K.T. McFarland was a Fox News commentator and strong, early supporter of candidate Donald Trump. Her loyalty seems to have earned her first a place on the Trump presidential transition team and later appointment as Deputy National Security Advisor to Michael Flynn. She didn’t last much longer in the position than Flynn did. But she was nominated to be ambassador to Singapore about the time she “resigned” from the Deputy NSA Advisor position. That didn’t work out, either. The Republican-controlled senate failed to confirm her and, in February 2018, she withdrew as a nominee.
That’s the official story, but the more you look in to events the more you have to wonder why Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III hasn’t indicted her.
During the transition, the Obama Administration imposed some pretty significant sanction on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. On December 29, 2016, he ordered the ejection of 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposed sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U.
Russia’s response? <crickets>
That’s pretty unusual for the very belligerent Vladimir Putin. No retaliation at all.
We now know that Russia’s silence was, in part, because Trump’s nominee for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, had numerous contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in which he promised the Trump administration would “re-visit” those sanctions following Trump’s inauguration. Flynn, of course, lied to the FBI about those conversations and was caught out. That didn’t get him fired, but he also lied to Vice President Pence about it, and that got him canned.
K. T. McFarland, Flynn’s deputy, was the person Flynn bounced his ideas off of, the person he talked to before contacting Kislyak and the person he talked to afterwards. It’s very clear from the public portions of Flynn’s plea agreement that there were extended dialogues between Flynn and McFarland about how to reassure a furious Putin.
When the FBI came to talk to her in 2017, she stuck to the Trump party line, that she had never discussed the sanctions with Flynn. When Flynn’s plea made her FBI statement a transparent lie, McFarland walked back her earlier denial that sanctions were discussed, saying a general statement Flynn had made to her that things were going to be okay could have been a reference to sanctions. Reportedly, McFarland and her lawyer, Robert Giuffra, convinced the FBI that she had not intentionally misled the bureau but had rather spoken from memory, without the benefit of any documents that could have helped her remember her exchanges with Flynn about the Kislyak conversations.
Then there is Ms. McFarland’s December 29, 2016 email message to Thomas P. Bossert, then another member of the Trump transition teams, who later became the president’s homeland security adviser, before, yes, also being fired. In that email – no copy of its seems to be public – Ms. McFarland warned Bossert that 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,” according to the New York Times, which has a copy of the email.
The thing about committing a crime is that you can’t get off by “undoing” your crime. If you rob a bank, you can’t avoid a prosecution for bank robbery by taking the money back before you are arrested. Similarly, you can’t avoid a prosecution for lying to the FBI by doing a 180° change in your testimony a few days later. Especially when the emails make completely clear you were up to your eyeballs in the effort to subvert the Russian sanction. Why wasn’t she indicted? Her claim of “forgetting” and her characterization of her discussions with Flynn are not credible. They don’t pass the Red-Face Test. Perhaps there is a cooperation agreement in place between the Special Counsel and Ms. McFarland? That’s speculation, but otherwise Mueller’s conduct seems inexplicable.1
Finally, there’s the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to confirm her as Ambassador to Singapore. Sure, she lied in her confirmation hearings, but lying is practically a job requirement in the Trump Administration. If lying disqualified you from appointment in the Trump Administration, Brett Kavanaugh wouldn’t be on the SCOTUS.
As WC said earlier, it’s a curious case.
- McFarland was at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and members of the transition team during the critical December 28-29, 2016 period. It’s perfectly possible she met with Trump to report on Flynn’s efforts. But, at least at this point, we don’t know one way or another. ↩