What America Has To Say About Donald Trump’s Ethics

President-elect Donald Trump smiles during a December rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

President-elect Donald Trump smiles during a December rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

THE NATIONAL MEMO

WASHINGTON — As lawmakers seek to force Donald Trump to release his income tax returns, a majority of Americans indicated they believed the president has done something illegal or unethical.

In a McClatchy-Marist survey asking about potential conflicts of interest between Trump’s business holdings and his duties as president, just 41 percent said he had done nothing wrong, while 53 percent said Trump has done something illegal or unethical.

Trump broke with decades of precedent and refused to release his income tax returns while running for president. He has continued to say he will make them public once tax audits are done.

Trump’s popularity ‘sinking like a rock’

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th Dist.) has tried to get the House Ways and Means Committee to request the returns and then decide whether to release them publicly under a 1924 law enacted in response to the Teapot Dome scandal.

The returns would show whether Trump had any financial ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies said intervened in the presidential election to help him get elected.

The committee’s Republican majority has rejected Pascrell’s request. Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he did not want Congress to “rummage around in the tax returns of the president.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month said 53 percent of U.S. voters wanted Trump to release his returns while 30 percent said he didn’t have to.

Trump turned over control of his businesses to his sons though kept ownership of them. The head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said that the arrangement “does not comport with the tradition of our presidents over the past 40 years.”

At Rep. Leonard Lance’s combative town hall meeting in Branchburg on Wednesday, constituents pressed him on Trump’s refusal to release his returns.

While Lance said Trump “should turn over his tax returns to the public,” he said Pascrell’s efforts went “too far.”

“I don’t like overreach from Congress,” he said to resounding boos. “I don’t think the Ways and Means Commitee should be investigating the returns of a private indvidual.”

The questioner, Jim Girvan, a Branchburg retiree, shot back: “He’s the president.”

The survey of 1,073 adults was conducted Feb. 15-19 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

MILLER ADMITS: NEW BAN WILL BE ‘FUNDAMENTALLY’ THE SAME

THE HUFFINGTON POST

By Ed Mazza

“You’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country.”

White House adviser Stephen Miller said President Donald Trump’s new travel ban will accomplish much the same thing as the old one.
Last month’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations and halting the influx of all refugees led to nationwide protests, an act of rebellion in the Justice Department and multiple court rulings against the administration.

Miller said the White House will issue a new order soon, but it will include only “minor technical differences.”

“Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” Miller said on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The First 100 Days” on Fox News. “But you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court.”

Miller insisted that “nothing was wrong with the first executive order” and dismissed the rulings against it as “flawed” and “erroneous.”

Miller ― who made headlines earlier this month when he declared that Trump’s national security decisions “will not be questioned” ― also claimed that terrorism and radicalization were “a serious problem” in the United States.

“Serious problems: people joining ISIS, joining terror groups, joining al Qaeda and committing or attempting to commit acts of crime and terror against our nation,” he said.

However, a Cato Institute analysis issued last month found that between 1975 and 2015, zero fatal terror attacks occurred on U.S. soil that were carried out by immigrants from the countries named in the travel ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded Wednesday to Miller’s comments by hinting at a new lawsuit.

 

One of the only black people in Trump’s team has been fired for criticizing Trump

Shermichael Singleton, second from right in this picture from a NewsOne Now panel discussion with director Spike Lee, was reportedly fired on Wednesday over past criticisms of President Trump for which he had already apologized. CREDIT: Rodney Choice/AP Images for TV One

THINK PROGRESS

A senior adviser to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was suddenly fired Wednesday, apparently because the White House discovered he had criticized President Donald Trump.

Shermichael Singleton, 26, had worked on Carson’s own presidential bid in 2016 before joining the administration. In the closing weeks of the election, Singleton wrote an op-ed critical of Trump in which he blasted the then-nominee’s rhetoric toward black voters as “a coded message from an era in our history that should stay in the past.”

Singleton had already “answered a number of questions regarding the article and expressed remorse for the piece and support for Mr. Trump” prior to assuming his HUD position in January, the New York Times reports. But administration staff hadn’t finished his background check and “this week, Mr. Trump’s advisers turned up” the op-ed and some related tweets, according to the Times.

Singleton, who the Huffington Post notes is “one of the few black Republicansin the Trump administration,” told the Times he could not discuss the circumstances of his abrupt firing.

Security guards reportedly escorted Carson’s aide out of the HUD building Wednesday.

The decision reinforces President Trump’s long-standing image as a thin-skinned manager for whom personal loyalty is at least as important as a person’s qualifications for a job. A week earlier, Trump made a similar call in rescinding plans to appoint pardoned war criminal Elliott Abrams to a senior State Department post after the president discovered Abrams had criticized him online last year.

Singleton’s case is more likely to do damage. Carson is a neurosurgeon just beginning a job managing a large suite of housing policy programs. Trump’s team has deprived him of a trusted staffer, apparently in order to preserve the president’s ego.

Alan Pyke

None dare call it treason: As the Flynn scandal widens, let’s consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

None dare call it treason: As the Flynn scandal widens, let's consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

Has Trump’s entire team been compromised by Putin? If so, everyone who continues to support him is complicit

SALON

On Monday evening, national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after supposedly losing the “trust” of President Donald Trump by failing to adequately and fully explain his phone conversations with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

As the New York Times explained on Wednesday, FBI agents apparently concluded that Flynn had not been “entirely forthcoming” in describing a phone call he’d had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. That set in motion “a chain of events that cost Mr. Flynn his job and thrust Mr. Trump’s fledgling administration into a fresh crisis.”

As the Times report elaborates, Trump “took his time” deciding what to do about Flynn’s dishonesty, and was none too eager to fire him.

But other aides [i.e., other than press secretary Sean Spicer] privately said that Mr. Trump, while annoyed at Mr. Flynn, might not have pushed him out had the situation not attracted such attention from the news media. Instead, according to three people close to Mr. Trump, the president made the decision to cast aside Mr. Flynn in a flash, the catalyst being a news alert of a coming article about the matter.

“Yeah, it’s time,” Mr. Trump told one of his advisers.

Flynn is not alone. Other Trump operatives are also under investigation by the FBI for potentially illegal contact with senior Russian intelligence operatives.

This information is not new. The New York Times and other American news media outlets were aware of reports about Russian tampering in the 2016 election as well as an ongoing federal investigation into Trump, his advisers and other representatives. Instead of sharing this information with the American people during the election campaign, the Times and other publications chose to exercise “restraint” and “caution.” Decades of bullying by the right-wing media and movement conservatives would pay great dividends.

Afraid of showing any so-called liberal bias, the corporate news media demonstrated little restraint in its obsessive reporting about the non-story that was Hillary Clinton’s emails. This, in conjunction with other factors, almost certainly cost her the election.

In all, the Republican Party and its voters have abandoned their Cold War bonafides and their (somewhat exaggerated) reputation as diehard enemies of Russia and the former Soviet Union. To borrow from the language of spycraft, it would seem that they have been “flipped” by Vladimir Putin.

Despite mounting evidence suggesting that Trump’s administration has been compromised by Russia, his public continues to back him. The Republican Party and its leadership have largely chosen to support Donald Trump in a type of political suicide mission, because they see him as an opportunity to force their agenda on the American people and reverse or undo by the social progress made by the New Deal, the civil rights movement, feminism, the LGBT movement and other forces of progressive change.

In the midst of these not so new “revelations” about Michael Flynn and other members of Trump’s inner circle, the news media is now fixated on the Nixonian question: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” This question ought not to be treated like a mystery. The answer should be readily apparent because it is a direct reflection of Donald Trump’s political and personal values.

Trump has repeatedly shown that he is a fascist authoritarian who admires political strongmen and autocrats such as Vladimir Putin. In keeping with that leadership style, Trump has surrounded himself with family members and other advisers in order to insulate himself from criticism — and also to neuter any political rivals. In violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, Trump is also using the office of the presidency to personally enrich himself, his family members and other members of his inner circle, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Donald Trump also has a longtime pattern of open admiration for gangsters and organized crime.

In sum, Trump’s presidency has many of the traits of a criminal enterprise and/or a financial shakedown operation, masquerading as a democratically elected government.

Michael Flynn resigned because he got caught, not because of what he did. White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed this with his statement during Tuesday’s press briefing that Flynn did “nothing wrong or inappropriate.” In response to this most recent scandal, Trump and his surrogates are now trying to focus on “the leaks,” rather than the potential crimes that may have been committed. taken place. Like most political strongmen, Trump values secrecy and loyalty above all else. Those things must be maintained at all costs, even if that means that a given member of the ruling cabal may occasionally have to fall on his or her own sword.

Based on the increasing evidence of communication between his inner circle and Russian operatives, it appears plausible that Trump either actively knew about Flynn’s actions (and perhaps even directed them) or chose to look away while actively benefiting from them. Either choice should disqualify him from the presidency.

In an earlier essay here at Salon, I argued that for a variety of reasons Donald Trump can be considered a traitor to the United States. By that standard, his voters and other supporters who do not denounce him are also traitors, and any Republican officials who continue to back Trump are traitors as well. Recent revelations about Flynn and the still-unknown extent of contact between other Trump advisers and Russian agents only serve to reinforce the truth of my earlier claim.

Republicans and other conservatives behave as though they have a monopoly on patriotism and exclusive claims to being “real Americans.” Now is the time for them to test that commitment. Do Republicans and other conservatives love power more than their country? I fear I know the answer. I ask the question with the hope that I am wrong.

Chauncey DeVega

Trump Administration Increasingly At Odds With U.S. Intelligence Community

Bloomberg via Getty Images

THE HUFFINGTON POST

“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.”

Multiple reports this week have cast the administration of Donald Trump as being increasingly at odds with U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the FBI, just weeks into his presidency and mere days after the fall of national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that intelligence agencies may be withholding sensitive information from the president over fears it could be leaked. The news organization, citing unnamed former and current officials, said that the withheld information could include intelligence gathering methods, such as “the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.” The sources said such decisions to keep information under wraps would be connected to Trump’s apparent fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House denied the allegations, and the Journal said its sources didn’t know of any instance in which “crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been omitted.”

Also Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Trump may tap Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire New Yorker and friend of chief strategist Steve Bannon, to lead a review of U.S. intelligence agencies. While not official, the move has prompted concerns among the intelligence community that Feinberg’s role could “curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.”

The Times noted that the assignment could be a precursor for Feinberg, who has no intelligence experience, to take up “a high position” at one of the agencies.

The reports came just hours after Trump took to Twitter to lambast American spy agencies over what he called illegal leaks of sensitive information that led to Flynn’s resignation Monday. The retired Army officer stepped down after The Washington Post reported last week that he had spoken with Russian officials about U.S sanctions against the country weeks before Trump’s inauguration, despite administration officials saying he hadn’t.

The Post then reported Monday that the Justice Department had informed Trump in January that Flynn had misled officials and was “potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.” The president has since faced criticism for not acting sooner.

Rather than address these concerns, Trump has dodged reporters, tweeted his ire, and, during a press conference Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the dissemination of such information to the media a “criminal act.”

“From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked,” Trump said at the news conference. “It’s a criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.”

trump-2_16

Trump has also tried to deflect the firestorm around Flynn by using one of his favorite methods: attacking the media.

“I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media ― as I call it, the fake media, in many cases,” he said at the press conference. “I think it’s really a sad thing he was treated so badly.”

All of Trump’s comments come less than a month after he visited CIA headquarters in Virginia following the inauguration. During an address to intelligence officials there, Trump thanked them for their service and blamed any implied rift between himself and the agencies on the media.

“There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” he said. “There’s nobody.”

Nick Visser

Trump advisers were in contact with Russia throughout the campaign

From left: Trump advisor Steve Bannon, advisor Stephen Miller and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus listen while US President Donald Trump speaks at the beginning of a meeting with lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

 AFP/Getty Images | Was it you? Or you? Or you?

DAILY KOS

It shouldn’t be shocking news at this point. After all, Russian officials were bragging about it just two days after the election.

Russia said it was in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s team during the U.S. election campaign, despite repeated denials by the Republican candidate’s advisers that any links existed.

Trump’s team not only denied it at the time, they’ve been denying it ever since. We’re not just talking about Michael Flynn chatting up the Russian ambassador, but what was described as “quite a few” people in nearly continuous contact. Now that connection has been confirmed from the other end.

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

Not only are there are records of the Trump team talking with Russian counterparts, those conversations were under scrutiny from US intelligence. That means they know who. They know when, and they know that the Trump team is still lying to everyone.

 

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017 · 11:14:12 PM EST · Mark Sumner

Of special note: The Trump team was making calls, not to Russian ministers, or Russian media, or Russian experts. They were calling “senior Russian intelligence officials.” In the parlance of a Cold War spy novel — they were checking in with their KGB handlers. 

_______________

 

The intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

Trump was saying that publicly, while in secret his team was talking directly to Russia. Were they making the same request?

When Harry Reid was so frustrated by FBI Director James Comey’s failure to come forward with any comment on Trump’s Russian connections and other senators were likewise stonewalled by Comey, this information was already in the hands of the FBI.

While the New York Times seems anxious to cover this story now, just one week before the election, they completely spiked this story.

Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

This story came out the same evening as two breaking stories on connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, and were part of what appears to have been carefully timed “leaks” from the Trump-friendly New York FBI office made to keep this story quiet. In the end, the Times ran this single “nothing to see here” story buried pages in just two days after Comey’s letter on Hillary’s email was the subject of every column on the first page.

But as more and more evidence leaks, it’s not just Oroville Dam that’s appearing as if it might collapse.

Both the frequency of the communications and the proximity to Trump of those involved “raised a red flag” with US intelligence and law enforcement, according to these officials. The communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence.

Officials emphasized that communications between campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual. However, these communications stood out to investigators due to the frequency and the level of the Trump advisers involved. Investigators have not reached a judgment on the intent of those conversations

Both Trump and Obama were briefed on these communications following the election. If Donald Trump didn’t know over the course of the campaign, which is hard to believe, he absolutely knew for the last three months that some of his people were frequently in communications with Russian officials. And yet Sean Spicer is still standing up there, denying it.

We know it happened. We know they’re lying. Now we wait for names, and dates, and transcripts.

By Mark Sumner

Trump Knew For Weeks That Flynn Had Misled The White House

Trump Knew For Weeks That Flynn Had Misled The White House

attribution: NONE

THE NATIONAL MEMO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump knew for weeks that national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the White House about his contacts with Russia but did not immediately force him out, an administration spokesman said on Tuesday.

Trump was informed in late January that Flynn had not told Vice President Mike Pence the whole truth about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Trump took office, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Flynn quit on Monday after Trump asked for his resignation, Spicer said. “The issue pure and simple came down to a matter of trust,” Spicer told reporters.

The departure was another disruption for an administration already repeatedly distracted by miscues and internal dramas since the Republican businessman assumed the presidency on Jan. 20.

U.S. lawmakers, including some leading Republicans, called for a deeper inquiry into not just Flynn’s actions but broader White House ties to Russia. Trump has long said that he would like improved relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Trump only moved against Flynn because of media attention to the issue, and not because of concern at any wrongdoing by the former lieutenant general.

“The reason they lost faith or trust in General Flynn only last night when they knew for weeks that he had been lying was that it became public,” Schiff told MSNBC.

A timeline of events outlined by Spicer and a U.S. official showed that Trump had known for weeks about Flynn misleading the vice president.

Trump, a former reality TV star whose catchphrase was “You’re fired!,” has often boasted of his eagerness to get rid of subordinates. But he was not quick to fire Flynn, a strong advocate of a better relations with Russia and a hard line against Islamist militants.

The Justice Department warned the White House in late January that Flynn had misled Pence by denying to him that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a potentially illegal act, a U.S. official said.

Flynn did talk about sanctions with the diplomat, whose calls were recorded by U.S. intelligence officials, the official said. But Pence went on television in mid-January and denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions.

Spicer stressed that the administration believed there was no legal problem with Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, but rather an issue over the president’s trust in his adviser.

He said the Justice Department sought to notify the White House counsel on Jan. 26. about the discrepancies in Flynn’s accounts.

“The White House counsel informed the president immediately. The president asked them to commit a review of whether there was a legal situation there. That was immediately determined there wasn’t. That was what the president believed at the time from what he had been told and he was proved to be correct,” Spicer told reporters.

“We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue,” he said.

Flynn’s conversations with the ambassador took place around the time that then-President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia, charging that Moscow had used cyber attacks to try to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

A U.S. official familiar with the transcripts of the calls with the ambassador said Flynn indicated that if Russia did not retaliate in kind for Obama’s Dec. 29 order expelling 35 Russian suspected spies and sanctioning Russian spy agencies, that could smooth the way toward a broader discussion of improving U.S.-Russian relations once Trump took power.

LEGAL FALLOUT?

Flynn’s discussions with the Russian diplomat could potentially have been in violation of a law known as the Logan Act, banning private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments about disputes or controversies with the United States. However, nobody has been prosecuted in modern times under the law, which dates from 1799.

Although Flynn is almost certain not to be prosecuted under the Logan Act, he could still face legal trouble if it emerges that he violated other federal laws in his communications with the Russians, said Andrew Kent, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York. The Espionage Act, for example, criminalizes sharing information with foreign governments

Democrats, who do not have control of Congress, clamored for probes into Flynn, and asked how much Trump knew about his connections to Russia.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called for an investigation of potential criminal violations surrounding the resignation of Flynn and said senior Trump administration officials should face tough questions.

“What I am calling for is an independent investigation with executive authority to pursue potential criminal actions,” Schumer told reporters, saying such a probe could not be led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions or White House lawyers.

Two leading Republicans in the Senate, Bob Corker and John Cornyn, said the intelligence committee should investigate Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

But the highest-ranking Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, sidestepped questions about whether lawmakers should look into Flynn’s Russia ties, adding that he would leave it to the Trump administration to explain the circumstances behind Flynn’s departure.

A broader investigation of the White House and its ties to Russia is not possible without the cooperation either of the Justice Department or the Republican-led Congress.

“Nothing is going to happen without some Republicans moving,” Professor Kent said.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Syria and Republican congressional opposition to removing sanctions on Russia make any White House attempt to embrace Putin problematic.

Senator John McCain, a leading Republican voice on foreign relations, said Flynn’s resignation raised questions about the administration’s intentions toward Putin’s Russia.

HE KNEW FOR WEEKS!

Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

THE HUFFINGTON POST

White House Admits Trump First Learned Flynn Lied In Late January…
Spicer Spins: ‘Laws Weren’t Broken’…
Resigned Over ‘Trust’ Issues…
Flynn Questioned By FBI Over Russia Calls…
Dems: Investigate Now!…
Chaffetz: ‘It’s Taking Care Of Itself’…
FINEMAN: White House Already In Flames…

Questions surround Team Trump’s pre-election talks with Russia

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.| Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

The MaddowBlog

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s alleged talks with Russia in December are the basis for an important ongoing scandal. But the latest revelations also shed light on a separate, parallel controversy that may end up being every bit as important.
As part of its reporting on Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the Washington Post noted on Friday:
The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. [Emphasis added]
A New York Times report added:
[C]urrent and former American officials said that conversation – which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor – ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues. [Emphasis added]
It’s hard to overstate the significance of this detail, which risks doing real harm to Donald Trump’s White House.

Let’s back up a minute to provide some context.

Practically everyone in both parties now agrees that Russian officials, acting on Vladimir Putin’s orders, launched an espionage operation to undermine the U.S. presidential election in 2016, at least in part to help put Trump in the White House. What’s unclear is whether Team Trump colluded with Moscow during the election crimes.

On Nov. 10, just two days after the U.S. election, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “there were contacts” between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign team before the U.S. presidential election. In fact, Ryabkov said “quite a few” members of Trump’s team had been “staying in touch with Russian representatives” before Americans cast their ballots.

Trump World have long insisted the opposite was true. Kellyanne Conway, asked if there were pre-election communications between the Republican campaign and Putin’s government, said, “Absolutely not.” She added the conversations “never happened” and any suggestions to the contrary “undermine our democracy.”

Though it’s unclear why the Russian deputy foreign minister would lie about this, Conway wasn’t the only member of Team Trump who emphatically denied the talks. At a pre-inaugural press conference, the president himself said no one from the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia during the campaign.

Those denials are apparently in conflict with the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Why is this so important? Because we’re faced with the very real possibility that a foreign adversary attacked America’s democracy to help put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, and while those attacks were under way, Trump aides were in communications with Putin’s government and then Team Trump repeatedly misled the American public about what transpired.

Based on what’s been reported thus far, that’s precisely what happened.

Postscript: The idea that no one on Team Trump spoke to Putin’s government before the election was already suspect. One of the people Trump singled out as a top foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, had repeated contacts with Moscow during the campaign – right up until Team Trump decided to disown Page and pretend he had no role in the operation.

That said, Michael Flynn is a far more prominent, more powerful, and more influential figure in the president’s orbit. If the White House national security advisor was also engaged in pre-election talks with Putin’s government during the campaign, it’s a qualitatively more important revelation.

Second Postscript: The list of questions for the White House isn’t short, but I’d start with, “What did Trump know about Flynn’s pre-election communications with Russia? When did the president first learn of the back-channel messages? If Trump didn’t know what his top national security advisor was up to for months, what does that say about the president’s ability to lead? And if he did know, why did the president lie to the public?”