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Dec 22 2017

The Russian Connection: When WH Counsel Knew Flynn Lied

According to an article in Foreign Policy, confidential documents that were handed over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that, in the first days of the Trump administration, White House Counsel Donald McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

The records that McGahn turned over to the special counsel, portions of which were read to this reporter, indicate he researched both statutes and warned Trump about Flynn’s possible violations.

McGahn conducted the analysis shortly after learning that Flynn, on Dec. 29, 2016 — while Barack Obama was still president — had counseled the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak, not to retaliate against U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the outgoing administration.

McGahn believed that Flynn, and possibly anyone who authorized or approved of such contacts, would be in potential violation of the Logan Act, according to two of the sources, both of whom work in the administration. [..]

Despite McGahn’s concerns that Flynn violated one or both of these laws, Trump allowed Flynn to continue in his job and only fired him after the Washington Post reported that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about his contacts with Kislyak. That was 18 days after then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed McGahn of her own concerns about Flynn’s covert diplomacy with Russia prior to Trump taking office. [..]

McGahn later drafted “a memo that reflected a timeline of events leading up to Flynn’s resignation,” the source added, “but that was after the resignation so it would be inaccurate to say McGahn briefed the President around the same time of the creation of that document (if that is the document you are referring to).”

McGahn was questioned by Mueller’s team of investigators on November 30 just hours before former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn was arrested on a single charge of lying to the FBI. Flynn was not charged under the Logan Act, at least not yet. The records that are now in the hands of the of Muelller’s investigators could be quite damning for Donald Trump who has emphatically denied any knowledge of Flynn’s extracurricular Russian activities or his lies to the FBI.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow describes this news as “like an anvil falling” on the Trump administration.

“There are White House records that show the White House counsel knew that Flynn lied to the FBI, that he was aware that was a criminal act and that he conveyed that information to the president,” said Maddow.

“That is going to be like an anvil falling on one side of the scale as people try to balance considerations, here, about whether or not the president is ever going to face criminal liability for obstruction of justice,” she explained.

This could add to the evidence that Trump obstructed justice.