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Vox Sentences: Mike Flynn gets thrown under a Russia-shaped bus

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National Security Adviser Michael Flynn apparently assumed no one listens to phone calls with the Russian ambassador.


Out like Flynn?

Michael Flynn Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • You may recall that National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had a much-ballyhooed phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, right around when then-President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against Russia. At the time, the Trump administration said Flynn had merely been wishing Kislyak a merry Christmas.
  • It turns out, shockingly, that was completely bogus. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The Washington Post reported Thursday night that Flynn and Kislyak had in fact not only discussed sanctions but had implied that they'd be rolled back under President Trump. In other words, Flynn, not yet a government official, was working with a foreign government to undermine existing US policy. [Washington Post / Greg Miller, Adam Entous, and Ellen Nakashima]
  • (It's not clear why anyone thought this wasn't going to come to light. Flynn, a former and current intelligence officer, somehow appears to have believed no one would be monitoring an American's calls to the Russian ambassador.) [NYT / Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo]
  • Members of team Trump appear to be responding to the latest revelation by blaming each other. Aides for Mike Pence (who went on a TV interview tour to back up the "Christmas call" story) have sworn that Flynn lied to Pence, presumably to make sure the scandal doesn't hurt Pence as well. [Politico / Matthew Nussbaum and Kyle Cheney]
  • Flynn, after all, is in a relatively weak position in the factionalized Trump White House — he's apparently fallen somewhat out of favor with the Steve Bannon faction. [NYT / Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman]
  • No one in the Trump White House appears to be happy right now. No one appears to trust each other. And some believe it's only a matter of time before heads start to roll. [Politico / Alex Isenstadt, Kenneth P. Vogel, and Josh Dawsey]

Town hall party like it's 2010

Town hall meeting CNN / Kyung Lah
  • Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, got intimidated into calling an early end to a town hall he held in his district Thursday night, after a crowd of hundreds chanted at him, "DO YOUR JOB!" [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • Chaffetz is something of the poster boy for Republican congressional fecklessness in the face of an alarming president. [Vox / Ezra Klein]
  • But it isn't just him. Republican Congress members have been facing angry progressives in town hall settings for weeks. Rep. David Brat (R-VA) memorably complained that wherever he went, "the women are in my grill." [Washington Post / Jenna Portnoy]
  • Much of this is the doing of a group of activists who wrote a guide called "Indivisible," which explicitly aims to replicate the success of the Tea Party in 2009-'10 on the left by targeting congressional offices — and succeed in protecting the Affordable Care Act as they succeeded, ultimately, in electing a Congress that wanted to repeal it. [NYT / Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg, and Angel Padilla]
  • The standard GOP talking point in response (just as the standard Democratic talking point in 2010) is that these are fake protests ginned up by professional activist groups — not grassroots but Astroturf. [Huffington Post / Igor Bobic]
  • (It does appear to be true that some of the town hall attendees, at least at Chaffetz's event, weren't actually constituents of the member they were there to challenge.) [Kyung Lah via CNN]
  • But it does appear they've helped shift the debate on health care. By now, even Republicans (for the most part) are starting from a promise to help all the people the ACA helps. [Washington Post / Greg Sargent]
  • Iconoclastic Republican Justin Amash (R-MI) went the other direction. He didn't promise his angry town hall attendees anything on health care; instead, he emphasized his agreement with them (and disagreement with President Trump) on other issues, and stayed longer than the allotted time to answer more questions instead of ducking out early, Chaffetz style. [Politico / Rachael Bade]

Lost in translation

Trump and Abe shake hands Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House Friday to discuss US-Japan relations, in a meeting that yielded some incredibly uncomfortable moments. For one, Trump didn’t seem to be wearing his translator earpiece for the first half of Abe’s statement, which was made in Japanese. (A White House official had to confirm that Trump had previewed the speech.) [NBC / Ali Vitali]
  • The meeting was meant to be a show of the two countries' close relationship. Abe stressed Japan’s economic value to the United States, highlighting Japanese business investments on American soil and the benefits Japanese technology could have in the US. He cited the bullet train, which could reduce travel time along the United States' Northeast Corridor to one hour. [New York Times / Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Peter Baker]
  • And Trump reaffirmed that he was “committed to the security of Japan” during the press conference. It sounds like a pretty normal thing for the United States to say, but it touched on a point of concern for Japan during the campaign, when Trump pledged to make Tokyo pay more for US defense aid. [Reuters / Steve Holland and Kiyoshi Takenaka]
  • Of course, that’s not the only point of tension between the two countries. Trump has also accused Japan of unfair currency and trade practices — which Japanese officials have vehemently denied. On Friday, however, Trump said the currencies of China, Japan and the US would be on a “level playing field,” but did not specify how. [Bloomberg / Justin Sink]
  • This meeting between the two nations is a chance for them to hash out what’s next on trade. Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries, which Abe supported — in favor of bilateral agreements. It’s not the situation Abe wanted, but Japan could also see some more access in American markets if the two countries strike a deal. [Foreign Policy / David Francis]
  • The whole thing wasn’t without its comically awkward moments, however, like when Trump shook Abe’s hand for 19 seconds, told him he had “strong hands,” and boasted about their chemistry. Let’s just say Abe had less than enthusiastic facial expressions about the handshake. Now the two of them are off to Mar-a-Lago for a weekend with their wives. [CNN / Brenna Williams]

Miscellaneous

  • Who among us has not accidentally adopted a 650-pound pig as a pet? [The Guardian / Steve Jenkins]
  • After the 2010 earthquake, a program allowed some Haitians a chance to work temporarily in the US. The ones lucky enough to qualify earned 1,400 percent more than those left behind. [The Economist]
  • The extraordinary bemusement of Alex Trebek. [The Ringer / Claire McNear]
  • Remember Pizzagate? It's back. In Philadelphia. For some reason. Also now it involves ice cream? [Philadelphia Inquirer / Samantha Melamed]
  • Richard Evans, who wrote the definitive history of the Third Reich, has some useful thoughts on the Trump/Hitler comparisons floating around, and their many limitations. [Slate / Isaac Chotiner]

Verbatim

  • "Is it me or is the condition of indie rock in the 24 1/2th century both bad and boujee? Bad in the basic sense of like, musically underwhelming … and also bad like Sartrian bad faith … and boujee in the word's negative sense: refined and effete." [Dave Longstreth via Pitchfork / Jazz Monroe]
  • "Majorities are more often blamed for inaction than minorities are held accountable for blocking them." [NYT / Sarah Binder]
  • "It is now fashionable in certain circles to say 'banks don't hold capital' in the tone of voice formerly reserved for correcting split infinitives or declining ketchup on your hot dog." [NPR / Matt Levine]
  • "I think there might be enough city voters who are with me and are ready to vote for that change in March and April. After we do that, you and your dog will be safer. And maybe you will consider hiring an African-American editorial writer." [St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones to St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tod Robberson]
  • "Apparently there's a big underground movement of right-wing bodybuilders — thousands. Their plan is to surface spectacularly this April, in a choreographed flash demo on the Mall. They'll be totally nude, but wearing MAGA hats." [Curtis Yarvin to the Atlantic / Rosie Gray]

Watch this: Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first US Olympian to wear a hijab

Before Muhammad was detained by the US, she won an Olympic bronze for the country. [Vox / Joshua Seftel]