Democrats to White House: What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?

Congressional leaders put pressure on White House lawyer over the Michael Flynn scandal.

Olivier Douliery/CNP/ZUMA

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Michael Flynn may have lost his job as national security adviser, but congressional Democrats have made clear that they aren’t going to let the Trump administration sweep the scandal under the rug. The ranking Democrats from six separate House committees sent a detailed letter to the White House’s top lawyer Wednesday afternoon demanding answers regarding what administration officials knew about Flynn’s communications last year with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, when they knew it, and what they did in response.

The letter is directed at Donald McGahn, the White House counsel. As The Washington Post reported on Monday, McGahn was personally informed last month by then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn may have lied to members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak—and that Flynn could even be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow. The Democrats’ letter points out that despite that warning, White House officials continued to claim for weeks that Flynn did not discuss US sanctions during his talks with Russia’s ambassador.

“These reports raise grave concerns about the honesty and integrity of White House officials with the public,” the letter says. “The National Security Advisor provided false information to the public, which was then repeated by several senior White House officials. Even after learning that this information was inaccurate, no White House officials corrected those falsehoods.”

The letter presses McGahn for a clear timeline of events. It asks whether Trump himself or other members of his team were aware of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with Kislyak prior to McGahn’s January 26 meeting with the Department of Justice, and whether anyone ordered Flynn to engage in those discussions. The letter points to a tweet from Trump on December 30, 2016—just a day after Flynn talked with the Russian ambassador—in which Trump lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision not to retaliate against US sanctions. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump wrote.

The Democrats also asked McGahn to explain why Flynn was allowed to receive classified briefings after the administration learned of his apparent deception. Referencing White House statements that Flynn had lost Trump’s trust, the letter states that “these reports raise more than ‘trust’ issues—they also raise significant national security concerns.”

The letter was sent by top Democrats on six committees: Elijah Cummings(Oversight and Government Reform), John Conyers (Judiciary), Adam Smith (Armed Forces), Bennie Thompson (Homeland Security), Adam Schiff (Intelligence), and Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs).

Read the letter below:

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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