Media breathless over McFarland memo. Is Trump next?

Somebody at the New York Times has uncovered a memo from December of last year written by K. T. McFarland, leaving some of Trump’s detractors on the edge of their seats. Is this the “smoking gun” they’ve been looking for to bring the President down or just more business as usual? When combined with Trump’s recent tweet about Flynn lying to the FBI you’ve got a lot of smoke, regardless of how much fire may be underneath. Reading between the lines of the newspaper coverage and hearing the tone being taken by some cable news show hosts, it feels as if they don’t want to get their hopes up too much just yet, but phrases such as, “moving the investigation closer to Trump himself” are common.

First let’s look at the McFarland memo, brought to you by the Gray Lady.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

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.

This all revolves around the new sanctions that Barack Obama was dropping on Moscow and concerns among the Trump transition team that he was tanking relations with Russia before Trump could come in and try to patch up the situation. She describes it as an effort to box Trump in on Russia, while simultaneously attempting to discredit Trump’s victory by implying that the Russians helped him. The actual line from the McFarland memo reads, “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.”

Just thrown U.S.A. election to him? What does that even mean? You can easily find some meaning in it either way, depending on whether you’re cheering for Trump to succeed or fail, but it’s certainly a curious turn of a phrase. It’s also somewhat lacking in terms of being a smoking gun of any sort.

In the end, though, it comes down to what this does to the Flynn investigation and if it’s going anywhere else. It seems to have been fairly clearly established that Flynn lied to the FBI about having conversations with the Russians during the transition. But why? Assuming all of the supporting evidence presented thus far is accurate, that’s an incredibly dumb thing to lie about. So he was trying to smooth things over for Trump with Russia before Obama blew up the entire relationship prior to the inauguration. Given the fact that they were on their way into the White House (and that the Logan Act is a complete joke) that’s par for the course in terms of transitions.

So Flynn lied under oath to the FBI, which lands him in trouble. But the thing that he lied about wasn’t a crime. Who else gets in trouble over that? Read Allahpundit’s piece from the other day where he predicts that if there’s another domino to fall, it’s likely not Trump, but Jared Kushner. And if it does play out that way, if there’s one person who could probably count on getting a politically dicey pardon from this White House, it’s Kushner.

It seems as if, yet again, Trump’s biggest problem here isn’t what he did or didn’t do during the transition, but that tweet this week where he said he’d fired Flynn because he lied not only to Pence, but to the FBI. But Trump didn’t actually cut him loose until well after that. The President’s saving grace once again is the confusion over how his social media posts are handled. It’s not a statement he made under oath and they’re even raising questions about whether he wrote that one himself or not. The whole thing is turning even uglier, but if you think Donald Trump has been pinned down by the New York Times this time, I wouldn’t bet the entire ranch on it unless there’s another, significantly larger shoe waiting to drop.