At 5:37 pm EST yesterday, I sent out this tweet that clearly angered the news gods.
It's past 5:30, where the hell is our Earth-shattering Trump scandal for today?— Jacob Weindling (@Jakeweindling) May 17, 2017
Half an hour later, it was revealed that the Deputy Attorney General appointed a special investigator to oversee the investigation into Trump's ties to Russia, and the rest of the night was filled with bombshell after bombshell. The news gods were not finished, as they tossed in a few more this morning just for good measure. Here are all the major news stories that broke since 6 pm EST yesterday, ranked from least important to most important.
The Washington Post published a headline that looks incredibly damning, but when you drill down into the context behind the quote, it looks like they were just screwing around.
That whole "Putin pays Trump" thing.
Obviously a joke.
Media needs to get a grip. pic.twitter.com/I6ElWqvrQi— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 18, 2017
What is most damning about this article is that Paul Ryan used up what little credibility he had left. His counselor denied that this conversation ever took place, and then when WaPo told him that they had the tape, he pivoted to saying:
”This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What's more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia's interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”
Additionally, Buck claimed that he was not given quotes at first by WaPo, to which the national editor of The Washington Post publicly rebuked on Twitter.
This is not true https://t.co/3gRD9xhecC— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) May 17, 2017
I will keep repeating this line from my column earlier this week until it stops being true: Paul Ryan—also known as the biggest fraud in American history—will happily take up residence underneath Trump's boot just so long as he gets to rip food out of poor people's mouths.
8. Roger Ailes Died
The emperor of Bullshit Mountain finally succumbed to father time this morning, and there are certainly a multitude of women inside Murdochville who are breathing a sigh of relief that the chief sexual predator of Fox News is no more.
A Fox News employee who'd been sexually harassed by Ailes said this morning, "Justice."— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) May 18, 2017
7. The Trump Family Blind Spot
This one was something of an addendum to the tornado of Michael Flynn's legal troubles that were exposed last night, but it's still eye-opening.
EXCLUSIVE: Trump family had "blind spot when it came to Flynn," per source. New details re mtg where Flynn asked for & was granted NSA job. pic.twitter.com/PK4J6nISU4— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) May 18, 2017
It's one thing when Donald Trump is a moron, that's just par for the course. But to see his entire family fall for a whiny, narcissistic, impulsive doofus who thinks he is far more competent and popular than he actually is…wait, never mind. It makes complete sense how the Trump family would fall prey to Michael Flynn's miniature Donald act.
Reuters dropped this bombshell as everyone was waking up this morning, and in a normal world, this would be a prime candidate for number one on this list. However, we exited reality a long time ago, and “Senior Trump advisors talking with the Russians” is so 2016. The thing that raised my eyebrow the most was that one of the calls was to Viktor Medvedchuk—Vladimir Putin's most trusted man in Ukraine. In All the Kremlin's Men, Medvedchuk is revealed as the guy who many people talk to in order to get a line into Putin's ear. Medvedchuk is so close with Putin that the Russian “president” stays at his mansion on many trips to Ukraine and is the godfather to Medvedchuk's daughter. That nugget in the story is not getting the attention it deserves.
This one is a bit of a doozy. We all have assumed that Flynn and Manafort are at the heart of this investigation just because it's obvious to anyone halfway paying attention to the Russian ordeal, but there have been few confirmations outside of CNN's report that a grand jury issued subpoenas for Flynn's bank records and contacts with Russia. Now NBC is reporting that both men are the target of grand jury subpoenas and that they will be central players in the investigation going forward, which makes Donald Trump's effort to get former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Flynn even more damning.
4. Michael Flynn May be Held in Contempt
This one dropped as I was writing this column. Holy cow.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Top Republican on Senate intelligence panel says Michael Flynn's lawyers say he will not honor subpoena.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 18, 2017
As I edited this, Senator Richard Burr said he may have spoken too soon, but it's clear that Flynn is not cooperating with the investigation right now.
Here's transcript of what Sen. Burr told reporters after initial comments on Flynn lawyers/docs pic.twitter.com/uT4pQzw4tv— Laura Barrón-López (@lbarronlopez) May 18, 2017
Trump's response to Flynn's legal woes?
The tale spun before all of this dropped last night was that Mike Pence had no idea Michael Flynn was doing the things he was doing, and his lies to the American public were based off of what Flynn was telling him. This story directly refutes that, as the New York Times reported that “Michael T. Flynn told President Trump's transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.” The head of Trump's transition team? Mike Pence.
This shit really stinks.
2. We Finally Have Some Independence in the Russian Investigation
This was the first big news item to drop around 6 pm EST yesterday and it already feels like it happened a decade ago.
BREAKING: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has named a special counsel for Russia probe. It will be former FBI Director Bob Mueller— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) May 17, 2017
Our commander-in-tweet isn't too happy about it.
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
1. Flynn Stopped Military Plan Turkey Opposed — After Being Paid as its Agent
This one probably won’t get the coverage it deserves since it’s not related to the Russian inquiry, but for my money, this is the most damning news to come out in the past 24 hours. The United States planned to help Kurdish forces take the city of Raqqa from ISIS. The plan had been vetted and approved by the Obama administration, but since it would take place on Trump’s watch, Obama left him to make the final decision. Michael Flynn immediately rejected the idea, and it’s not clear if he consulted anyone or even expressed why he didn’t want the operation to move forward. At the time, he was being paid over $500,000 by Turkey, who vehemently opposes any decision that emboldens the declared enemies of the Erdogan government—the Kurds. Trump approved the plan after Flynn had been fired.
This decision endangered American lives (and anyone else in ISIS’s sights). Raqqa is the capital of their wannabe caliphate. It is where most of their attacks on civilians are planned and organized. By nixing an operation to storm their castle, Michael Flynn gave ISIS more time to hatch plots and to prepare for the inevitable battle the West would bring to their capital city. Michael Flynn made a decision that benefited ISIS more than the United States because he was being paid by a foreign government.
I feel like I need to repeat that just to make sure that I’m not going crazy: the President’s National Security Advisor jeopardized national security to avoid betraying his $500,000+ contract with a foreign government that he failed to disclose. Legal scholars say that this falls just short of treason, but the common use of that term perfectly describes this action by Flynn, who Trump hired knowing that he was under federal investigation. Good Lord, what a mess.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.