Donald Trump and his transition team worried that the sanctions imposed by President Obama would hurt their budding relationship with Russia.
Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea on Friday has resulted in a new torrent of reporting on Donald Trump and his team's involvement in Flynn's actions, including a new piece from The New York Times that reveals a disturbing set of emails among the Trump transition team — one that could have far-reaching implications.
Among the emails reported by the Times is one from then-Trump transition official K. T. McFarland, who would later serve as Flynn's deputy national security adviser, in which she made it clear that Russia's attack on American elections was a purely political problem for the Trump administration, and even seemed to concede what Trump has denied publicly all along:
On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.
According to the White House, McFarland meant only that this was how Democrats were portraying the interference, but the other details in the Times' reporting makes clear that the threat to Trump's legitimacy was the overriding, and only, concern that the White House had regarding Russia's interference.
McFarland went on to discuss Flynn's upcoming "outreach" to the Russians, which would center on their reaction to retaliatory sanctions that President Obama had imposed.
The recipient of that email was none other than current Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who forwarded McFarland's email to a group of senior Trump officials with the message “defend election legitimacy now.”
Included on that email were former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, each of whom have publicly and vehemently denied that Flynn spoke with Russian officials regarding sanctions. McFarland's email implicates them in the Flynn coverup, and provides a taste of things to come from the Mueller witness list.
But beyond the potential legal liabilities, this report demonstrates the sickening disconnect between Trumpworld and decent, patriotic Americans. While experienced current and former senior intelligence and law enforcement officials have been sounding the alarm about Russia's continuing efforts to attack American democracy, Trump and his cronies have demonstrated only denial and indifference.
This reporting shows that even in private conversations amongst themselves, their craven instinct toward political self-preservation was never remotely intruded upon by patriotic concern for democracy.