperbole. A multi-sourced The Washington Post article last night revealed that Trump’s National Security Advisor did, in fact, speak to the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, about sanctions during the transition period.
This is a big deal because it is against the law for citizens to engage in diplomacy and, at the time, Flynn was still a private citizen. It’s an even bigger deal because General Michael Flynn straight-up lied about it.
From the Times:
Current and former American officials said that conversation — which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor — ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues.
The officials said that Mr. Flynn had never made explicit promises of sanctions relief, but that he had appeared to leave the impression it would be possible.
During the Christmas week conversation, he urged Mr. Kislyak to keep the Russian government from retaliating over the coming sanctions — it was an open secret in Washington that they were in the works — by telling him that whatever the Obama administration did could be undone, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified material.
This is not only against the law, given that Flynn was conducting diplomacy with an adversary — our biggest geopolitical enemy — it’s fucking tantamount to treason, not that anyone else is going to use that word. But that’s what it is.
Laurence Tribe disagrees, but barely.
Some are calling this treason. I think that's too harsh. But not by much. Flynn should be FIRED. https://t.co/8eIDx34Wdi— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) February 10, 2017
It gets even more complicated because Vice President Pence is involved. He told news outlets that Flynn did not talk to Russia about sanctions, so either Pence was lying, or Pence didn’t know. Also, what did Trump know? I mean: Trump is in bed with Putin, so it’s certainly not out of the question to believe that Flynn was acting on the President’s orders.
Here’s the question, though: Will anyone do anything about it? This again is essentially the decision of Jason Chaffetz. On the one hand, he’s not interested in investigating Trump’s conflicts of interests. On the other, he did ask for an investigation into Kellyanne Conway’s statements. He also spent a year and a half investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails and Benghazi.
Normally, I’d say not to rely on Chaffetz, but after that town hall meeting last night, he has to be feeling some political pressure. Republicans don’t like Russia and Trump is no fan of Flynn. Investigations seem like a no-brainer, and certainly Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are going to push it (or at least, they should).
It’d also be good to know whether Flynn ratted out our Russian agents, the spies who have mysteriously disappeared or died in recent weeks. We’ll have to wait and see if Chaffetz has the balls to stand up to the Trump Administration.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, if it plays out at all.