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


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:

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate