Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn’s firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.
This is no small story. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn may have been compromised by the Russians, but that didn’t stop Trump and his team from keeping Flynn around for 18 days. Mueller apparently wants to know why.
More to the point, according to NBC News’ report, the special counsel “appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why.”
The piece added, “If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn.”
So, why is this important? A couple of reasons.
First, as Rachel explained in the A block, there’s now ample reason to believe that the special counsel’s investigation is keenly interested in whether the president personally obstructed justice.
Second, it brings into focus a question Trump World seems eager to avoid. The president kept his compromised national security advisor on the job for 18 days after the White House learned from the Justice Department about Flynn’s alleged crimes, which naturally leads one to wonder when, exactly, Trump found out about the DOJ’s concerns.
If the president knew, for example, that Flynn lied to the FBI, only to have Trump then urge the FBI to overlook the crime, that looks an awful lot like obstruction of justice.
So, when did the president find out? From the NBC News piece: “Trump’s legal team and senior White House aides are refusing to say when and how the president first learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI…. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly referred questions to Dowd about when Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. Dowd has declined multiple requests to answer that question.”
There is a knowable answer, but Trump World refuses to share it. That seems like an unsustainable posture.