Monday, January 28, 2019

Keep your eye on the timeline, redux

Via boundary2.

Christopher Christie, in contrast, is not being wholly candid in his own superbly subtitled memoir, Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, as reported by Maggie Haberman:
On Feb. 14, 2017, Mr. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, had lunch scheduled with the president. It happened to be the day after Mr. Flynn — whom Mr. Christie did not back for the national security adviser role — was dismissed for lying to the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Mr. Kushner decided to attend.
As Mr. Kushner tucked into his “typical salad,” Mr. Christie wrote, the president said to him, “This Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn.” Mr. Christie said that he started laughing, and the president asked why.
“‘Sir,’ I said, ‘this Russia thing is far from over,’” Mr. Christie wrote. Mr. Trump responded: “What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.” Mr. Kushner added, “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”
Which looks at first sight like evidence of Trump's attempts to obstruct the investigation, but that's not at all what the ex-governor meant to suggest, heavens no:

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Christie said that he did not believe Mr. Flynn was let go because of the Russia inquiry, but because keeping him on was “untenable” after officials said he had lied to the vice president.
“I think they thought that a result of that would be that this Russia stuff was over with, but I did not ever hear anybody say that that was the motivation,” he said.
He was merely just saying. What he's primarily doing in the book passage, of course, is sniping at Kushner, that salad-consuming ephebe (so unlike the manly, robust president, and of course Christie himself), letting us know (correctly, I think) that he's just as dumb as Trump, or perhaps that he just pretends to be, the sniveling yes-man (so unlike the bluff, gruff memoirist, and of course the bluff, gruff billionaire he's trying to mentor, who's unfortunately too innocent, bless his heart, to see how the son-in-law is manipulating him).

He was certainly not implying that there was any substance to that "Russia stuff", for goodness' sake, or that there was anything for the FBI to be investigating. Conspiracy between campaign and Russians? These people (so unlike a certain gloriously tough-minded former prosecutor) couldn't have conspired their way out of a paper bag!
Mr. Christie said the campaign was too disorganized and threadbare “to run a Tom Clancy operation,” and said he never saw evidence of collusion with Russian officials. But he argued that people like Mr. Flynn never should have been hired in the first place.
But what I'm wondering is, in that case, what made Christie so sure the Trump-Russia investigation was going to continue? How did he know that Trump's and Kushner's hopes of putting it behind them were vain? What information did he have, on Valentine's Day 2017 (it was Valentine's Day, and the news media were told they talked mostly about Christie's work combating opioid abuse, and didn't mention Kushner was there), that told him the investigation was about more than just Flynn?

Well, we do know that
On January 19, 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration, The New York Times reported that the intelligence community had broadened its investigation into interference in the election. According to The New York Times, intelligence agencies were no longer just investigating Russian hacking but were also looking at Russian communications and financial statements as part of an ongoing investigation into Trump, Trump associates such as Michael Flynn, and Russian officials.
So maybe Christie was thinking about that. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have been assured by director Comey that he wasn't in fact being investigated, though he'd been unable to persuade Comey to say so in public, in the course of his formal briefing on the Russia investigation on January 6 and in a phone call of January 27, and it seems likely this was at least formally true, in that we now understand no case file on Trump was opened up until after Trump fired Comey in early May. So did Trump have a reason to believe that Times story was wrong of which Christie was innocent? Maybe.

But the most important clue to Trump's state of mind on that Valentine's Day might be what happened later that afternoon, after a Homeland Security meeting, as Director Comey reported it in one of those memos

I'd forgotten that detail of how the second- and third-most Russia-compromised people in the room lingered, and never noticed "the email investigation" (which I imagine refers to the secretary of state server scandal, not the emails stolen from Democrats by Russians and published by WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign).

And then some roundabout talk about Sean Spicer and Donald's Tweet and the leak of his phone calls with the Australian prime minister and the Mexican president and a complaint that nobody in the press was being jailed like Judy Miller (I think) and then back to Flynn:

Whatever he may have told Christie and Kushner, then, he wasn't confident that firing Flynn would stop the Russia investigation, but it seems certain he was hoping it would. He seems to have thought Flynn was the only person on the FBI's list who could get him in trouble (who did the FBI know about when they briefed Trump on January 6 briefing? not Sessions or Kushner, for instance; perhaps just the insignificant Papadopoulos and Page, and then Manafort, whom he believed he could trust absolutely for reasons we don't yet know; but nothing about Kushner or Junior, or Cohen or Sater or Prince or Stone or the other thugs, and Trump likely didn't have a very clear idea what kind of evidence was going to be out there).

He was hoping to make a deal with Comey by firing Flynn—"I've punished him myself, you don't have to take the trouble"—and of course he was wrong about that.

As to what Christie knew that he's not sharing with us, we may never find out, but I'm pretty sure there's something.

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