After what we learned this week, Donald Trump's promise at the end of 2016 looks more suspicious than ever.
One of the advantages that special counsel Robert Mueller has over Donald Trump is the benefit of hindsight — the ability to take what we know now and use it to make sense of things that didn’t make sense at first.
Several pieces of news broke this week that shed new light on a bizarre episode that took place during Trump’s presidential transition.
On New Year’s Eve 2016, Trump briefly answered reporters’ questions at his Mar-a-Lago resort, including one about his consistent denial over Russian interference in the election.
Trump made what seemed at the time to be just another empty promise that he would soon reveal secret information exonerating Russia:
REPORTER: It seems inappropriate for the occasion, but it seems like you have a tendency, looking at it from the outside, to doubt American intelligence when it comes to Russian hacking. I’m trying to better understand why it seems that way.
TRUMP: Well, I just want them to be sure. Because it’s a pretty serious charge and I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster. And they were awful. And so I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know. And I know a lot about hacking and hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know and so, they cannot be sure of this situation.
REPORTER: What do you know that other people don’t know?
TRUMP: You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Of course, that Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with no such revelation, but as the world would later find out, Trump’s comments came just two days after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made repeated contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss sanctions over Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
And in yet another forgotten clip from that time, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was asked directly if Flynn was the source of the secret information that Trump had promised, and pointedly refused to rule him out:
COURIC: And is he getting that information from General Michael Flynn, his pick to be National Security Advisor? Because he does have close ties with Vladimir Putin. In fact, we have this photo from December of 2015 that shows him at a dinner with Putin. Is that where he is getting this information, Kellyanne, that other people don’t know?
CONWAY: He is getting information from a number of sources.
That highly suspicious episode soon gave way to other Trump outrages, as is often the case, but recent developments shed new light on it.
We now know that a slew of Trump campaign and transition officials were discussing Flynn’s outreach to Kislyak at the time, and focusing like a laser on the political damage that Russia “throw(ing) the election” to Trump could cause. Their desperation to quash the Russian interference narrative coincides exactly with Trump’s promise of secret evidence that would do just that.
Furthermore, by his own admission, Trump was apparently fully aware that Flynn had lied to the FBI when Trump urged FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn — and when he subsequently fired Comey over the Russia investigation.
Perhaps most importantly, though, we know that Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller.
We can only ask where Trump got the idea that there was secret information to exonerate Russia. Mueller is in a position to answer it.