Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My take on the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Michael Flynn's DIA photo. 

As you are probably aware of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned yesterday after a story in the Wall Street Journal (link behind a paywall) broke accusing him of lying about a phone conversation he had with the Russian ambassador. Flynn was accused of telling Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the incoming Trump administration would be more favorable then the Barack Obama administration on the issue of sanctions due to accused hacking. 

The left is, predictably, celebrating this as the first major scalp they have taken since the end of Barack Obama's presidency. I personally am not happy about it but I do have a few things to say to put this issue in perspective. 

1. Flynn was already on thin ice. There is a reason that he was not chosen over Mike Pence for VP and that is that he has already had some troubling links pop up in the vetting process. Back in 2015, he gave a paid speech for the Russian owned news outlet, RT.com, which Vladimir Putin himself attended, that may have also violated the Emoluments clause. This was strike one. It was a scandal, but one that could be easily handled.

Furthermore his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group received money from the government of Turkey around the same time Flynn was working with Trump and getting classified briefings. He did not disclose this information until after it came out publicly. Strike two, and a pattern of dishonestly starting to appear. 

This latest example, where Flynn told the Russian ambassador something he probably shouldn't have and then, critically, lied about it to his bosses, was strike three. Any one of these scandals alone would not have been enough to sink Flynn, even the first one with the Emoluments clause. But taken together, Trump had little choice but to cut ties with Flynn. 

2. None of these scandals were all that serious. What really sunk Flynn was the dishonesty. He told VP Mike Pence that he didn't discuss anything noteworthy about Russian sanctions and then Pence went to bat for Flynn in the media. After sticking his neck out for Flynn, Pence was blindsided by the reports that he was lied too and that probably forced the issue. Pence was never a fan of Flynn in the first place so the bad blood was amplified. 

And I have to point out that Trump was correct to fire Flynn. All of the scandals that he had could have been cleaned up and countered if he had been honest in the first place. Since Flynn lied through his teeth, not only did he burn his bridges with Pence, he forced Trump into a position that he couldn't defend him anymore. And if there is one person in the world that the President needs to be honest, it's the National Security Adviser...

3. This was very clearly a political hit job from Barack Obama appointees angry about Flynn's politics, not his actual behavior, as questionable as it may be. Acting  AG Sally Yates was the origin of the report and was also backed up by James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence and John Brennan, former Director of the CIA. All of these people were Obama appointees and all of them ended up out of a job after Trump took office (Yates lasted a bit longer then she should have but got fired anyways). 

There is no doubt in my mind that Yates hated Flynn just because he was a Trump supporter and Clapper and Brennan hated him because he didn't want war with Russia. They wanted to ruin him because of his beliefs and Flynn gave them the perfect opportunity. And it is very telling that they were willing to leak the fact that the government had a transcript of the conversation between Flynn and the Russian ambassador... I don't think for a minute that they did this out of patriotism.  

4. All that being said, I think Flynn did the right thing in his phone call with the Russian ambassador. Though what he did was, at the very least, legally questionable, he may have prevented a war with Russia. Remember, in the period leading up to the inauguration, Barack Obama was doing everything he could to ratchet up tensions with the Russians. Not only did he slap fresh sanctions on Russia for alleged hacking, he also deployed troops to Europe in a reckless and brazen attempt to damage relations between America and Russia so badly that the new president couldn't fix them. 

That very well could have led to a war, which, given the fact that both Russia and America are nuclear powers, could have ended everything. Though Flynn didn't have permission to reassure the Russians that the Trump presidency wasn't going to be like the Obama one, I, for one, am glad that he did. Don't get me wrong, Trump was correct to fire Flynn, I would have done the same thing, but what he did was a service to the country, even if it wasn't technically legal or proper. 

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