Opinion: Flynn resignation isn’t the end of this

(AP)

(AP)

How do you go rogue in a rogue administration?

At first glance, Mike Flynn seems to have found a way, which is allegedly why he was forced to resign as national security adviser last night, the first in what will probably be a series of high-level departures in an administration crumbling before our eyes.

Flynn’s personal demise can be traced back to Dec. 29, the day that President Obama ejected 35 Russian diplomats as part of punitive sanctions against Russia. That day, Flynn conducted five separate phone conversations with the Russian ambassador in which he secretly suggested that better days were coming, that these sanctions would be reversed once Donald Trump took office some three weeks later.

Even under normal circumstances, the act of secretly communicating with a foreign adversary to undermine a sitting president represents an immense breach of protocol and perhaps even American law. And of course, these particular circumstances were far from normal. The sanctions in question had been imposed to punish Russia for its extensive hacking of U.S. targets, including its effort to interfere in U.S. elections on Trump’s behalf.

As the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence explained in a joint statement released that day:

This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens. These cyber operations have included spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information.”

In short, you’ve got Russia hacking U.S. targets and secretly interfering on behalf of candidate Trump on a scale without parallel in U.S. history. You’ve got the United States then attempting to punish Russia. And you have the Trump team secretly undermining those efforts to punish Russia before it even takes office. Remarkable as those statements might be, none rely on speculation: These are things that we know to have happened.

Here’s what we don’t know but need to know:

In making those phone calls and offering those assurances to Russia, was Flynn operating on his own, without instructions from Trump himself? That seems highly unlikely for several reasons, including the fact that as a career military officer, Flynn is trained to respect the chain of command. It’s hard to believe that he would dare to free-lance such an effort without approval from the only man who could give him approval.

Then you look at Trump’s almost obsessive need to be liked and admired by Vladimir Putin, and at how closely his policy statements parallel those advanced by Putin. You also look at the timeline:

The sanctions against Russia were announced by President Obama on Dec. 29; within hours, Russia announced preliminary plans to retaliate with sanctions of its own, as is standard in such circumstances.  But for some mysterious reason — we now know that reason to be Flynn’s phone calls — Russian anger turned to calm and Russian officials suddenly changed course, canceling retaliatory sanctions. Putin took on the pleased air of a cat that had quietly swallowed the canary, and what a delicious canary it was.

Here’s how President-elect Trump celebrated the news the next day, Dec. 30:

trumpputin

We also know now that despite presidential claims of ignorance, the Trump White House had been informed by law enforcement weeks ago of the content of Flynn’s phone calls. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had told the administration what an FBI investigation had uncovered, and she also warned that Flynn might be susceptible to blackmail by Russia because of the explosive nature of his conversations.

The Trump administration chose to do nothing with that information, and Flynn remained in good standing, his security clearance intact. In the end, he was forced to resign not because of what he had done, but because he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the calls.  Apparently, Flynn did not believe the vice president to be in the tight little circle of trust on such matters.

And what’s the reaction to all this in Congress? Prior to Flynn’s resignation, the head of the House Intelligence Committee had expressed a total lack of concern. “It just seems like there’s a lot of nothing there,” said U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, head of the House Oversight Committee, has also shown no interest in such issues. Instead, he has focused his committee on pressing matters such as how the Centers for Disease Control came to use Sid the Science Kid, a PBS pre-school cartoon character, in material explaining the Zika virus to children.

You know, important stuff.

 

UPDATE at 3 p.m.:

Did Mike Flynn act independently of then-President-elect Trump in reassuring Russia that sanctions would be revisited? In a press briefing Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer offered a two-point answer to that question:

1.) Flynn made the decision on his own, with no prior knowledge or instructions by President Trump. That claim neatly severs Trump from responsibility, but as noted above, it’s frankly hard to believe given Flynn’s military background and the respect for the chain of command that implies. It would be an act of extreme recklessness for any subordinate, especially in an administration that had not yet taken power, to offer that type of assurance to another country’s leaders on his own, without instruction. That alone would be grounds for dismissal.

2.) And yet it wasn’t grounds for dismissal. According to Spicer, Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador was perfectly appropriate and well within the bounds of his job. Flynn was supposedly asked to resign not because of those conversations, but because he had misled Pence about their nature. At that point, Spicer said, it became a trust issue.

That raises a telling question. If Flynn indeed did nothing wrong, if his conversations with the Russian government were perfectly appropriate, why did he feel it necessary to lie so adamantly about them? Why did he lie not just to the American people and the media, but to Spicer and other officials and even to the vice president? Why did Flynn and everyone else in the administration continue to conceal the truth for weeks after federal law enforcement had notified them about transcripts of the conversations?

Because what they did was wrong, seriously wrong, and they knew it.

 

Reader Comments 0

2236 comments
ElderSage
ElderSage

The hysterical democrats have found an issue. The only problem for them is nobody else cares. 

honested
honested

Wonder why the wrong wing spent the last 3 years of the Obama administration chasing one pointless fake story after another with Congress using the stories as a crutch to ignore doing their JOB and now the wrong wing spends their time burying their heads just like Congress, using all possible effort to avoid the truth...


The one bit of connective tissue is the repellent nature of the TRUTH!!

TBS
TBS

We are going to find the source of these leaks if it's the last thing we do.

Flynn?

Who the hell is he? 

Never heard of him

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@TBS


Flynn. We hardly knew you.


Maybe Trump can make another trip to Langley and give a speech in front of the wall with the stars and complain more about Nordstrom.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@StraightNoChaser The boat is in international waters , so technically it is not a spy ship. Just like a politician is not a lobbyist even if he works for a lobbying firm on k street.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@StraightNoChaser @Buschleaguer Trump should get one of his generals to scramble a squadron of F 18's and buzz that Russian Spy ship. Nothing like a little international incident to distract the media.

AlternateUniverse
AlternateUniverse

All this talk about Russia makes me long for the old days when Trump's lies didn't have such consequences. Remember his "secret plan" to destroy ISIS? So secret he couldn't discuss it?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@AlternateUniverse You know the Donald knows more than our generals do on how to destroy ISIS, afraid Trump is having enough trouble not being destroyed by the behavior of his staff.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@DownInAlbany 

Folks can jump to conclusions based on limited information.

Muslim prayer rugs say, "What?"

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

In fairness, I haven't seen his smokey yellow cloudy mushroom stuff in a long time.

TBS
TBS

Late last week then up until Flynn resigned it was all liberal media propaganda: much to do about nothing.

Now all of a sudden the WH spins it into a leak story.  The pundits get their marching orders and their faithful flock regurgitates what they have read and have been told. 

Hilarious 

Fl0ydLiberal
Fl0ydLiberal

setting up an independent commission is a good idea for Republicans.  Any findings belong to the commission so Trump's base can't blame it on feckless Republicans.

TBS
TBS

Funny when this story (WaPo I believe) broke last week I don't think there was one comment regarding the probing of leaks from bloggers or even Congress.  Then the WH spin started to stall and Flynn resigned. Now leaks are the top story or at least they are attempting to make it the top story.

Coincidence?

yeah right

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@TBS  Stories and understanding evolve over time.  Folks can jump to conclusions based on limited information.  Reasonable people usually wait for a few facts before getting all hysterical, right?

honested
honested

@DownInAlbany @TBS 

Susan Rice would welcome your empathy.

How does it feel to be a collaborator? I always wondered.

TBS
TBS

@DownInAlbany @TBS


I told the blog Friday that the Flynn "has no recollections of sanctions but couldn't be certain the topic didn't come up" would be the money line of this issue.  I reiterated on Monday.  Both times conservatives on this blog ignored or laughed it off.

Guess what?  It was and is the money line.

But you run with those leaks....


TBS
TBS

@DownInAlbany @TBS


And as far as hysterical, yes the talking points about liberal media propaganda and much to do about nothing was very hysterical

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@honested @DownInAlbany @TBS 

Rice did her job ,as it was given to her. She did not write the talking points she read on the Sunday shows. In all the Benghazi hearings were a great deflection, focusing on HRC and not the real question. What was the CIA doing in Libya that put the US consulate in Benghazi in the crosshairs of the insurgents that attacked it.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@Kamchak 

I guess you could analyse it that way. 

If you're lacking any intellectual framework for understanding events. 

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Kamchak SO much for the RWer claim about how foreign powers has no respect for Obama but totally will respect Trump...because fear, etc.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Donnie_Pinko 

 I guess you could analyse it that way.

I have your permission?

COOL BEANS!

rimsky
rimsky

Russia has denied violating a Cold War-era missiles treaty, following accusations by officials in US President Donald Trump's administration.

The unnamed US officials said that Russia had deployed a banned cruise missile.

A Kremlin spokesperson said on Wednesday that Russia continued to uphold its international commitments.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38978632

++++

Poor Trump he is between a rock and a hard place.  What to do, what to do.  Head exploding.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@rimsky "A Kremlin spokesperson said on Wednesday that Russia continued to uphold its international commitments."


*bombs falling, war happening"*


"A Kremlin spokesperson says peace has broken out and international relations are at their best." 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@rimsky  You act as if Russia shadowing our coastline is a new development.  Not downplaying the significance, simply acknowledging the fact.

KUTGF
KUTGF

roh roh.... Kellyanne is now banned from Morning Joe and since she has been backstabbing Spicey, she is "reducing [her] television exposure".

Ahh the WH is already a mess.  So much "winning"

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@KUTGF ...and this isn't crooked? The ole saying from the Trumpsters is, "We would rather have crass than crooked!" Really?

TBS
TBS

@Kamchak @TBS


Reminds me of the many on this blog: Deflect Deflect Deflect

Kamchak
Kamchak

@TBS 

Staying true to Reagan's 11th commandment.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@TBS OR, "it's more important to protect the PARTY than do what is right for the COUNTRY. "

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Buschleaguer 

 Been going on for the last 20 years at least in DC.

Not intended to be a factual statement.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

 Ron Paul announced this morning that he is rescinding his 'Oath of Office' to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  "Republicans should not investigate other Republicans".  A failed physician who has repeatedly violated the Hippocratic Oath in attempting to defund healthcare for American Citizens, he now has been identified, like Trump, as another American traitor.  Time to Clean House.  That is a lot easier than Draining Swamps, can be more easily assisted by women, I'm told, and  should begin immediately.  Maybe that is the actual 'Giant Sucking Sound' predicted in the past. 

AlternateUniverse
AlternateUniverse

But at least he is honest enough to say what he truly thinks. Better than most pols...

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@Ralph-43 Do you mean his son, Rand - the US senator from Kentucky? Well, the apple does not fall from the tree from dad to son, especially on heath care when his dad inadvertently inspired an audience member yell out during a debate to simply let those who cannot afford health care, to die. How insane is that? Rand is not much different than his dad. With health care, it's you the patient who is on his or her own to navigate. #Disgusting

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Ralph-43 Just like Democrats should never investigate Democrats. Used to be the job of the Department of Justice, but now it has become over politicized and is useless as a tool for impartial investigations of either party. 

The best we can hope for is that Ryan and Pelosi in the House and McConnell and Schumer in the Senate can pressure the DOJ to appoint an independent prosecutor and a non partisan investigation , I would not suggest anyone hold their breath waiting for this to happen.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

from what I've recently seen coming from Republicans / Conservatives is that they welcome Russian help as long as it hurts Democrats / Liberals.  "Ha! We won! who cares how we won you losers!?" 

Trump received help from the Russians. He is rewarding them by excusing sanctions. OF COURSE he knew, and likely directed Flynn on what to say.  

Welcome to the new America. Where we are turning into Russia. 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@rimsky  Maybe he'll attempt to reset relations with Russia, complete with a cute little red button?

KUTGF
KUTGF

@DownInAlbany @rimsky Awww sweetie.... Trump is such a wimpy little weasel, after all his thumpin before the election, he wont do a thing.  You know how little birds puff up their chest and thump..... that's Trump and in this case, he won't even puff.

AlternateUniverse
AlternateUniverse

Perhaps he's waiting for the check from Mexico to pay for his wall. Then he'll move on to Russia. Wait.. he needs to put his fairy tale healthcare plan in first - More Coverage, Less Cost!