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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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