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Vox Sentences: The Flynnvestigation wraps up

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Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Ella Nilsen. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI; the Senate has the votes for tax reform; the Trump administration will reportedly declare Jerusalem Israel's capital.


Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI

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  • Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team charged former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Friday with lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp, Andrew Prokop, and Alex Ward]
  • Flynn lied to the FBI, according to prosecutors, about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. In one case, Flynn asked Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation” in response to Obama-imposed sanctions. On a different topic, Flynn asked Kislyak to vote down a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements. [NYT / Eileen Sullivan, Adam Goldman, and Michael D. Shear]
  • Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. Flynn is also reportedly cooperating with Mueller. Now might be time for the White House to start worrying. [ Vox / Andrew Prokop, Zack Beauchamp, and Alex Ward]
  • It’s not clear at this point what form Flynn’s cooperation will take. The Russian contacts Flynn lied about took place during the presidential transition, not the election. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Yet Flynn is getting off pretty easy — just one felony count — which means he might have some very valuable information for Mueller and company. As one legal expert said, “I’m confident Flynn is singing like a bird to Mueller.” [Vox / Sean Illing]
  • But there is at least one guy who should be worrying: Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. He is reportedly the unnamed “very senior member” of the presidential transition team who instructed Flynn to call the Russians and get them to vote against the UN resolution on Israeli settlements. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Four people have gone down in the Mueller investigation so far. Two — Flynn and Trump campaign aid George Papadopoulos — have both pleaded guilty to not telling the truth to the FBI about Russia contacts. Which brings up the question: Why are all these people lying to federal investigators? [Axios / Jonathan Swan]
  • This is a lot for a Friday. But here’s how Flynn’s downfall fits into the unfolding saga of possible Trump-Russia collusion. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]

A taxing late-Friday vote

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  • The Senate is really, truly, for real this time, about to pass its tax bill. As you may recall from previous versions of “Vox Sentences Tells You About Tax Reform,” the deal seemed to be on the verge of falling apart last night. But the senators who threatened to derail it were won back with last-minute changes. [NYT / Jim Tankersley, Thomas Kaplan, and Alan Rappeport]
  • Pass-through companies — entities whose profits are taxed as their owners’ personal income — got an even bigger tax break than they were going to already. [NYT / Jim Tankersley, Thomas Kaplan, and Alan Rappeport]
  • Sen. Jeff Flake got a seat at the table in the upcoming negotiations over what to do about unauthorized immigrants whose work permits and permissions to stay in the US are about to expire. No, the deal wasn’t any more specific than that. [Vox / Ella Nilsen]
  • Sen. Bob Corker, who wanted a provision that would trigger tax hikes if the deficit grew too much, got nothing, and will vote against the bill. [Washington Post / Jeff Stein]
  • At least that’s what the senators said. The final text of the bill — which Congress could be voting on in mere minutes — still hasn’t been released. John McCain derailed Obamacare repeal over concerns about “regular order,” but he’s suffering no such qualms about the tax reform process. [Vox / Dylan Scott]

US will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital

  • President Donald Trump will reportedly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a break with past administrations and the country’s Western allies. [Reuters / Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick]
  • This rumored announcement will come as the deadline approaches for the Trump administration to sign a waiver to delay moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months. Trump has promised to move the embassy — something the Israelis really, really want — but he has so far postponed the controversial decision, as have the previous three presidents before him. [Washington Post / Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash]
  • This is more than just relocating. The Palestinians see Jerusalem as their capital too, and the move would potentially spark outrage among Palestinians and the Arab world, and do even more damage to a peace process. [Vox / Zach Beauchamp]
  • But Trump is expected to sign the waiver and keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. Still, he reportedly “seemed frustrated” when his advisers discussed concerns about the Palestinian reaction. So it seems the administration is splitting the difference, for now: The embassy stays put, but they’ll declare Jerusalem the capital. [Washington Post / Anne Gearan]
  • The decision reportedly isn’t finalized, but if it happens, it could provoke anger across the Arab world — and probably wouldn’t help the prospects of the US brokering a peace agreement either. But Jared Kushner might have some other things to worry about these days. [CNN / Michelle Kosinski, Elise Labott, and Jeremy Diamond]

Miscellaneous

  • Thomas Hargrove is a former journalist turned serial killer chaser. Based on his database to analyze murders, he believes there are about 2,000 serial killers at large in the US. [New Yorker / Alec Wilkinson]
  • Nine million families lost their homes to foreclosure or short sales between 2009 and 2014. For them, the economic downturn has never really ended. [Atlantic / Alana Semuels]
  • A rabid kitten in New Jersey managed to visit a Thanksgiving party, a classroom, and a hospital in three counties, exposing dozens of people, before anybody realized it had rabies. [NBC New York]
  • Today in sexual harassment allegations: Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican, paid an $84,000 settlement to a former spokesperson out of the secretive Office of Compliance congressional fund. [Politico / Rachael Bade]

Verbatim

  • “LeBron (or someone who picks out his wines) has really great taste — wines of elegance rather than wines of sheer power and extraction.” [Randall Grahm to SB Nation / Tim Cato]
  • ““We were like, ‘Hey, we’ve got humans with electrodes in them all the time!’ Why don’t we just do some experiments with them?” [Eric C. Leuthardt to MIT Technology Review / Adam Piore]
  • “When you live in a constant state of vulnerability — knowing that at any time a man could humiliate you, or torpedo your life — a progressivism that skews to male interests is insufficiently radical.” [The Outline / Leah Finnegan]
  • “There were at least four reports of cockroaches on the White House grounds, and ants in the chief of staff’s office.” [Washington Post / Eli Rosenberg]

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