Did K. T. McFarland Actually Admit That Russia Elected Trump?

streiff // Posted at 6:00 pm on December 02, 2017

Someone, probably a Democrat staffer in one of the Capitol Hill investigations, has leaked a batch of Trump transition team emails to the New York Times. There are three parts to this story. First, there is a tendentious set up of a strawman scenario. Second, there is insight into how the transition team viewed the situation. Third, there is another collusion story.

The set up.

When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

I don’t believe this is correct in any way, shape, or form. I just spent a couple of hours pouring over Google searches about Flynn and the Russians after the election. I find a lot of media stories carrying some form of this from the NY Daily News:

The official narrative now being peddled by the administration is that Flynn lied to his bosses and the public about his contact with Russian officials just before Trump took office, and paid the price as soon as his lies were discovered.

In other words, you can find a lot of people saying this happened but you can’t find anyone actually saying it. Flynn was fired for telling Mike Pence he hadn’t engaged in talks with the Russians about the sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed. He had. The important thing here is that no one believed for a second that Flynn has “lied to his bosses,” which would include Trump. In fact, if you run this Google search, https://goo.gl/vURYic, you find a lot about Flynn lying to Pence and the media and other staffers, you don’t find any hint that anyone thinks he lied to Trump.

Transition team world view.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

This is true and it should be true. Obama’s foreign policy operation acted like a middle school mean girl’s clique. They had cool people they wanted to hang out with, like Iran. There were kids they hated, like Israel. And there were the kids with whom they’d been BFFs and then had a falling out, like Russia. And, in true adolescent fashion, they set about trying to hurt the kids they didn’t like. It was no secret that Russia was playing in our election an a very low level, as best anyone can determine accounts associated with the Russian government bought $46,000 in social media ads and social media ad buys by any Russian entity barely reached $100,000. When faced with the obvious ‘meddling’ the best Obama could manage was to tell Putin to “knock it off,” and then avert his eyes.

Once it became apparent that his preferred candidate did not win, then Obama went ahead with some sanctions, the retaliation to which has gutted out diplomatic presence in Russia, in order to make any thawing of relations with Russia impossible.

The Trump transition team ignored a pointed request from the Obama administration to avoid sending conflicting signals to foreign officials before the inauguration and to include State Department personnel when contacting them. Besides the Russian ambassador, 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 over its building of settlements.

Mr. Cobb said the Trump team had never agreed to avoid such interactions. But one former White House official has disputed that, telling Mr. Mueller’s investigators that Trump transition officials had agreed to honor the Obama administration’s request.

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

Mr. Obama, she wrote, was trying to “box Trump in diplomatically with Russia,” which could limit his options with other countries, including Iran and Syria. “Russia is key that unlocks door,” she wrote.

She also wrote that the sanctions over Russian election meddling were intended to “lure Trump in trap of saying something” in defense of Russia, and were aimed at “discrediting Trump’s victory by saying it was due to Russian interference.”

I seriously doubt the Trump transition team gave their word to the Obama administration on anything in foreign policy. In particular, the Kushner-Flynn conversation is about trying to get U.S. allies to vote against an anti-Israel resolution which the Samantha Power not only abstained on but helped write. But even if they did, so what? They were under no legal, moral, or ethical obligation to go along with the Obama administration sandbagging the only democracy and our most reliable ally in the Middle East.

Collusion Redux.

This is where I question the motives of the New York Times (just joking, I don’t question their very obvious motives at all). They have the email but they only print excerpts so you can’t judge context. But this is what is causing all the interest:

She also wrote that the sanctions over Russian election meddling were intended to “lure Trump in trap of saying something” in defense of Russia, and were aimed at “discrediting Trump’s victory by saying it was due to Russian interference.”

“If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote.

From the SecondMostSlappableFaceOnTheInternetTM

In the story, the NYT has this:

It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White House lawyer said on Friday that she meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way.

Actually it is pretty clear. The transition team was obsessed with the credibility of their election being questioned. They were well aware that it was being claimed that the Russians had aided them. It simply beggars the imagination that the same person can go from bemoaning the attack on Trump’s legitimacy because of the allegations of Russian involvement to saying she agrees with the proposition in just a couple of paragraphs. But this is just more fodder for a collusion-with-Russia story that is nonexistent.

Many years ago when I was a staff officer reporting directly to one of the Army three-star deputy chiefs of staff, I did a pretty interesting study that got some good reviews in The Building. And ‘interesting’ stuff always has a way of leaking out. I was called into a meeting with The Man, himself, and he told me to rewrite the study and “if any sentence could be a headline in the Washington Post, take it out.” Today we have a great example of why that is the case.