The idea that the White House had forced the FBI and DOJ to reveal classified information about an intelligence source was already shocking. That they held a meeting in which those documents were examined only by a group of Republicans was ludicrously partisan. But that Trump’s attorney and chief of staff joined both the Republican gathering and the followup meeting of bipartisan congressional leadership simply tears a gaping hole in any sort of legal precedent.
Both John Kelly and Trump attorney Emmet Flood strolled into both proceedings. Flood, though not Kelly, apparently left the first meeting shortly after it began, through it’s not clear if he did so before or after scanning the documents. Kelly remained. And both Kelly and Flood were back again when the next meeting started. After CNN’s Manu Raju initially posted video of Flood entering the meeting, others attempted to intercept him. Flood would not explain his presence.
However, Flood’s purpose at the White House is not classified. When CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asked why Flood was added to the legal team, Press Secretary Sarah Huackbee Sanders gave a blunt answer:
Sanders: Emmet Flood will be joining the White House Staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt.
And if Flood isn’t talking, there is someone who can always be counted to explain the strategic plan.
Giuliani: We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it. If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.
So the White House is sending Trump’s team with the expectation of learning about privileged information, with the express purpose of undermining the special counsel investigation. At least that much is clear.
Since the White House had previously refused to say whether Trump or other members of the staff had already looked at the documents days before the meeting—while insisted that he could if he wanted—it’s likely that what was in the actual documents was no surprise to either Flood or Kelly. Instead, it’s more likely they were there to gauge the reaction of the Republicans who gathered to see the latest attempt at creating a scandal out of standard procedure, and to give them marching orders on the “results” of the meeting.
Democratic Representative Ted Lieu noted that having Flood present for this event was Not Normal.
The @WhiteHouse said this has to do with congressional requests to @TheJusticeDept. Having Emmet Flood, the lawyer for @realDonaldTrump, in the meeting is highly inappropriate. https://t.co/z3gM3eR7z6
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 24, 2018
Highly inappropriate being the more restrained version of absolutely unheard of. And it’s also 100 percent against what the White House promised.
SANDERS: The individuals that are expected to attend are Chairman Nunes, Chairman Gowdy, FBI Director Wray, DNI Director Coats, and DOJ official Ed O’Callaghan. No one from the White House staff will attend.
Except they did. Openly. Both meetings. Following questions, the White House Press Office offered a statement:
Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.
Because when the whole meeting is in support of
an unsubstantiated claim, or embellished report, or just plain big fat lie … what’s another one.
Earlier, Warner left the meeting complaining, ""There's never been a Gang of 8 meeting with a White House presence," and called the earlier meeting at the Justice Department a "rogue" meeting. He did say Trump lawyer Flood did leave before substance was discussed.
— Billy House (@HouseInSession) May 24, 2018