Breaking news: In the last 24 hours, retired General Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor resigned that post on the heels of revelations that his relationship with Russian officials had left him vulnerable as a target of blackmail.
What follows here is a well-documented narrative that pays particular attention to the timing of events and their consequences: During his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump consistently seized on opportunities to either praise Russian dictator Putin or defend him. Trump wins the nomination and the presidency whereupon we learn that the Russians had tried to impact our electoral process in a way that favored Trump. In response to this Russian meddling, still-President Obama slaps sanctions on Russia. Shortly thereafter, Flynn has a phone conversation with the Russian Foreign Minister in which the latter is told not to get too exercised about the sanctions because they will be reviewed once Trump takes office (1). This is followed by a stunning and out-of-character lack of retaliation by Putin to which Trump tweets “Smart”. Turns out that the aforementioned phone conversation was being monitored by the CIA/FBI, with the potentially damaging contents being passed on to Trump back in January, including the conclusion that Flynn could be subject to blackmail based on the contents of his end of the phone call. This latter revelation becomes public and is widely disseminated. However, Trump consiglieri Conway then assures every one that Trump has “complete confidence” in Flynn, that followed by Flynn’s abrupt resignation.
Learning from history
If history is any guide, we can speculate that Flynn’s departure is step-1 in damage control. Let him be cast as one “bad apple” in a barrel full of good ones; except maybe for the “top apple”; i.e. Trump. This latter possibility brings us to the dossier compiled by a former British counter-intelligence agent which contains the unsubstantiated judgment that Trump could also be a target of Russian blackmailing. The potential for all of this to completely derail the Trump presidency grows with each new revelation, not to mention the connecting of all the “dots” cited in the preceding long paragraph. As that potential increases, so does the need for further steps in damage control.
What should happen next?
Flynn’s resignation cannot be treated as the final chapter in this sordid saga. It should be the starting point for a full-blown investigation of all of this and that most certainly includes Trump’s buddy-buddy relationship with Putin, the Russian meddling in our election, the contents of Flynn’s phone conversation, and the contents of the aforementioned dossier. Can congressional Republicans be trusted to conduct such a thorough probe? Probably not as they have in Trump, a rubber stamp for all the regressive legislation they are intent on passing. What is sorely needed is the constituting of a fiercely independent commission that should be granted full access to all intelligence and presently classified documents so its members can get to the bottom of all this with the proverbial chips allowed to fall where they may.
For the reason cited immediately above, it will not be congressional Republicans who opt for this sort of action; that will fall to congressional Democrats. As the minority party, they can be voted down, even stifled. That is going to leave it up to the public to push this matter to the limit and beyond. This entire matter cannot be allowed to disappear or slowly ebb from public awareness. In that happens then we can expect that perhaps two decades from now, all the presently classified evidence and documents will be released and those of you still around will discover if the aforementioned barrel contained just one bad apple or at least one more.
- There is the possibility that in his phone conversation, Flynn violated the Logan Act which would have made him subject to criminal prosecution. This legislation, passed way back in 1799 provides for a fine and/or imprisonment for any US citizen who is proven to have negotiated with a foreign government that is in dispute with ours. It is not beyond the pale to speculate that Flynn was threatened with this sort of prosecution unless he resigned. Of course, at trial, we would learn exactly what Flynn said and that is where the need for damage control really arises.