The e-mail dispute in the White House affirms that Flynn acted independently in Russia –

The e-mail dispute in the White House affirms that Flynn acted independently in Russia


But it is evident from the emails, which were obtained from someone who had access to the communications of the transition team, that after learning that President Barack Obama was expelling 35 Russian diplomats, the Trump team quickly planned on how rebadure Russia. Trump's advisers feared that a cycle of reprisals between the United States and Russia would keep the attention on Moscow's electoral meddling, tarnishing Mr. Trump's victory and potentially hindering his presidency from the beginning.

As part of the scope, Ms. McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would speak with the Russian ambbadador, Mr. Kislyak, hours after the Obama sanctions were announced.

"The key will be Russia's response in the coming days," Ms. McFarland wrote in an e-mail to another transition official, Thomas P. Bossert, now the president's national security adviser.

In an interview, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of the Russian investigation, said there was nothing illegal or unethical in the actions of the transition team. "It would have been politically negligent not to discuss the sanctions," he said, adding that "the presidential transition guide specifically encourages contact and outreach to foreign dignitaries."

The only problem, Mr. Cobb said, was that Mr. Flynn had lied to White House officials and the FBI agents about what he had told the Russian ambbadador. Mr. Flynn's erroneous statements led to his dismissal in February and his guilty plea on Friday to charges of lying to federal agents.

With the plea and agreement of Mr. Flynn to cooperate with Robert S. Mueller III, the special lawyer investigating the Russian election interference, the investigation is closer to Mr. Trump. The president tried to convince the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to abandon the criminal investigation of the Flynn Bureau, and dismiss Mr. Comey after he failed to comply.

Mr. Trump and his aides have suggested that his concern about the possible legal danger of Mr. Flynn was motivated mainly by the president's admiration for the service and military character of his former national security adviser.

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But the new details about Flynn's contacts in Russia underscore the possibility that the president was concerned not only about Mr. Flynn, but also about whether any investigation could reach the White House and perhaps the Office Oval. That question will be at the center of any consideration by Mr. Mueller as to whether Mr. Trump's actions constituted an obstruction of justice.

Trump's transition team ignored a request from the Obama administration to avoid sending conflicting signals to foreign officials before the inauguration and include staff from the State Department when contacting them. In addition to the Russian ambbadador, Mr. Flynn, at the request of the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, contacted several other foreign officials to urge them to delay or block a United Nations resolution condemning Israel for the construction of settlements. [19659011] Sir. Cobb said Trump's team had never agreed to avoid such interactions. But a former White House official has disputed that, telling Mr. Mueller's investigators that Trump's transition officials had agreed to comply with the Obama administration's request.


K. T. McFarland made it clear in an email exchange that Trump's presidential transition team was intensely focused on relations with Russia.

Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Mr. Bossert sent Ms. McFarland's email exchange on December 29 about sanctions to six other Trump advisers, including Mr. Flynn; Reince Priebus, who had been appointed as chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the senior strategist; and Sean Spicer, who would become the press secretary.

Mr. Obama, he wrote, was trying to "box Trump diplomatically with Russia," which could limit his options to other countries, including Iran and Syria. "Russia is the key that opens the door," he wrote.

He also wrote that the sanctions for interference in the Russian elections were intended to "lure Trump into the trap of saying something" in defense of Russia and aimed at "discrediting Trump's victory". saying that it was due to Russian interference. "

" If there is a blow-by-blow escalation, Trump will have difficulties to improve relations with Russia, which has just sent him US elections, "he wrote.

Mr Bossert responded by urging all the leading advisors to" defend " electoral legitimacy now. "

Mr. Flynn, who had been fired by Mr. Obama as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was the key person for the transition team on policy towards Russia and other countries. After Mr. Trump appointed him national security adviser in November, Mr. Flynn began reporting it, some say daily, about foreign policy.

Ms. McFarland, who served until May as deputy adviser to National security and hopes to be confirmed as an ambbadador in Singapore, he was sometimes referred by other transitional officials as "Flynn's brain." He could not be reached for comment.

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Mr. Flynn's call on December 29 with Mr. Kislyak was one of the first formal interactions between the incoming administration and a foreign government. On that winter day, Mr. Trump's closest badociates were scattered in various places of warm weather.

Mr. Flynn was in the Dominican Republic. Other senior members of Mr. Trump's transition team, including Ms. McFarland, were at Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Kushner was on vacation in Hawaii with his family.

awaiting a "bellicose" response to the expulsions and sanctions, according to the exchange of emails between Ms. McFarland and Mr. Bossert. Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama's internal security adviser, had told Mr. Bossert that "the Russians have already responded with strong threats, promising to retaliate," according to emails.

In his telephone call with Mr. Kislyak, Mr. Flynn asked Russia to "not intensify the situation," according to court documents published on Friday. He then related the contents of the call, including the discussion on sanctions, to a senior transitional official, who is believed to be Mrs. McFarland. A few days later, he informed others about the transition team.

Mr. Flynn's intervention seemed to have a dramatic effect. To the surprise of foreign policy experts, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin did not immediately respond with expulsions of Americans for revenge from Moscow.

Mr. Trump praised that decision in a tweet that read: "Great movement in the delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very intelligent".

It is not clear how involved Mr. Trump was in the discussions among his staff members about Mr. Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambbadador. Mr. Spicer told reporters on the morning of December 29 that the president-elect would meet with his national security team, including Ms. McFarland, that day. A phone call that included Mr. Trump, Mr. Flynn, Mrs. McFarland, Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon was scheduled for 5 p.m., shortly after Mrs. McFarland's e-mail exchange. It is not clear if the call took place.

Mr. Cobb said that Mr. Trump did not know that Mr. Flynn had discussed the sanctions with Mr. Kislyak on the call. After the opening, "Flynn specifically denied it, in the presence of witnesses," he said.

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Some legal experts have speculated that contacts during the transition between Trump's advisers and foreign officials could violate the Logan Act, a law that prohibits private US citizens from working with a foreign government against the United States. But the act has not been used to prosecute anyone since the nineteenth century. Mr. Cobb said the law "certainly does not apply" to a presidential transition team.

The day after the president fired Mr. Flynn, he spoke about the F.B.I. consult with Mr. Comey, the director of the agency. Mr. Comey said that the president urged him to abandon the investigation. "I hope you can see the free way to let this happen, to let go of Flynn," Trump said, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote immediately afterwards. The White House has denied that account. The president fired Mr. Comey in May.

Testifying before Congress in June, Mr. Comey refused to say whether the president had fired him to prevent the investigation. "I do not think it's for me to say if the conversation I had with the president was an effort to hinder," he said. "I took it as something very disturbing, very disturbing, but that is a conclusion for which I am sure the special lawyer will work to try to understand what the intention was there, and if that is an offense."

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