Today, George W. Bush’s former Chief White House Ethics Lawyer, Richard W. Painter, joined forces with Norm Eisen, Chair of the watchdog group CREW (Citizens For Ethics) to write a NY Times op-ed predicting which top Trump officials will be the next to feel Special Prosecutor Mueller’s wrath, in light of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s plea deal in which he names the now-president as the one who gave the order to collude with Russia.
Are Kushner and Don Jr. Next? https://t.co/DNjmej1HVT
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 1, 2017
The ethics watchdog duo named First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner and First Son Donald Trump Jr. as the two most likely next targets of Mueller’s investigation, leading Mr. Eisen to tweet out, “Future Trump family reunions might have to be behind bars . . . .”
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) December 1, 2017
Of Kushner, the pair wrote:
It is probably Mr. Kushner who is in greatest jeopardy now. Bloomberg has reported that he is the very senior transition member who directed Mr. Flynn to reach out to Russia. Mr. Kushner has already been questioned by the special counsel and by Congress. If he was one of those officials Mr. Flynn spoke to and he was not honest about it when questioned, he could face similar false statement charges.
Of Trump Jr.:
Donald Trump Jr.’s exposure is also deepened by the Flynn plea, along similar lines as Mr. Kushner. He might (or might not) be one of the unnamed transition participants Mr. Flynn identified. Moreover, the president’s son has been interviewed at length as a part of congressional investigations, and Mr. Flynn’s testimony could show he was not candid. Because of Mr. Flynn’s role on the campaign as a trusted member of the inner circle, he may also have a great deal to say about topics like Mr. Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with several Russians, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner, or about the Trump scion’s contacts with WikiLeaks. If Mr. Flynn’s recollection is not the same as what Trump the Younger told Congress, he is in serious trouble.
But Kushner and Trump Jr. are not the only members of President Trump’s inner circle with something to fear from Flynn’s plea deal:
Lest there be any doubt about what is happening, the statement of the offense filed along with Mr. Flynn’s plea shows that he is prepared to testify that the communications that he lied about, concerning conversations with the Russian ambassador in December 2016, were discussed with multiple members of the transition team — including one “senior official” and one “very senior member.” It is not yet clear who those individuals are, but transition officials and members included Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. as well as Vice President Mike Pence, Representative Devin Nunes of California; the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
General Flynn pleaded guilty today to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversation during the White House transition with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about the incoming Trump administration lowering Russian sanctions in exchange for the Kremlin drawing down its retaliatory measures.
As Painter and Eisen write:
Making a false statement to a federal official is a felony offense, but nowhere near as bad as what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, could likely have charged Mr. Flynn with, including charges for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (similar to those brought against the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates) or those stemming from a possible attempt to kidnap a Turkish cleric in Pennsylvania. By pleading guilty and agree to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, Mr. Flynn also appears to have averted prosecution of his son, who was reportedly implicated in some of the misconduct.
Trump is not paying Flynn or Flynn Jr.’s legal fees, which amount to at least $1 million, forcing the disgraced intelligence official to put his house up for sale. Ultimately he had nowhere to turn but Mueller.
However, with Flynn helping the Special Counsel gets closer to the dark heart of the truth, the First Family has fewer and fewer places to hide.