“This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”

Developments on Day 321 of the Trump Administration:

See also Podcasts: Trump’s Jerusalem Mistake

Did Flynn Promise Confirm Trump-Russia Cooperation Before Inauguration?

Eleven minutes after the inauguration of Donald Trump, Michael Flynn — senior Trump campaign advisor and then National Security Advisor in the new Administration — promised a former business associate that sanctions against Russia would soon be “ripped up”, according to a whistle-blower who spoke with legislators.

As he sat behind Trump listening to the Inaugural Address, Flynn texted Alex Copson of ACU Strategic Partners, which hired Flynn in 2015 as an advisor for a plan to work with Russia to build nuclear power plants throughout the Middle East. The message was that the initiative could proceed with the removal of sanctions.

Listening to Trump, Copson told the whistle-blower, “I couldn’t be better. This is the best day of my life. This is the start of something I’ve been working on for years, and we are good to go.”

Copson then showed the Flynn text to the whiste-blower, who noted the time of 12:11 pm, and said, “Mike has been putting everything in place for us….This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.” He explained that sanctions would be “ripped up” in one of the Administration’s first actions, saying Obama “fucked everything up in my nuclear deal with the sanctions”.

The whistle-blower’s account is set out in a five-page letter by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, to the committee’s GOP chairman Trey Gowdy.

Read the letter

Flynn left as National Security Advisor after only 25 days, amid revelations about his conversations in December 2016 with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, including over additional sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama. Last week, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Court records confirmed that the former Trump advisor is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. They documented that senior Trump staff, notably Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, gave him guidance before the discussions with Kislyak.

Despite the significance of the revelation, Gowdy indicated that the Oversight Committee will not follow up with the whistle-blower. Responding to Cummings by letter on Wednesday afternoon, Gowdy said that the claims “fit squarely within” Mueller’s jurisdiction and that he had promised the Special Counsel that he would not interfere with his investigation.

Cummings maintained that Gowdy should subpoena the White House and the Flynn Intelligence Group, Flynn’s former company, for documents that the House committee had requested in March but had not yet been provided. Cummings also said that Gowdy should subpoena Flynn, Copson, and four others to testify.

Trump Jr. Wrongly Invokes Attorney-Client Privilege to Avoid Answers to Congressional Committee

Donald Trump Jr. wrongly invokes attorney-client privilege to avoid answering questions in an eight-hour session with
the House Intelligence Committee.

A Democratic member of the committee, Rep. Jackie Speier, summarized:

My takeaway is he has a very serious case of amnesia.

He was pretty non-responsive on a lot of issues that, frankly, you would have a recollection of, considering it was just a year ago that many of these events took place when Donald Trump was the candidate. He was by his father’s side; he was campaigning with his father. And you get the impression in listening to him that he didn’t spend much time talking to his father.

Speier added, “Lots of people don’t recall things. But, I would say that there are elements of this where he was very clear and knew precisely what had happened, and then other circumstances he didn’t at all.”

Committee Democrats focused on Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting — alongside Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manfort — with three Kremlin-linked envoys about the possible provision of material damaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

At one point, the legislators asked about Trump Jr.’s first, misleading response about the meeting when it was revealed by The New York Times in July 2017. Multiple media reports indicate that Donald Trump Sr. shaped the false response.

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell said Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege and “refused to share anything” about what he and his father discussed about the statement. Trump Jr. did tell the committee that he engaged in a back-and-forth about the wording of the statement with communications director Hope Hicks, according to “a committee source”.

The committee also asked about Trump Jr.’s correspondence with WikiLeaks, which disseminated e-mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s advisors — after they were provided by Russian operatives through third parties, according to US intelligence services — in autumn 2016.

Speier said:

I think the overriding issue here is, why does every road lead to Russia?

Every business deal, every engagement. The engagement with WikiLeaks was all quite opaque in terms of how it all started, why [Trump Jr.] was able to direct-message with [WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange]. So, there’s still a lot of pieces to this puzzle that we don’t have the answers to.

Swalwell said the Democrats plan to present Republican counterparts with legal arguments for why attorney-client privilege “doesn’t apply” just because lawyers were present for the conversations in question.

However, Swalwell said, “It’s up to the Republicans whether or not to call him back.”

58 Democrats Vote For Impeachment Proceedings v. Trump

Almost 60 Democrats, an unexpectedly high number, support an effort to launch impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

The resolution from Rep. Al Green of Texas was set aside 364-58. All Republicans voted with 126 Democrats to defeat the resolution.

Those Democrats included Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who announced ahead of the vote they would vote to table the effort. They cited ongoing investigations by congressional committees and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Green’s articles of impeachment said Trump has “brought disrepute, contempt, ridicule and disgrace on the Presidency” and “sown discord among the people of the United States”. They cited Trump’s response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August and his attacks on National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem to raise social issues.

Veterans Administration Ends Program for Homeless Vets

Four days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin used a prominent Washington event to promote the Trump administration’s promise to house all homeless vets, the Veterans Administration pulls resources from a major housing program.

The VA said it is ending a $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans. The money will go to local VA hospitals that can use it as they like, as long as they show evidence of dealing with homelessness.

The move came as an annual survey showed a 1.5% increase in veteran homelessness this year — the first rise since 2010. Most of the jump occurred in Los Angeles, where housing costs are rising sharply.

According to Government data, there were almost 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program slashed by the VA had reduced the number of displaced servicemembers, serving 138,000 since 2010 and cutting the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill, or have substance abuse problems.

Shulkin insisted on Wednesday that overall funding for veteran homelessness was not being cut, but suggested he might reconsider the decision as he promised to get input from local VA leaders and others “on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most”.

GOP Legislators Make It Easier to Carry Guns Across State Lines

Republicans push a bill through the House of Representatives that will make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines.

The House approved the bill 231-198, largely along party lines. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The measure is the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people in October and November.

Republicans said the reciprocity measure, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, means gun owners can travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.