Is General Flynn a Sacrificial Lamb, or the Beginning of the End for Donald Trump?
Deeply-sourced revelations that General Michael Flynn had illegally discussed sanctions with Russia broke on Thursday night. Over the course of the weekend, try as the Trump Administration might, that story would not go away. In fact, it seems to be gaining steam, and it’s beginning to feel like the kind of story that could take on a life of its own.
As of this writing, Donald Trump hasn’t commented on the story. In the meantime, there have been calls asking for General Flynn’s resignation, and not just from a number of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who thinks that Flynn should be stripped of his clearance until this is cleared up. Now even Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are turning on Michael Flynn, and Trump’s pal, Joe Scarborough is even asking for Flynn’s ouster.
The National Security Advisor made improper contacts with Russia and lied to the White House about it. He must go. https://t.co/lhJyLods6p— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 13, 2017
The White House, so far, is sidestepping the issue, but they’re no longer defending Michael Flynn. Stephen Bannon reportedly had dinner with Flynn over the weekend, and while he’s sticking by him for the time being, he’s also apparently ready to let him go, if needed. From what I understand, those inside the White House are hoping he will quietly resign and avoid making a scene.
From what we know about Michael Flynn, however, he’s not the type to leave without making a scene. After all, he was forced out by Obama as the Director of Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 because, according to a Colin Powell email, he was “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc.”
But this is more than just a guy breaking the law by discussing sanctions with a geopolitical enemy in an attempt to undermine the U.S. government. As both the Washington Post and New York Times have reported, conversations between Michael Flynn and Russian diplomats date back to during the campaign. And let’s all remember why Obama ordered the sanctions in the first place: Because the Russians had interfered with our election. Flynn, in conversations that were surveilled by intelligence agencies, basically said to the Russians: “Yeah, don’t worry about those sanctions. We’ll fix that as soon as Trump gets in.”
Why would he go to such lengths? Maybe because he was in on the fix himself? And if Flynn was in on the fix, who is to say that Donald Trump wasn’t in on it, too? The Golden Showers dossier, after all, suggested as much, and late last week, CNN reported that intelligence agencies were able to verify parts of that dossier, and although they wouldn’t say which parts, they did say it wasn’t the Golden Showers. Ergo, it must be the parts about Trump communicating with the Russians.
Now also consider the fact that the three people who the White House put out to defend Michael Flynn against accusations that he discussed sanctions with Russia were Mike Pence, Sean Spicer, and Reince Preibus. These are the establishment guys in the Administration, the people least likely to know if Trump actually did conspire with the Russians to hack into the DNC and Hillary’s emails. It wasn’t anyone within the inner inner circle.
So what does this all mean? Trump won’t talk, and there’s probably a reason for that: He’s trying to get rid of Flynn peacefully through back channels. Flynn is probably a goner. He’ll either resign or be fired, probably by month’s end, if not sooner. What’s interesting to consider, however, is whether Flynn will squeal on Trump, if there’s something to squeal about. Recall two weeks ago that insiders leaked to the NYTimes that Trump wasn’t a fan of Flynn. He thought he was obnoxious.
But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team
Mr. Flynn’s reputation has raised questions among some in the cabinet. Two weeks ago, [Trump and Bannon] held a meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the State Department, Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, to discuss coordination — Mr. Flynn was invited but did not attend.
Part of the meeting was devoted to discussing concerns about Mr. Flynn, according to an official with knowledge of it.
There’s no doubt that Michael Flynn saw that article, and saw that Trump thinks he’s obnoxious and grating. Now, what’s a guy who has been described as erratic and abusive going to do if he’s fired, especially if he was fired for following the orders of a man who described him as “grating”? Does anyone think he’s just going to quietly slink away? Or is it more likely that Michael Flynn starts a leak campaign of his own directed at Trump, Bannon, and anyone else who screwed him over?
That’s how loose threads turn into unraveled sweaters real quick. The next few days are going to be interesting, and if anything else comes out about that dossier, this could explode quickly. And if it does, remember what I wrote back in the first week of January: Trump never should have f*cked with the intelligence community, because that’s the one entity that could completely screw over Donald Trump’s life.
It looks like they might just do it, too.