I closed my laptop, but my mouth hung open. Under oath, in front of the Senate subcommittee on crime and terrorism, Sally Yates and James Clapper quietly blew the doors off the Russia investigation. Well, maybe dismantled the hinges. Because while it might have sounded like they did a whole lot of dodging up there, they really didn’t.
I mean, they really, really, really didn’t. Here’s the biggest piece of news of the hearing:
GRAHAM: Ms. Yates, do you have any evidence—are you aware of any evidence that would suggest that in the 2016 campaign anybody in the Trump campaign colluded—colluded with the Russian government intelligence services in improper fashion?
YATES: And Senator, my answer to that question would require me to reveal classified information. And so, I—I can’t answer that.
No? Fine. Press on, good reader. All will be revealed in time. Because here’s the whole story the two of them laid down, with the help of a late-breaking report from NBC that we still haven’t fully grasped the importance of. I’ll try to tell the story like normal people talk, and split it up nice ‘n easy: What we knew; and what’s new?
Spoiler: It ends with a shitload of powerful people going to prison.
If you don’t get anything else out of this, though, here’s the big question: Why would Donald Trump—after being warned by Obama and his own transition team; then being told by Sally Yates that Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador illegally and lied to the Vice President about it; and learning that this means Russia had blackmail on your National Security Adviser; and then sitting on that information for weeks and doing nothing for no logical reason; and then finally firing the guy; and then learning Flynn was a foreign agent of Turkey; and that he lied on his security clearance form; and that he’s been under FBI investigation for collusion with Russia this whole time—why the fuck would Donald Trump, if he really wants to distance himself from Russia, why in fucking hell is Donald Trump still defending Mike Flynn?
Answer that, and I think you’ve got your answer to this whole thing.
Away we go. Seven sections. For the short version, just skip right down to the official Michael Fucking Flynn Timeline!
1. The Bullshit
Let’s get this out of the way. First, the leaks. This is a distraction and immaterial to the truth about Trussia. The Senate asked Yates and Clapper this question point-blank: Had they ever leaked or authorized leaks of classified information? No, they both said. James Clapper added, “The transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process and what that means to the erosion of the fundamental fabric of our democracy.” Leaks? “Ancillary.”
Unmasking is a different kettle of fish altogether. You can go read tons about all of this stuff.
Next, the vetting of Michael Flynn. This one’s easy. Is it Obama’s fault? Well, turns out Flynn lied to the Defense Department about taking money from Russia on his 2016 security application. Also, the Trump transition team did in fact vet Flynn. Guess who was running that show? Mike Pence! Whoops a daisy!
Also, Flynn never even received his security clearance at the NSA level. He took the office, then got fired. Never got cleared.
2. Who They Are
Sally Yates was the deputy attorney general under President Barack Hussein Obama, and she stayed on after the inauguration to be the acting attorney general under Donald J. Trump while Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was being confirmed in the Senate. Mr. Trump fired Ms. Yates about a week later because she challenged the legality of the “travel” ban.
James Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence under Obama. He oversees the intelligence agencies, all seventeen of them, and sort of holds them together. He obviously isn’t personally involved in every investigation, but he’s the one holding all the reins. Like Mowgli from The Jungle Book, riding a raft of seventeen dolphins. Then simply replace Mowgli with this guy.
They were asked generally about Trussia, and about General Michael Fucking Flynn, specifically. They were also asked about unmasking and leaks and the “travel” ban and a host of other comparatively small-potatoes bullshit distractions the GOP has been trotting out to confuse you and slow everything down.
My first insane-sounding statement of this piece: The GOP is trotting out those distractions because they don’t know what the fuck is going to happen to their party, or the country, really, when most of the Trump administration is gutted from office and goes to prison. This likely includes Donald Trump and Mike Pence. After today, Michael Fucking Flynn is a given.
3. Michael Fucking Flynn
“To state the obvious,” Yates said early on, “you don’t want your national security adviser compromised by the Russians.”
We knew: Mr. Trump’s National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had indeed been compromised. Yates and Clapper said the Russians had blackmail on Flynn thanks to his participation in calls discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador. She warned the Trump White House as soon as she could, because it seemed to her Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations, who then spread that lie to the American people.
We know this story pretty well from there: nothing happens for a few weeks; Flynn only gets canned when the Washington Post reveals Flynn lied.
What’s new? First, turns out Yates discussed with the White House the possibility that Mike Flynn faced criminal prosecution for what he did. This was also a very big deal in the Justice Department. Yates said they were calling many conversations with experts in the national security division, and consulting on how best to notify the White House.
We also learned Yates was fired just a few hours after she handed the White House the classified evidence of Flynn’s “underlying” behavior to support the case against him. What did the White House do with that information, Ms. Yates? “I don’t know. That was my last day at DOJ.”
More importantly, perhaps, we learned Yates had told the White House she hoped they wouldn’t just sit on the information she’d given them. And what did the White House do? Sat on it. Trump did nothing for 18 days, and when he did, it was only because of media pressure.
Which brings us to:
4. Michael Fucking Pence
We knew: Pence told the American people in January, repeatedly, that Flynn hadn’t spoken about sanctions with the Russian Ambassador. This was not true. According to the White House, Pence was out of the loop all the way until Feb. 9, which is when the Washington Post revealed Flynn had lied.
What’s new? Pretty much nothing. But remember this: Yates said the White House told her Trump had been briefed about Flynn on Jan. 26, the day she first told McGahn, the White House lawyer. But for 18 days, nobody, for some reason, told Mike Pence. Or at least that’s what the White House says.
Why? Had Pence truly been misled by Flynn, he’d tell the same lies if he were asked the same questions. Why would the Trump administration leave Pence open to telling that lie again? This would have gone on until Pence lied, I’d imagine, if the Flynn story hadn’t leaked. I see no alternative to that, if Pence truly didn’t know about any of this.
5. Why Would Pence Not Know?
First, the White House just has to say he didn’t know. Their decision was pretty clear: They weren’t going to fire Flynn for anything. They did nothing about this for 18 days. The thinking was, “If we don’t tell anyone about this, no one will be the wiser. After all, it’s classified information.”
This is why they had to keep Pence isolated from Flynn, either for real, or in the stories to the press. Then came the leaks.
6. Clapper Smacks Down Trump’s Argument
We’re getting there. Gonna make sense out of that quote soon…
We knew: There’s an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. This would be treason. We haven’t seen any public evidence yet, though last week Rep. Swalwell became the first intelligence committee member to admit publicly he had indeed seen evidence of collusion.
THAT’S FUCKING YUGE. But it’s not technically new.
What’s new? First, Trump keeps citing this NBC interview where James Clapper tells Chuck Todd he hasn’t seen any evidence of collusion whatsoever, but yesterday Clapper got the chance to explain what he meant. This didn’t stop Trump from misquoting Clapper in a tweet and then creating a new banner photo out of that tweet, which he left up for about nine hours then deleted.
But yesterday Clapper testified that the FBI didn’t normally share evidence with him about ongoing counterintelligence investigations. More, he said he hadn’t known the FBI had been investigating the contacts between the Trump team and Russia until FBI director James Comey told the world about it a few weeks ago. This means Clapper was speaking the truth to Todd. It’s not that there isn’t evidence. It’s that the FBI hadn’t chosen to share this highly sensitive investigation with Clapper.
Trump has been taking words out of context for months to try to sustain this bullshit argument. I’m glad someone finally asked Clapper the right questions.
But we’re just getting to the good part.
7. Evidence of Collusion
We knew: Next to nothing, as mentioned above. We’ve only seen media reports. But now…
What’s new? First, Clapper threw down pretty hard. First he dropped that Trump’s business ties to Russia are the subject of an ongoing investigation. He then confirmed a report in The Guardian that in late 2015 British intelligence services collected intelligence about communications between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, then passed this information to the U.S. as part of a decades-old “routine exchange of information.” Agencies from other European countries also soon contributed this information.
Clapper said this story was “accurate,” and added that the details were “quite sensitive.” This is the first admission from a U.S. intel officer that our intel community has seen information about links between the Trump campaign and Russia. And it started in late 2015.
Clapper also dropped a bit about fake news and alt-right news sites colluding with Russia: “I can’t say to what extent that was coordinated with news sites. Some might have been unwitting.” Some. Might have been.
THE OFFICIAL MICHAEL FUCKING FLYNN TIMELINE!
1. December 2015 – Flynn takes $45,000 to speak at RT gala and sit next to Putin
2. Late 2015 – British, European agencies begin sharing intel about Trump team’s interactions with Russia
3. February 2016 – Flynn joins Trump campaign
4. April 2016 – Flynn clearance renewed; Trump gives speech in front of Kislyak, Flynn, Sessions
5. Spring 2016 – US intel agencies open Trussia investigations
6. Summer 2016 – Flynn passed over for VP
7. August 17, 2016 – First Trump intel briefing discusses Trussia; Flynn flips out; Christie censures him
8. November 10, 2016 – Obama warns Trump not to hire Flynn
9. November 11, 2016 – Christie fired
10. November 2016 – Flynn admits taking $500,000 as a foreign agent of Turkey… during the campaign
11. November 2016 – Head of Trump’s national security transition team worried about Flynn’s communications w/Kislyak; give Flynn official CIA profile on Kislyak
12. December 2016 – Flynn and Jared Kushner sneak Kislyak into Trump Tower for secret meeting
13. December 29, 2016 – Flynn speaks several times with Kislyak on the phone; they discuss Obama’s sanctions
14. Early January 2017 – Pence and others say publicly that Flynn didn’t discuss sanctions w/Kislyak
15. January 24 – The FBI interviews Flynn about discussing sanctions w/Kislyak
16. January 26 – Yates informs White House counsel about Flynn’s behavior; counsel tells Trump
17. January 27 – Yates holds second meeting with White House counsel
18. January 28 – Trump invites Flynn to join his call with Vladimir Putin; recording is turned off halfway through
19. January 30 – Yates sends classified evidence to WHC about Flynn’s contacts with Russia; Trump fires Yates
20. February 9 – The Washington Post reveals Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak
21. February 12 – Chris Christie goes on Meet the Press and slams Trump, Flynn, and Pence
22. February 13 – Flynn’s fired
Later: Flynn files late as a foreign agent of Turkey; it’s revealed he lied to the Federal Government on his 2016 security clearance form; and then he offers to testify in front of Congress in exchange for immunity.
He’s denied the opportunity.