UPDATE: On a day of fast-breaking news, there’s a lot to keep up with. There’s breaking news from Bloomberg that it was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who told Flynn to open the dialogue with Russian Ambassador Kislyak—so Flynn wasn’t operating solo, but with the full knowledge and approval of the president’s inner circle, if not the president himself. The charging documents in Flynn’s plea agreement, filed by the Office of Special Counsel, specifically stated that Flynn made contacts with the Russian ambassador last December after talking to “a senior official of the Presidential Transition Team (‘PTT official’), who was with other members of the Presidential Transition Team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach…”
And, in that same document, Mueller’s office says explicitly that Flynn’s lies interfered with the collusion inquiry: “Flynn’s false statements and omissions impeded and otherwise had a material impact on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
One of the central figures in Russiagate, and a key cog in Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, pleaded guilty today in federal court on two counts of lying about his December 2016 interactions with Russia’s then–US Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as Trump’s national-security adviser for several weeks at the start of the administration, until being ousted for lying about his contacts with the Russian, is likely now telling Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel, everything he knows about whether or not Team Trump colluded with Moscow last year.
Mueller’s charge against Flynn says bluntly that he “did willfully and knowingly make materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” about his discussions with Kislyak. One count points out that Flynn lied to the FBI about his request to Kislyak that Moscow moderate its response to Obama’s sanctions against Russia. The other—the new bombshell—reveals that Flynn lied about his request that Moscow delay or defeat a pending UN resolution demanding a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities” in the occupied territories (one on which the Obama administration abstained, allowing it to pass). In both cases, Flynn was conspiring with a foreign power to subvert a sitting president’s foreign policy.
Did Trump’s campaign collude with the Russians to subvert the US elections? The answer is still: We don’t know. There’s plenty of smoke, from multiple directions. Nearly all of what’s known is sorted out and described in a book by Luke Harding, a reporter for The Guardian, called Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. I’ve read Harding’s book, which among other things boasts an interview with Christopher Steele, the former MI-6 operative whose famous dossier makes a detailed case for Trump-Russia collusion, but despite its title, the book fails to make a conclusive case that the campaign colluded with, or cooperated with, the Russian attack on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Even the excerpts from the Steele interviews that Harding and his colleagues conducted are in the end anticlimactic, and Steele says little that goes beyond what’s already in the dossier itself.