The question was simple and direct. Did you ever discuss directly with Michael Flynn any of his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak?
The answer by Flynn’s former deputy national security advisor, K.T. McFarland, was unequivocal, and — it turns out — damning.
“I am not aware of any of the events or issues described above,” McFarland wrote, responding to written questions from Democrat Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, as part of her nomination to be ambassador to Singapore.
Booker detailed in three meaty paragraphs the communications between Flynn and Kislyak monitored by the FBI and the NSA (as Flynn must have known they would be before he lied about them to the FBI).
McFarland, who told the Senators that she was “not aware” of any of those communications, in fact discussed them with Flynn in emails uncovered by the New York Times. And Flynn’s own plea deal says he kept two top campaign officials, soon identified in press reports as McFarland and Jared Kushner, informed of his conversations with Russian officials.
Booker Monday released the full set of questions he posed to McFarland, and said in a statement:
“Recent developments suggest that Ms. McFarland gave false testimony to the United States Senate on a matter as significant as communications between the Russian government and the Trump transition team. If this is the case, this is an alarming development, and another example of a pattern of deception on the part of Trump’s closest associates regarding their connections and communications to Russian government officials.”
Sean Bartlett, a spokesman for Ben Cardin, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations committee, said, “Senator Cardin believes that before Senators are asked to vote on her nomination, Ms. McFarland should publicly clarify the information she said and sent to the Committee that now appears to be incomplete. The onus is on her.”
In an email exchange on December 29 that was forwarded to six other Trump advisers, including Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, she wrote that President Obama was trying to “box Trump in diplomatically with Russia” by sanctioning the nation for its interference in our election, and that doing so would have negative implications for Trump’s dealings with other countries, notably Iran and Syria. “Russia is key that unlocks door,” she wrote.
McFarland, who served in government decades ago, more recently cultivated her foreign policy credentials in the green rooms of Fox News in New York. She was known for her hardline positions—pushing for war with Iran, insisting waterboarding is not torture, and saying torture is useful if it works. She got to know Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump through seeing them in the green rooms,and had Flynn as a guest on her online talk show at least three times.
As the two grew close, she was sometimes called “Flynn’s brain,” a dubious distinction in the best of times, and now a moniker that’s drawn her into the Russia investigation. She wrote a column in 2013 for Fox News saying Russian President Putin “is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize” because he “stepped in and threw Obama a lifeline” in Syria, a debatable observation.
Nobody has thought much about McFarland since she left the White House in April as part of General Kelly’s attempt to clean house. With Flynn already gone, her consolation prize was Trump naming her ambassador to Singapore. Foreign policy professionals despaired at the time that the appointment was treated as though she were being banished to Siberia, unnecessarily disparaging Singapore, a key ally.
McFarland testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee in July, and in September her nomination was passed out of the committee on a party line vote. Every Republican supported her; only one Democrat, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, supported her—apparently in solidarity with a lobbying campaign by former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a Yale College and Law School classmate of McFarland’s husband, Alan, a well-known investment banker.
When McFarland appeared before the Senate committee,she was seen as unqualified but not necessarily more so than other political ambassadorial appointees. Now, she may be the latest casualty of the Russia probe.
Lying to Congress won’t put her in jail the way lying to the FBI has put her former boss in jeopardy, but it’s a career ender—or at least it should be if there’s any integrity left in the GOP.