Now that Michael Flynn has begun negotiating a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one of the more curious questions has become what Donald Trump knew and when he knew it. Flynn is now going to take Trump down, no matter how the two men got to this point. But the details may help shed some light on how Trump can be counted on to respond going forward. As it turns out, Trump didn’t know what hit him.
Here’s how it usually works with these storylines: a major media outlet gets wind of what’s going on and begins putting together a story. Along the way, that media outlet contacts the White House and asks Donald Trump for advance comment on the story. This at least partially tips Trump off about the story that’s about to come out, and he tends to go on a Twitter tirade out of frustration and a desire to distract from the story that’s about to get published. As it turns out, precisely none of that happened this time around.
After the New York Times first broke the story on Thursday evening that Flynn was negotiating a deal, the Washington Post followed up with more detail (link). As it turns out, Flynn’s attorney notified Trump’s attorney about the situation on Wednesday evening. This means that, as Rachel Maddow was reporting live on-air on Wednesday night about the defense fund Trump was setting up for his advisers, and Trump’s attorney followed up with a statement making clear that Flynn would not be included, it was because he had just gotten word from Flynn’s attorney that Flynn was going to flip.
So now we know that, while Donald Trump may or may not have instinctively had some sense of what was inevitably coming, he had no real advance warning that Michael Flynn was going to cut him off on Wednesday night and begin negotiating a deal. If Trump is acting shellshocked and increasingly unsure of himself, it’s because he didn’t know what hit him when the stunning blow landed.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report