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Very Dangerous

Yesterday The New York Times published an article about how Russia has now deployed a cruise missile which the Pentagon believes violates the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a key agreement which was part of the winding down of the Cold War. After the article about the newly deployed missile there were further stories about a Russian spy vessel lurking off the East Coast in international waters. This is an example of the perilous position the country is now in, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

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Ask your Qs about education, Betsy Devos, etc. today at 1 p.m.!

Two editors from the national education news network Chalkbeat will join us in the Hive today for a live chat about education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering education in Colorado, Detroit, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, and across the country.

Feel free to submit your questions to Sarah Darville and Candace Carrington about anything from public schools, common core, education reform, charter schools and more. Drop your questions here -- if you'd like to participate but don't have a Prime membership, join here.

Flynn Doesn't Matter. This Is About Trump

For all we've learned over recent days about retired General Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, it's overshadowed by much more that we do not know. Indeed, based on the current evidence we don't know whether Flynn's actions were just wildly inappropriate (undermining the current president's actions with a foreign adversary weeks before taking office) or part of a larger, darker design. Whether Flynn lied to the FBI (we don't know) or lied to his colleagues is an interesting legal and possibly political question. But again, they are relatively straightforward matters which only become truly significant in terms of the bigger picture, if there is one. The truth is Michael Flynn does not matter. We have before us a question that has stood before us, centerstage, for something like a year, brazen and shameless and yet too baffling and incredible to believe: Donald Trump's bizarre and unexplained relationship with Russia and its strongman Vladimir Putin.

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They Never Learn

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Flynn affair: "I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense."

That was the same mindset – an aversion to accountability in exchange for perceived short-term political gain – that produced an explosion of GOP corruption in the mid-aughts. There's little evidence the party learned from that sordid period, and Trump seems likely to reproduce it, except bigger, more garishly, and with more conspicuous gilding. And his congressional enablers seem ready to help out, if only by omission of real oversight.

Big Trouble

Another shoe seems to have dropped. The New York Times just reported that in the short window of time between President Trump's inauguration on January 20th and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warning to the White House on January 26th, the FBI interviewed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29th, 2016.

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Making Sense of the Spicer's Tale

Governments lie, about things big and small. We know this. They lie especially when they are in the midst of being engulfed in a major scandal. This is usually clear at the time. But it can also be very hard to prove. What was most conspicuous about Sean Spicer's afternoon press conference was not that so many of his claims were likely false but that the White House seemed like it hadn't even taken the time yet to get its story together.

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The Takeaway So Far

Here are the big points I can see from Spicer's remarks.

1. Spicer denied that Flynn or any other campaign officials were in touch with Russian government officials during the campaign. That is flatly contradicted in multiple press reports.

2. Spicer insists that President Trump instinctively knew that what Gen. Flynn did was not wrong and his White House Counsel confirmed this for him.

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Reacting to Spicer

1:35 PM: Spicer just awkwardly denied, if I'm understanding this right, that Flynn or anyone else had conversations with Russian officials during the election. This has been reported as a fact in the Times, the Post and in other media outlets.

1:31 PM: Here's a key passage from what Spicer said: "When the President heard the information presented by White House counsel, he instinctively thought that general Flynn did not do anything wrong and the White House Counsel's review corroborated that."

1:25 PM: Note that in Sean Spicer's initial discussion of the Flynn matter, he clearly did not say that Flynn had misled the President. The consistent refrain is that he misled Vice President Pence "and others." He also went to great lengths to say there was nothing substantively or legally wrong with what Flynn what Flynn did. The issue is entirely one of communication between Michael Flynn and the Vice President "and others." Spicer said the President lost confidence because of Flynn's lack of truthfulness with Pence. It is no accident that there is no mention of Flynn misleading the President.

Worth Remembering

With all the storm and drama over Flynn, remember: the legislative momentum on the Hill has ground to almost a standstill, despite the fact that a new president historically gets his most consequential legislation passed during his first year, even first months in office.

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