TRUMP AGENDA: Repeated contacts
Breaking last night in the New York Times: “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.”
First on NBC: “The White House kept Vice President Mike Pence in the dark for weeks about the warning it had gotten about national security adviser Michael Flynn from the Justice Department, Pence's press secretary said Tuesday. Pence did not find out until Feb. 9, according to Marc Lotter. Trump was first informed about the Justice Department's concerns regarding Flynn on Jan. 26, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at Tuesday's daily press briefing.”
And from the Washington Post: “[E]ven as Flynn flailed, Pence did not urge Trump to fire him, or lash out against him. Instead, said two officials familiar with the situation, Pence was disappointed and suggested that Flynn could publicly apologize. Others within the White House, however, thought what Flynn had done was egregious and unacceptable. “The vice president is a very forgiving man,” said one White House official.”
Where was Flynn when he made his ill-fated call? A beach resort in the Dominican Republic, writes the Washington Post.
Here’s what Clinton’s team has to say about the new revelations.
The AP: “U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress will continue to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, even after President Donald Trump fired his national security adviser for providing inaccurate accounts of his contacts with the Russian ambassador last year. Democrats said an independent investigation was the best way to answer questions about the Trump administration's ties to Russia. But Republican leaders continue to refuse to consider that option and said three congressional investigations underway were enough.”
POLITICO reports on the scrutiny surrounding Trump’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.
The Washington Post: “President Trump’s ouster of national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and the circumstances leading up to it, have quickly become a major crisis for the fledgling administration, forcing the White House on the defensive and precipitating the first significant breach in relations between Trump and an increasingly restive Republican Congress. Even as the White House described Trump’s “immediate, decisive” action in demanding Flynn’s resignation late Monday as the end of an unfortunate episode, senior GOP lawmakers were buckling under growing pressure to investigate it.”
All of the upheaval is complicating the visit today of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, notes the New York Times.
And from the Wall Street Journal: “The White House said Tuesday that finding a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians doesn’t have to include an agreement to establish two separate states, marking a dramatic break from decades of U.S. policy. On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House to meet President Donald Trump, a senior administration official said the Israelis and Palestinians have to agree on what form peace between their countries will take—and that didn’t necessarily include two states.”
There’s also this: “Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile that American officials say violates a landmark arms control treaty, posing a major test for President Trump as his administration is facing a crisis over its ties to Moscow.”
Gateway Pundit is in the press room now. POLITICO explains why that matters.
DEM WATCH: Latest in the DNC chair race
From NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “With the public forums winding down and just over a week of campaigning left, the race to lead the Democratic National Committee is moving from the public eye to the proverbial backroom. No one candidate out of the 10 still in the running has yet to secure the promise of 224 party member votes needed to win a majority on the first round of balloting. That means the race's two front-runners, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and former Labor Sec. Tom Perez, are looking to pick up support from lesser-known candidates. Multiple sources told NBC News that Ellison has offered another candidate, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, a role leading DNC operations in exchange for his support.”