A senior official on President Donald Trump’s transition team suggested that Russia had “thrown” the U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor in a December 2016 email thread leaked to the New York Times and published Saturday.
The emails contradict White House lawyer Ty Cobb’s claims that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, acted independently when he reached out to Russian officials during Trump’s transition to presidency.
Hours after the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s former Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland suggested that the transition team would need to strengthen its relationship with Russia, according to email exchanges obtained by or described by unnamed sources to the Times.
The sanctions, McFarland noted in the email, appeared to be the outgoing administration’s attempt to discredit Trump’s victory in the election and would make it more difficult for the incoming president to improve the U.S.’s relationship with Russia.
“If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” McFarland wrote, according to the Times.
“If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him.”
An excerpt from McFarland’s email, according to the Times.
As Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt noted in the story and later on Twitter, it’s not clear if McFarland believed that Russia threw the election in Trump’s favor, but a White House lawyer told the paper on Friday that she was only saying Democrats were trying to make it appear that way.
.@McFaul See attached. As we said in the story, it’s no clear that she is saying she believed that election had been thrown. And WH lawyer in story said she was referring to how Dems portrayed it. pic.twitter.com/cjXNpCKIJO
— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) December 2, 2017
The leaked emails show how Trump’s transition team worked to ease relations with Russia after former President Barack Obama attempted to punish the country for reportedly interfering in the U.S. election.
These efforts would include Flynn reaching out to Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak to discuss the sanctions hours after they were placed, McFarland wrote in an email, according to the Times. Flynn later resigned from his…