President Trump's national security adviser may be in hot water over his talks with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. The upshot of stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times is the same: They say Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, despite Flynn's denials. Both stories are based on anonymous US officials. As recently as Wednesday, Flynn flatly denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak, but the Post notes that his response shifted Thursday: A spokesman said Flynn "indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up." If it did, Flynn may have violated a federal law called the Logan Act that forbids private citizens from interfering in foreign policy.
The FBI is investigating, though both stories agree that any prosecution would be difficult, to say the least. The problem? It's never been done before and thus there's no case history, notes the Post. The Times, meanwhile, calls the law "murky" and doesn't think it's likely to be used against a sitting national security adviser. One gray area is just how explicit Flynn was in discussing the sanctions. Both stories suggest that he left Kislyak with the impression that the Trump administration could unwind any sanctions put in place by President Obama over Moscow's alleged meddling in the election, though he reportedly did not make an explicit promise to that effect. At worst then, it might wind up being seen as a breach of protocol, though one that could embarrass Trump officials such as Mike Pence who've publicly denied that Flynn even discussed the penalties.