Tuesday morning we awoke to what the Trump administration hoped would be the end of the Michael Flynn controversy with the news of General Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor. From someone who lived through the Nixon and Reagan administrations I say: not so fast! Let’s explore.
The basic scandal entails Flynn having conversations about national security policy with the Russians prior to his appointment as National Security Advisor. This is a violation of the 1799 Logan Act. Since no American has ever been prosecuted under the Act, I think Flynn is safe from incarceration! Here are some of the problems: It certainly appears that the Russians got involved in the 2016 election. Their actions were intended to help Donald Trump. Trump won one of the narrowest Electoral College victories in American history while losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. A little bit of interference could have altered the outcome. In the waning days of the Obama administration additional sanctions were placed on Russia as “punishment” for the interference. Flynn talked to the Russians both during the campaign and just subsequent to the imposition of the sanctions. To say the least these situations are uncomfortable!
As with most cover-up/scandals the issue of who knew what and when they knew it still remains unanswered. We are being asked to believe that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence and possibly (although it is unclear) President Trump. I find it believable that Pence only knew what he was told. I’ve always felt that Trump brought him on to appease conservative Republicans and never really felt he was part of the team. I think he is only on the inside when Trump feels it is within his perception of Pence’s “pay grade”. On the other hand Flynn was omnipresent during Trump’s campaign. I find it too much of a stretch to believe that Flynn was having high level talks with the Russians without Trump’s knowledge.
This situation reminds me too much of the convenient release of the Iranian hostages at the moment Ronald Reagan took office and the Nixon principle of deniability. Both Nixon and Reagan were brighter and more politically savvy than Trump. While far from modest, they were also less arrogant than The Donald. The only things that are stopping full blown congressional investigations are that the Republicans control Congress and it is very early in the administration. The congressional Republicans can only cover for Trump for so long. They have their own elections and careers to worry about. Keep in mind most of them plan on being in Washington after Trump is gone. It was the Republican Senators who finally persuaded Nixon that resignation was better than being removed from office.
Flynn had a history of playing fast and loose with security matters and rules. He was effectively fired from his last security job in the military by then President Obama.
In the end it appears that Flynn was a good soldier and Trump either a co-conspirator or just bad executive (either or both are possible). By all accounts Flynn offered his resignation; Trump did not request it.
Here is the really scary part: the team Trump has assembled is so bad that Flynn actually appeared to be one of the most qualified. You can believe what you choose, but I’d say we are far from getting to the bottom of this at this point!
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