Trump: Russia Investigation (2)

This thread was getting too long, so I’m starting a new one. (The first thread can be read here)

When I read the following thread, my heart sank a little–mainly because of the impression it creates of the GOP.

I can’t believe the Republicans would confirm this guy. Durbin is a Democrat, and a part of me hopes what he’s saying is inaccurate or at least misleading–that the reality isn’t as bad as Durbin claims. But given what I’ve seen so far from Republicans, I have little hope for that. Essentially, the Republicans would be willing to appoint someone who would be there to protect Trump, versus actually prosecute him if that was the appropriate decision. If this is true, it’s just one of many indications that they’re rotten to the core, and no longer remain politically viable or responsible party.


GOP confirmed him. That’s what Ornstein is referring to below.

Ornstein’s commenting on the tweet below:

I feel like the outrage by Flake, Corker, and Sasse and other Republicans are a sham. Or I’m really ignorant of some crucial information.


Why it Matters if Trump Received Money from Russians


Update on connections between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.

43 thoughts on “Trump: Russia Investigation (2)

  1. New Indictments from Mueller Investigation

    (FYI: GRU= Russian military intelligence agency)

    Tweet from July 2016:


    Important message from Rosenstein, where he emphasizes the pursuit of people who interfered with 2016 election should be non-partisan; that we have to remain united as a country as enemies try to exacerbate divisions.



    1. Interesting thread highlighting aspects about the forensics mentioned in the indictment. Here are a few tweets from the thread that stood out.

      Read this:

      At least this gives me some hope our guys are good:

      1. Two threads related to the above, involving warnings to Putin that US would be able to discover what they did, and thoughts on Putin’s decision to proceed anyway.

    2. The thread speculates if Trump campaign used some of information stolen by Russia from DNC to direct ad spending. I would take what’s said with a huge grain of salt. It could be true, but I think this moves towards conspiracy thinking. I’d need more evidence to take this seriously. Still, it’s worth keeping in the back of one’s mind.

    3. This is worth watching.

      I always felt like Trump sounded really panicky when Clinton used the “puppet” line; it’s almost like she startles him with a true statement. That’s just speculation, though. In any event, this exchange is noteworthy in light of the recent indictments.

    4. Trump said this a year ago, and at the idea seems ill-advised at best at the time. It seems much worse given the recent indictment. Surprising that he would say this publicly as well.


      I didn’t remember this tweet from January 2017:

  2. Trump’s Comments About the Russia Investigation

    From yesterday, July 13, 2018

    An example of Orwellian double-speak. Here, Trump is at least tacitly acknowledging that the Russians actually interfered in the election–ostensibly because it provides a way for him to criticize Obama. At other times, he denies or casts doubt on whether the Russians interfered in the election.


    Some things others have pointed out with regard to Trump’s tweet above:

    (Trump also praised wikileaks during the campaign. Trump Jr. communicated with wikileaks via email about campaign strategy during the campaign as well.)



    1. Trump Calling the Press the “Enemy of the People” Again

      I also find his example of success–Russia giving him cities (Moscow or St. Petersberg)–very odd on many levels. He defines success in terms of power, status, and wealth going to himself, not in terms of enhancing U.S. interests. It adds to the authoritarian charge of the press being the enemy of the people, which I believe was a phrase that Stalin used. (See below.)

      Also, blaming the press and the Democrats seems to fit with his attempts to use resentment against both to fuel his supporters. I think Trump’s political power is based on resentment and fear—towards liberals, the press, immigrants, Muslims, etc. Trump has to continually stoke these fires.

      One other thing: The press is not always accurate, and the quality of news is not always good. Bias can contribute to the latter, including negative feelings that journalists have towards Trump. But none of this is constitutes being an “enemy of the people.” Trump could be trying to implicitly equate himself with the people, but large numbers of the people oppose him, and he lost the popular vote, so the idea is not substantive.

      Comments from others:


      Another key aspect for Trump to maintain power is to get more people to perceive the press as untrustworthy, so he keeps pushing the “Fake News” narrative.

    2. More Sycophancy for Putin

      And he’s doing this two days after indictment, detailing the way Russian intelligence stole information and used it to influence the U.S. election.

      Dan Coast, Trump’s Director of National Intellience, also said “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack” and “…Russia the “most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.”

      Two British citizens were recently poisoned by Russian nerve agents.

      Putin has been known to kill journalists.

      Trump is meeting Putin with no U.S. advisors.


      I didn’t see or hear Trump calling the EU a “foe,” but if he did, man. If Putin installed a puppet in the White House, how would that person differ from Trump?

      Here it is:

    3. I wonder how many are buying this narrative. Trump accused the election of being rigged before it even ended; he played coy about whether he’d accept the results if he lost; he denied Russian interference.

      Obama did mention the Russian interference, but I also think he was justified in being wary of saying or even doing more during the campaign–Trump’s comments above was one factor, as was McConnell warning that he would cry foul if Obama pushed this. Also, I do think the fact that Clinton expecting to win was a factor, but not necessarily in the way Trump claims. If Obama made a bigger deal about Russian interference and Hillary won, what’s the chances that Trump, many Republicans and the GOP would claim that Obama unfairly tipped the scales? Given their behavior, I’m almost sure they would do this, and I would guess Obama (and Comey) knew this.

    4. If the Russians hadn’t invade Ukraine and Georgia, waged information warfare, especially during 2016, hadn’t killed journalists and Putin critics, including with nerve agents and radioactive material, I think our relationship with them would be a whole lot better.

      Comments from others:

    5. I agree with Sexton. Trump’s tweet also sounds like Russian propaganda. When politicians push back on Russia’s aggressive behavior, my understanding is that Russia will try to frame this as dangerous–that it might lead to war, specifically a nuclear conflict or World War III. One should take seriously the possibility that standing up to an aggressor could escalate into military conflict. However, one should also take seriously the possibility that failing to stand up to an aggressor could also lead to more aggression and military activity by the aggressor. In this case, I tend think the latter is more of a concern.

    6. This sounds like a president who wishes he were a dictator.

  3. Reaction to Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference with Putin


    Former Republican Congressman:

    1. More Reactions

      Thread. Extreme, but not unreasonable. It’s not clear if this is the best move or not. I wish it were clearer.

      I have less ambivalence about lower level officials resigning en masse–namely, they should do it. If the person below is a lower level official, they should resign.

      This person as well:

      This sounds delusional to me:

      Conversation between two political scientists about the press conference:

      1. Not sure I noted that Putin said he wanted Trump to win the election.

        (Putin’s explanation makes sense, but that might be lost for many in the bad optics that have resulted from this admission.)

  4. Trump’s Attempt to “Clarify” Comments at Helsinki Press Conference

    (You can jump to 1:50 mark.)

    Trump is ostensibly supposed to show that a) he really supports and believes in the U.S. intelligence community, and b) Russia interfered with the election.

    He failed in two rather remarkable ways:

    1. While acknowledging that Russia interfered, he can’t help but add in that, “could be other people. A lot of people out there.” He’s almost literally incapable of blaming Russia or Putin. What could plausibly explain this beside Russia having some compromising material on him?

    2. Giving a silly explanation about actually intending to say “wouldn’t.” It’s a terrible explanation, and it’s worrisome if he believes it was a good one.


    Kat Tur makes a good point: If the President misspoke, why did it take so long for his advisers to correct this?


    Best case scenario: Not trying to burn bridges with Trump and Trump supporters. But it’s still lame.

    1. Baker is referring to the today’s Trump tweet below:

      This tweets do not suggest they come from a stable mind, let alone a genius.

      The fact that FBI did warn Trump is important. Also, this:

    2. May 3, 2019 Phone Conversation with Putin

      I hear some Trump supporters say, “But he’s so tough on Russia.” His administration has been tough at times, but Trump himself creates the opposite impression. This demands an explanation that puts Trump in a benign or positive light.

      Also, as a citizen, I’d want a much more thorough, cogent explanation for his approach to Russia–with specifics about why getting along is critical for U.S. interests. I don’t think he or anyone else has really attempted to make a compelling argument. (I’ve heard them parrot a Russian talking point–namely, “Do you want to risk World War III?” To me, appeasement has a greater chance to doing that then a tough approach. And if Trump supporters claim he’s so tough, how do they square that with Trump saying it’s important to get along?)


      Is it me or is Trump too friendly and chummy, especially when talking about Putin smiling, while dismissing the Mueller Report. Let’s say the President is totally innocent of conspiracy or coordination with Russia to win the election. The FBI and US IC says that Russia attacking the country by interfering in our elections, attempting to exacerbate existing divisions. Is this way you would expect the POTUS to act? Can you see FBI or CIA Directors responding this way? How can one trust that he’s protecting the interests of the U.S.?


      Interesting thread by Sam Vinograd, who worked on the National Security Council. In it, she talks about presidential readouts, which I believe are formal summaries of phone call (or meeting?) with a foreign leader. She generally describes the process for preparing a president for a discussion with foreign leader like Putin and considerations that go into creating a readout. These readouts can diplomatically hurt U.S. interests, or hurt them, if done poorly. It seems like Trump is either ignoring protocol or ignoring the guidance. (Or the guidance is really bad.)


      How is this tweet and all his comments above not tantamount to a failure to defend the nation and therefore a betrayal of the country. Imagine if North Korea bombed the country or ISIS launched a terrorist attack, and Trump failed to publicly denounce those things. Yes, interference in the elections and information warfare isn’t the same, but I think the significance and threat is closer to those examples than some think. Imagine if you are you the director of the FBI or CIA, and you have concluded that Russia is interfered with our elections and will continue to do so, and that this poses a serious threat to our democracy, and the POTUS doesn’t discuss this with the Russian leader, uses the phrase “Russian hoax.” What are you thinking? Is there some explanation for Trump’s behavior that is not betraying the country. Is Trump not aiding and abetting a hostile foreign power?


      Transparently bogus explanation by Pompeo.

    3. (This OP this post is commenting on is about Trump trying to walk back his comments in the Helsinki press conference with Putin. About four and half years later, here’s what Trump posts on truth social:

  5. I admit, I’m not as smart as Shapiro’s eleven year old. I mean, I would be suspicious of the proposal, but I wouldn’t be able to articulate, with confidence, why it was a bad idea.

    I am concerned for people like Ambassador McFaul and Bill Browder, champion of the Magnitsky Act–I’m concerned Trump will buy the claim that Browder laundered money for Clinton and McFaul is also involved.

    1. Here’s video clip:

      Outrage has been the reaction to this, among people I follow. I admit I didn’t understand if the level of outrage was justified. The article below goes into more detail:

      David Wade, who was Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff, said that the White House refusal to disavow Putin on McFaul crossed a line “from demoralizing to dangerous” for American diplomats.
      “To even hint that there’s some element of credibility to Russian disruptions and distractions puts a bullseye on the back of any diplomat and invites authoritarian regimes to bully and threaten American public servants for the crime of doing their job. No administration should require a lesson or reminder in why this is reprehensible,” Wade said.


      Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, said Sanders’ comments made Trump look “even weaker” than during Trump’s Monday press conference with Putin. “Trump has always been all too eager to cave to Putin, but, as far as we know, it’d been largely in the abstract. He sells out our intelligence community, attacks NATO, shelves our commitment to human rights. But Putin now has specific demands in the form of human beings—one of them formerly our designated representative to Russia,” Price said.
      “By failing to reject the idea out of hand – immediately and forcefully – Trump signaled that absolutely nothing is off limits when it comes to Putin. And just as shocking, he’s willing to play Putin’s brand of ball, in which the world is purely transactional and lives are expendable.”

      Based on what I’ve read, what I didn’t fully appreciate is that these statements by Sanders as well as the President’s remarks in Helsinki, are sending strong signals that it would be acceptable to harass or possibly harm diplomats. Well, that’s one of the consequences from the remarks.

      I can’t help but feel even more worried for McFaul and other U.S. diplomats and officials.


    2. Starting at the 1:50 mark, there’s a pretty good explanation about why Putin’s offer to allow questioning of GRU agents in exchange for questioning Browder and McFaul is not an tremendous offer, but actually the opposite. (Also, the person suggests this is evidence that Trump was poorly prepared. That’s probably the case, but it’s also possible that Trump wouldn’t or didn’t listen to his staff.)

  6. Not a good look for Trump to say the least. If Trump dismisses what the intelligence community tells him without any good reason or evidence, how can he responsibly fulfill his role as president? And of course, this keeps in play the idea that he’s compromised by the Russians.


    That they’re considering this and considering this now is astounding. Maybe there is a legitimate reason, but the optics are incredibly bad. It just feels like open and brazen collusion or quid pro quo. If Obama or HRC did this as president, GOP and Fox News would be going bonkers.


  7. I agree with Marshall. You guys realize how crazy this is, right? That reasonable people can’t dismiss–indeed are seriously considering, if not outright believing–that the POTUS might be under some influence or compromised by Russia is truly remarkable.

    (Within the context, think about the POTUS’s request that Putin come to the White House in the fall.)


    To my children and grandchildren,

    Yes, I thought this was crazy, and my hair was on fire.


    I believe the White House is now going to postpone meeting with Putin in the U.S. until next year. However,

    I find the need to meet Putin odd, almost as Trump has a desperate neediness. Given the suspicions surrounding Trump (and yesterday news reports say Michael Cohen will testify that he knows Trump new about meeting with Team Trump and Russian lawyer, June 2016), why would you announce this?

  8. When Trump’s Rhetoric Sounds Like Russian Propaganda or Russian Information War Playbook


    Grandchild: Grandpa, were serious people questioning whether President Trump colluded with the Russians?

    Grandparent: Yes.

    Grandchild: So when the White House engaged in ways that resembled the Kremlin, why didn’t this start the alarm bells? Why didn’t Congress do something?!”


    1. “If it was Russia.” Again! I can see this confusing people, particularly because it seems unbelievable that he would go back to this. Plus, why? Why does he have such a hard time believing they did this? Why does he have such difficulty criticizing Putin? The most obvious explanations are unthinkable.

  9. Schindler was part of the U.S. Intelligence Community. I’ll take what he says with a grain of salt, but I have no specific evidence to doubt this, and I hope it’s true.

  10. Trump Tweets

    Notice the stark contrast between Trump’s approach to Rouhani versus Putin. “Well, Trump doesn’t want to get into a war with Russia.” He seems to have no problem risking it with North Korea or Iran.

    Also, the all caps does not convey stability. It’s worrisome.


    This seems a little extreme, but I wouldn’t dismiss this.

    Also, this:

    I tend to think that Trump does project quite a bit, so this is a little worrisome.



    I wonder who will believe the “Russia helped the Democrats” line. Actually, for people who don’t follow the news closely, this may actually (effectively) confuse them. Ugh.

    Just want to note that he’s doubling down on not knowing about the meeting.




    Obstruction of justice out in the open.



    Orwellian double-speak. Trump will say “collusion not a crime” when people accuse him of this, but when he wants to go after Clinton, collusion becomes a crime or some bad thing that needs investigating.



    One observation: The way Trump has spoken about the Russia investigation, the DOJ, FBI, and what he said about firing Comey has created impression that he is interfering and obstructing the investigation. Had he not done these things, and the FBI agents actually did something worthy of being fired, that might go some ways to vindicate Trump. But his rhetoric has created appearance that these firings (McCabe and Strzok) were political. If Trump were innocent, he’s preventing the investigation from vindicating him.


    Raving mad.


    As is usually the case, I’m overwhelmed by the number of things that could be said here. Off the top of my head:

    1. Given his conspiracy theories, false accusations, and blatant lies, Trump has zero credibility. Had he not done these things, and he was actually telling the truth here, we could take what he’s saying more seriously;

    2. Trump has been politicizing the process, violating norms that separate the President from the DOJ/FBI.

    3. Trump talks as if he has evidence or substantive reasons to back up his claim. If so, why couldn’t he present that to DOJ/FBI. Is it believable that Trump would have this information, but not DOJ, FBI, and other intelligence agencies wouldn’t have this information? Is it believable that there is a massive conspiracy on the part of DOJ, FBI, and intelligence agencies that they’re covering up evidence that Mueller is tainted? This would include people that Trump himself has appointed.

    4. Question to ask: Has Trump said or done anything that would cause people sworn to defend the Constitution to be worried or have suspicions that Trump is compromised? In my view, there’s a ton of solid reasons for this.


    As someone else pointed out, Trump doesn’t seem to realize this actually legitimizes the FBI investigation, and undermines the “rigged witch hunt” narrative. Or am I missing something?


    Not a tweet, but something Trump said at a rally (I believe).

    I’m quite certain that if any objective person would take the time, it would be clear that Trump is making Washington even swampy, and that he’s an incredibly swampy creature himself.

    Second point, he’s desperately trying to convince people (and confuse others) that DOJ and FBI is corrupt and/or political–that there is no good reason for the Mueller investigation. I’m quite confident that if people studied this closer, they would be highly skeptical of this claim.


    Even before yesterday, there was a lot of evidence pointing to cooperating between Trump campaign and Russian to politically damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump win. Trump himself acknowledged that he was also trying to do a deal and keep business opportunities open with Russia. He argued that with the possibility of losing, why wouldn’t he do that. However, he was never forthcoming about this during the election (and he hasn’t released his tax forms). Additionally, Trump knows that Russia is trying to divide our country by exacerbating existing divisions–between the left and right, whites and non-whites, etc. Trump’s rhetoric has aided that.

    Good thread on some of the points above:

    Not sure if this true, but something to keep in mind as well, with regard to Trump complaining about the cost of Mueller investigation:

    (Also, I believe someone else mentioned that tax payer money that goes to supports Trump’s visits, to his own golf courses, are equivalent to the amount used for Mueller investigation.)

  11. Edit


  12. Also, regarding Trump’s complaints about the FBI not getting the actual DNC servers:

    Bossert also said that he was “disappointed” in Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the president seemed to question the U.S. government’s own evidence pointing to Russia’s cyberattacks during the U.S. election. This was especially an issue for Bossert since he had personally briefed the president on more than one occasion about the clear forensic evidence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks, leaving him puzzled that Trump would even raise the question about why the FBI never seized the Democratic National Committee computer server — something that Bossert said was of little forensic value.

    “We talked extensively on cybersecurity,” said Bossert about his briefings with Trump. “I thought we had a sufficient number of conversations on this particular matter.”

    The bigger issue is that Bossert gives the impression that the White House is winging it on cybersecurity issues.

  13. But important to note this:

    A White House spokesman had no immediate comment, but a Justice Department spokesman suggested that Trump was solely setting in motion a process and not ordering the immediate declassification of anything.

    “When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests,” the spokesman said. “The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President’s order.”

    On the other hand, earlier in the article, some in the DOJ and FBI are unclear how the White House will handle this, with some believing the White House could release information on their own.


    Lovely. This is irresponsible, and once again, bogus.


  14. (To read later.)

    On another note,

    Is it me, or is this weird? Trump is being investigated for suspicious ties with Russia. There’s already enough information that suggests he and his campaign were cooperating with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton. It’s like a secret meeting in plain sight.


    A Trump tweet today:

    Synopsis of Trump’s comments about Cohen’s plea today:

    An older tweet:


    Trump thinks and operates like an organized crime figure.


    The tweet below made me laugh.


    If this weren’t the WSJ, I’d think this was trolling:

    (The next tweet apparently confirms this actually happened.)



    I believe this interview took place during the 2016 campaign.

    1. The next tweet supports and makes me think of my theory for Trump and his campaign’s behavior during the election.

      To wit: Trump didn’t want to win, nor did he think he would win. People like Manafort, Flynn, Trump’s family and probably others, all thought the same way. The campaign was an opportunity to enrich themselves or create future opportunities with Russia (and maybe others). They help Russia and Russia helps them, not necessarily to win, but help in terms of financial and business rewards later.

      Since they were convinced they wouldn’t win, they behaved in more brazen and careless ways. (Trump and his family may behave carelessly and brazenly in general, but others, like Flynn, might not have been so careless if they believed Trump could win.) This makes some sense as the scrutiny over the campaign would likely die down after the election.

      Of course Trump won the election, and now there is scrutiny, and a lot of things are coming to light. (I still believe that the U.S. could actually be in better shape than if Clinton had won–IF the Congressional GOP were patriotic and behaved responsibly. If this happened it could also be a tremendous blow Russia and other authoritarian regimes, particularly with regard to hyperwarfare.)

      To me, and maybe I’m going too far, but what Trump admits above seems really close to opening up the possibility for a quid pro quo arrangement with Russia. What does Russia want? They want to hurt and weaken Hillary Clinton. Trump wants business opportunities. Whether via an explicit agreement or not, Trump’s campaign waged information warfare/active measures, that have connections with Russian propaganda/active measures, both in terms of content and timing.

      To me, what we know is enough to establish collusion between Trump and Russia.

      1. Another damning admission:

        The “lightly” bit reminds me of a gif I’ve seen from Arrested Development, where one of the characters says, “I may have committed some light treason.”

        Is it clear to you guys how bad this is? If not, here’s why I think what Trump admits to here is really bad (Note: I’m articulating this so that I can get better grasp of this myself):

        1. Russia interfered in our election, and this interference should be understood as not just an attempt to affect who won or lost, but an act of information warfare and active measures. These involve an attempt to weaken Hillary Clinton–e.g., stealing emails and then selectively releasing certain portions at certain times to damage her credibility and legitimacy; pushing false stories about Clinton’s failing health, etc.

        2. Trump actively encouraged this and pushed these false narratives, and people in his campaign had contacts with Russian entities (e.g., Russian hacker, Guccifer 2.0, Russian lawyer, etc.)

        It’s important to note two things. First, had Clinton won, even without Russian interference, the GOP Congress and Fox News would likely be attacking Clinton–including pushing false stories and investigating her. What Russia did is attempt to exacerbate these things to weaken Clinton–and divide the country. This is not only devious but diabolical.

        Second, Republicans, the media, both from the left and right, and Republicans pushing false stories originating from Russia isn’t tantamount to collusion with Russia. However, the Trump campaign seems to have actively sought out information, and signaled a willingness to weaponize it. This, plus Trump praising Putin and avoiding saying anything bad about him, signaled a willingness to cooperate in this information warfare.

        Now, let’s go back to Trump’s recent tweets. He’s admitting that he was trying to create business opportunities in Russia, during the campaign, while not being forthcoming about this prior, and indeed pushing the narrative that he has nothing to do with Russia, which is misleading at best.

        In my view, Trump’s admission puts in play a quid pro quo scenario. Specifically, Trump wants business opportunities, and to get this, he could help damage Clinton, praise Putin, and do whatever possible to push policies that would help Russia. Think about Trump’s fawning over Putin and his bizarre inability to publicly criticize Putin, choosing to cast doubt on U.S. intelligence instead. Did Trump do this for better business opportunities? Given Trump’s admission, I think this is a very credible explanation, and incredibly damning.

        (Note: We could also bring up the possibility that Russia has kompromat on Trump. Indeed, others have mentioned that Trump’s lying about his contacts with Russia already constitute a form of kompromat.

        At the very least there is credible reason to believe that Trump could be blackmailed by the Russians, and these recent tweets suggest that he could put this business interests ahead of the country’s. Trump has not released his tax forms and divested his businesses as well. The behavior of the Congressional Republicans suggests they are OK with all of this.)



        We can now be sure he doesn’t care about the appearance or even having actual conflicts of interest.




  15. Why Did Flynn Lie to the FBI About Contacts with Russia?

    The op-ed below, written by two former FBI special agents, ask that question.

    An independent journalist (who I’ve been following) believes the answer is obvious, and I’ll try to summarize my understanding of her position:

    Emptywheel (Marcy; can’t remember her last name) view is as follows:

    1. Flynn lied about talking to K.T. McFarland, who was the Deputy National Security Adviser, relating to Flynn’s discussions with the Russian Ambassador, Kislyak.

    2. Marcy believes (and I’m not sure this is confirmed) that McFarland was guiding Flynn on what he should do with regard to his talks with Kislyak.

    3. Since McFarland is a subordinate to Flynn, Marcy assumes (reasonably) that McFarland was taking orders from Trump.

    Ergo, because Flynn knew this, he lied to the FBI in order to protect Trump. That is, Flynn didn’t want the FBI to know that Trump was directing Flynn in Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak.

    But here’s something that came to mind: If Trump did direct Flynn to ask Kislyak to refrain from retaliating against Obama’s sanctions, would that be so bad? I understand the norm is for the newly elected administration to refrain from interfering with foreign policy during the transition, but it would not be a crime, and it would be understandable. The Trump administration would be essentially saying, “Wait–let’s see if my administration can establish a better relationship than my predecessor’s. Give me that chance before retaliating.”

    Now, did Flynn talk to Kislyak about other things? For example, did he say he would remove sanctions? I can’t remember now, but if he did, that changes thing quite a bit. If Trump via Flynn was willing to ease sanctions (among other things that benefited Russia), then this would create a possible quid pro quo situation. Trump’s willingness to give what Russia wants could be the would be holding his end of the deal, while giving Trump business and/or helping him win the election would be Russia’s.

    But let’s assume there isn’t explicit or implicit quid pro quo. Why would Flynn and Trump lie? Flynn could have just told the FBI that they didn’t wanted to establish a good relationship with Russia. Why lie, especially when Flynn knew (or should have) that the FBI would know if he was lying or not?

    Let me float another hypothesis. Given the suspicion that Russia and Trump campaign were colluding, Flynn admitting he was having this conversation would only fuel this suspicion. Then again, Flynn knew that the FBI would know he was lying. Additionally, there are many things that Trump has said that suggests he’s either indifferent or unaware of how certain statements and actions strengthen the impression that he’s colluding with Russia. Some quick examples: Asking Russia at a rally to release Hillary’s emails; saying that anyone would seek dirt on a political opponent; admitting that he would continue business opportunities with Russia during the campaign (because he might lose and wouldn’t want to give up those opportunities). Still, Trump and his associates just seem to lie by nature. Trump Jr. lied about this meeting with Russians, for example.

    Stepping back, I think a relatively innocuous explanation for Flynn’s lying is highly unlikely, given the amount of other red flags in this situation.

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