On Day 25 of the Era of President Trump, first of that name, some quick thoughts on the “resignation” of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn:
First, Flynn resignation reeks of “You can’t fire me, I quit.” He was on the way out. This way, he save a little face.
Second, forget all this Logan crap nonsense. The issue isn’t what was said and when it was said, but what happened after it all came to light. As Howard Baker noted, “It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”
I understand John Nance Garner once observed the Vice-Presidency was “not worth a bucket of warm piss”, but that doesn’t mean you get to lie to the Vice President. And no matter what euphemism you wish to use, Flynn lied to Vice President Pence when asked about his conversation with the Russian Ambassador. This is, to use a technical term, “a big no-no.”
Flynn was clearly no MENSA candidate. If you are going to speak by phone with the Ambassador from any country, never mind one which is not inherently friendly with the United States, shouldn’t you anticipate that call is going to be recorded by US Intelligence? Especially since you were the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency? I mean, given that Flynn was working at the DIA when Snowden happened, he of all people should know the NSA is the only government agent that listens to us. (Though pro-Patriot Act Congressman Devin Nunes gets the Louis Renault ” I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Award for his reaction).
Flynn put his boss, i.e. the President of the United States, in an untenable position. By lying to the Vice President, and possibly others, about what he did, Flynn essentially forced Trump to either back his VP or his National Security Advisor. If Trump had back Flynn, Pence would have been seen as having been cuckolded. And that would have caused no end of issues.
The spin from certain quarters of the administration has been amusing. The idea that Flynn’s hiring is solely the fault of Reince “Grand Moff” Priebus is laughable. Steve Bannon, currently auditioning for the role of Orson Krennic, is attempting to blame all of the failures of the administration at Priebus’s feet. Not only is Reince responsible for Flynn, but also allowing “sleeper cells” of Obama forces to remain in the White House (hint: there are no holdovers in the West Wing) and the roll out of the President’s ill-conceived and executed Immigration Executive Order. This is the money quote:
Specifically, multiple sources close to President Trump with internal knowledge of White House operations told Breitbart News on Monday night that the buck stops with Priebus when it comes to the botched rollout of the executive order temporarily banning most travel to the United States from seven nations with a history of exporting terrorism and temporarily halting the refugee program
(And not for nothing, but the Trump Administration is leaking worse than a California State Dam. Bannon may think he has the upper hand because of his tenure at Breibart, but Priebus is veteran hand of DC Swamp battles. Why do you think there are stories that Trump is upset by being portrayed on SNL as being manipulated by Bannon?)
All that being said, there is something disturbing about what happened and the way this came to light.
There are multiple reports that Flynn was being monitored independent of the Russian Ambassador. If that is true, why?
Who leaked this? This is important. Trump has made no secret of his distrust of the National Security apparatus. And there have been indications the National Security Apparatus doesn’t like being questioned. (See the whole “Golden Shower” incident). Was the Flynn leak part of the Deep State striking out at Trump? And how comfortable should Trump’s political opponents feel knowing the entrenched bureaucracy will do what it wants and punish any attempts by elected officials to reign in their powers and authority?
In the end, Flynn’s ouster is a good thing.
As National Review‘s Charles Cooke noted on Twitter this morning:
Beyond that, remember all of the claims the Russian engineered the election to a have a pro-Putin guy in the White House? Well, that just took a hit. The Ruskies cannot be happy that a pro-Russia guy was just shown the door. If the Foreign Policy wonks are to be believed, Putin now finds himself in a rather difficult bind.
Oddly, therefore, Putin has become a hostage to Trump’s survival and success. This has seriously restricted Russia’s geopolitical options. The Kremlin is perfectly aware that Democrats want to use Russia to discredit and possibly impeach Trump while Republican elites want to use Russia to deflate and discipline Trump. The Russian government fears not only Trump’s downfall, of course, but also the possibility that he could opportunistically switch to a tough anti-Moscow line in order to make peace with hawkish Republican leaders in Congress.
Now some of this is standard grade Russian conspiracy mind-set, but Putin is suddenly remembering the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Also, as noted before, “The best-case scenario for the Trump years has always been that he’ll kill the imperial presidency through sheer incompetence.” That still holds true. I understand Jason Chaffetz would rather spend a day with hostile “paid protestors” than have to investigate this mess. It’s clear the Utah Congressman (who was a vocal critic of Trump during the P****gate scandal during the election) wants to give Trump his 100 day honeymoon and give the administration a chance.
The pressure is growing for Congress to do its oversight job. Republican Senators are promising investigations into this. It would be far better for Chaffetz to convene some hearings. Not just on what Flynn did or did not do, but also on how this leaked and the implications. As Louis Brandeis said over a century ago:
Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
It’s well past time to shine a spotlight on the Washington Swamp. This is as good a reason as any to start.
And counter-intuitively, Flynn’s removal is an encouraging sign from the Trump White House. The President is very sensitive to criticism, so Flynn going is going to make people criticize the President’s decision making qualities. That is in the short term. In the long term, however, this is a good thing. It means the President understands he made a mistake and acted quickly to cauterize the issue before it became a massive scandal. The President has a redo and he should use it. Given the high caliber quality of many of the President’s cabinet picks (DeVos at Education, Mattis as SecDef, Pruitt at EPA, etc.), Flynn was always something of a miss. He seemed to lack the management skills necessary for overseeing the National Security apparatus. Trump now has the ability to find someone who is highly qualified to fill one of the most important positions in his government.