Hari Sreenivasan: In a news story the New York Times this weekend there's more evidence that Michael Flynn was acting on behalf of President Trump's transition team when he was in contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Joining me now from Washington D.C. is one of the reporters on that story Sharon LaFreniere. So what did the White House say at the time of his firing and what did you find?
Sharon Lafraniere: So the narrative until Friday was that Michael Flynn had talked to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions on December 29th and there was nothing illegal or unethical about that. But he did not own up to it when Vice President Pence and others in the White House asked him about it. But what we learned on Friday was that before he talked to the Russian ambassador and after he talked to the Russian ambassador, Mike Flynn was in touch with senior members of the transition team. So that raises the question of why were they saying that they were left in the dark if others on the transition team knew what he was doing?
Hari Sreenivasan: There was a tweet that one of your colleagues Michael Schmidt put out this is a photograph that looks like an e-mail by K.T. McFarland and she says they're among a couple of things. She says ‘My take' and then one of the things she says in there that stood out to a lot of people that ‘this would box Trump diplomatically with Russia if there's a tit for tat escalation, Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia which has just thrown USA Election to him.' The word thrown ‘USA election' – is this a phrase that somebody would say casually? Is there something more to this?
Sharon Lafraniere: What the White House says is that she was not saying that Russia threw the election to Trump. She was saying that the Democrats are spinning it as Russia through the election to Trump and that's not what she meant. So it could be a misreading. But it is clear from the e-mails that she was very concerned about the sanctions and the Trump team was upset about these sanctions. They saw that's like a last minute grenade that the Obama administration was throwing in their lap on the way out the door. And it was a way for the Obama administration to discredit Trump's victory because the sanctions were in response to Russia's meddling in the elections. And they're trying to box them diplomatically so he can't improve relations with Russia. And you know overall this is a big problem for us and she ends that now with General Flynn will be talking to the Russian ambassador tonight. So her e-mail then is forwarded to six other transition officials including Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. And and then two days later Michael Flynn has another conversation with Kislyak and he himself briefs senior members of the transition team about that conversation and again it is about sanctions. So it sort of begs the question if Sean Spicer, Priebus, and Bannon all knew that he was talking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, who was being left in the dark?
Hari Sreenivasan: What do these e-mails show? Is it a matter of impropriety going against the wishes of the Obama administration or is there something illegal about having these sorts of conversations?
Sharon Lafraniere: No there isn't. It appears there's nothing illegal about having these sorts of conversations and about the Obama administration didn't want them to have these conversations. They had asked them you know please don't subvert U.S. policy. There can only be one president at the time. If you're going to have conversations with foreign officials and stakeholders that's fine but bring along a State Department person so there a record of that and none of that happened.
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