The 5-Minute Fix: The Michael Flynn timeline haunting Trump

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Did President Trump know that his national security adviser was having politically troublesome, potentially illegal, super secret conversations with the Russian ambassador about lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia? We don’t know. But we did learn Monday that the White House’s lawyer was warned that Michael Flynn was lying to them — and that Russia could use that fact as blackmail. Sally Yates, the acting attorney general during the first month of the Trump administration, testified before the Senate on Monday about all this. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post) From her testimony, we learned three things: 1) After she heard Vice President Pence go on TV and say Flynn didn’t talk sanctions with the Russian ambassador, she immediately reached out to the White House’s lawyer to tell him she had proof that Flynn did talk sanctions. (Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were picked up by the FBI during “routine surveillance” of the Russian ambassador.) 2) She told White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was probably lying to them about it, and that the Russians knew Flynn was lying, which meant he could be blackmailed. “And that created a compromise situation,” Yates said Monday, “a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.” 3) What the White House did with this info is unclear. Trump fired Yates shortly after for not enforcing his travel ban. Trump fired Flynn only after The Washington Post reported that Flynn was lying about discussing sanctions. 4 key dates to Flynn’s downfall Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) WaPo’s Philip Bump put together a comprehensive timeline of everything we’re talking about right now. Here are four dates to keep in mind: Dec. 29: Flynn places five phone calls to Kislyak. These calls were apparently on unsecured lines and monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. On the same day, President Obama announces sanctions to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Jan. 26: Yates informs the White House’s lawyer that Flynn was lying about the nature of his calls with Kislyak, and that this made him vulnerable to blackmail by Russia. Feb. 9: The Washington Post reports that Flynn did talk sanctions with Russia’s ambassador. Feb. 13: Flynn resigns is basically fired by Trump for misleading Pence. Why does any of this matter? Trump and Flynn at a campaign event in October. (George Frey/Getty Images) It depends on who you ask.
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Republicans are concerned that someone leaked secret intelligence to the media. Flynn’s conversations were supposed to be secret to all but a few in the intelligence community. (The U.S., by law, keeps secret any U.S. citizen caught up in surveillance. Sharing their identity is known as “unmasking.”) Democrats are concerned that Flynn’s desire to be friendly with Russia is a clue to the ultimate question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The sanctions Flynn discussed, remember, were aimed at punishing Russia for meddling in the U.S. election to help Trump win. These are the best metaphors for Trump (AP) We’ve never seen anything like Trump in U.S. politics — a politician who got elected after saying and doing pretty much everything politicians are NOT supposed to say and do to get elected. So it’s only natural we reach for something familiar to describe him. The Fix’s Aaron Blake rounded up some of the best metaphors yet to describe Trump, from journalists, his opponents and average voters. Some of my favorites: Your dad “Obama is more like your best friend who has parties and has Beyoncé over,” a Michigan voter recently said in a focus group. “And then Trump is like your dad. He’s going to come whoop your a– because you didn’t do what you were supposed to do and get it done.” Godzilla President Trump? Is that you? (Warner Bros.) “He’s like Godzilla. Everything they throw at the monster makes him stronger.” — Bill Maher

A Navy SEAL
“As somebody said to me yesterday, Donald Trump is like a Navy SEAL; he never backs down when he’s in a fight” — Fox News’ Steve Doocy A grilled cheese sandwich President Trump, is that you? (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post) “I see a guy who seems to pause and dig for the more precise and better language he wants to use, and never finds it. It’s the same dish — it’s a grilled cheese sandwich rhetorically over and over again.” — Alec Baldwin Have one you want to share? Email me! Actually, maybe “Dad” is a better metaphor for Mike Pence?
 
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