Trump and Russia
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are testifying Monday in front of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Russian election-meddling, and a main topic of discussion is expected to be ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Before President Trump fired Yates for declining to defend his first, since-withdrawn executive order limiting travel to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim nations, she had reportedly warned Trump's White House counsel about Flynn's preinaugural discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, saying his mischaracterization of those conversations left him potentially compromised. Two weeks after firing Yates, Trump fired Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak.
Just about everyone in the Trump White House is ready to give Flynn the heave-ho, especially after new revelations that even Trump transition officials were concerned about Flynn and Russia, says Jonathan Swan at Axios. "Sources from all factions of the White House seem unified in their distrust of the president's former national security adviser — and their willingness to throw him under the bus. I haven't seen such broad contempt for a member of Trumpworld since the reign of Corey Lewandowski." But there's one notable exception: President Trump, Swan reports. "The president wants any of his staff who've been feeding negative lines about Flynn to the media to stop immediately."
Trump reportedly argues that Flynn is being smeared by Democrats spreading "fake news" about Russian election interference, that Flynn did nothing wrong, and that when he apparently broke Pentagon rules by going to Moscow for a paid speech for Kremlin news outlet RT, he still had security clearance from the Obama administration. Other Trump insiders characterize Flynn as a poor manager who tried to sell Trump on his own agenda rather than presenting him with all relevant information. Either way, the return of focus to the Russian election-meddling is unwelcome news for a White House that would rather still be talking about health-care legislation.