The White House is trying to put the best possible spin on the scandal surrounding Michael Flynn’s scandal, claiming that laws weren’t broken when Flynn Russian government before and after the election on behalf of the Trump campaign. But make no mistake, they know this is just the tip of the iceberg of a scandal that could be greater than watergate.
Flynn resigned Monday night after evidence piled up that he had discussed sanctions with Russian officials in late December before President Donald Trump took office.
Flynn’s talk with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, came a day before President Barack Obama’s administration announced sanctions on the Russian government after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that top officials interfered in the 2016 elections to help elect Trump.
The Huffington Post has provided a timeline about Flynn’s ties to Moscow and the Trump campaign’s interaction with Russian operatives:
Dec. 10, 2015: Flynn was photographed sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a trip to Moscow for a paid speaking gig at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, a state-owned news network that critics characterize as a propaganda outlet for the government. Flynn received money from the Russian government at the time, which could violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
In July 2016, Donald Trump openly calls the Russian government to hack his opponent’s email server:
Nov. 18, 2016: Trump chose Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, a role that guarantees Flynn access to the country’s most closely guarded secrets and a direct line to the president.
Dec. 29, 2016: President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russian intelligence services and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. over their interference in the elections.
The same day, Flynn and Kislyak spoke several times by phone, The Washington Post later reported.
Dec. 30, 2016: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested his country would retaliate.
A day later, Putin issued an official statement, announcing that Moscow would not retaliate. Instead, Putin said, they would wait to work with the incoming Trump administration to restore relations.
Trump praises Putin on the decision.
Late December 2016/early January 2017: Intelligence analysts looked for clues to explain Moscow’s unexpected reversal. That search led them to transcripts of intercepted conversations between Flynn and Kislyak ― whose communications are monitored by the FBI.
Amid questions about whether Flynn had undercut Obama’s sanctions in conversations with Kislyak, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Flynn “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” The timing of the phone calls was “strictly coincidental,” Pence said.
Jan. 19, 2017: Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, outgoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and outgoing CIA Director John Brennan argued in favor of telling Trump about the Flynn-Kislyak communications, The Washington Post reported. FBI Director James Comey opposed telling Trump, fearing it could interfere with an ongoing investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia.
Yates pressed Comey again about notifying the White House. By this time, his opposition had faded.
Jan. 26, 2017: Yates briefed White House counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak. Yates and a senior national security official told McGahn that they believed Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the content of the conversations, placing himself in a position in which he could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn categorically denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak during an interview with the Post.
Feb. 10, 2017: The Kremlin confirms that Flynn and Kislyak spoke by phone, but denies that they discussed sanctions.
The same week, Flynn called Pence to apologize for misleading him about conversations with Kislyak, ABC later reported.
Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called for Flynn’s removal. “The allegation that General Flynn, while President Obama was still in office, secretly discussed with Russia’s ambassador ways to undermine the sanctions levied against Russia for its interference in the Presidential election on Donald Trump’s behalf, raises serious questions of legality and fitness for office,” Schiff said in a statement.
Feb. 12, 2017: White House policy adviser Stephen Miller dodged questions about Flynn during interviews on the Sunday morning talk shows. Asked if the president still has confidence in his national security adviser, Miller told NBC, “That’s the question that I think you should ask the president, the question you should ask Reince [Priebus], the chief of staff.”
Feb. 13, 2017: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Flynn to be “fired immediately.” He “cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America,” she said in a statement.
An hour later, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that Flynn has “the full confidence of the president.”
Flynn submitted his resignation letter later that night.
Feb. 14, 2017: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies confirm that President Donald Trump’s campaign had repeated constant contact with Russian intelligence officials before the election around the same time Vladimir Putin directed a cyber attack on the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.