The revelation that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lied about his contacts with Russia finally resulted in his resignation, but not before Trump's White House was implicated in a cover-up — and perhaps more.
While the Trump administration will attempt to argue the firing of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resolves the questions of the Trump team's ties with Russia, the opposite is true: the circumstances around Flynn's "resignation" raise more questions and bring a fresh urgency to the need for a full investigation into the connections between Donald Trump and his advisors' connections with the Russian government.
Ever since it was reported that Flynn lied when he said that he had not discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., the Trump administration and elected Republicans have been in hiding from the issue. Trump himself even claimed not to have been aware of the reports — which also revealed that Flynn's contacts with Russia predated Trump's election — and allowed Flynn to participate in top secret briefings for months and serious national security activities.
Following Flynn's resignations, the White House sent out a bizarre statement naming his interim replacement, followed by the text of Flynn's resignation, but did not address the resignation itself beyond the fact that it happened:
Trump's extraordinarily passive statement on Flynn reeks of fear of exposure. pic.twitter.com/Yw346fJTXQ
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) February 14, 2017
These strange circumstances begin to make sense, though, when you consider the bombshell Washington Post report that presaged Flynn's resignation, in which the White House freely acknowledged having known about Flynn's misconduct for "weeks":
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.
In the waning days of the Obama administration, James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared Yates’s concerns and concurred with her recommendation to inform the Trump White House. They feared that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position” and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, according to one of the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
A senior Trump administration official said that the White House was aware of the matter, adding that “we’ve been working on this for weeks.”
With the White House reportedly having known for a while that Flynn had lied about the nature of his communications and might be vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, the timing of the resignation makes it clear the resignation was prompted because Flynn's compromised status was made public — not because the White House acted out of concern for national security.
The issues raised by this report do not answer the questions about Trump's ties with Russia, but rather raise more concerns. Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, was fired by Trump in a fit of rage right around this time, in which Trump characterized Yates' actions in defense of the Constitution as a "betrayal." Vice President Mike Pence, who now claims Flynn lied to him, was covering his own bases with regard to Russia at around the same time. Trump, at the very least, is implicated in this lie from several days ago:
I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that? I'll look into that.
The natural question that is already being asked — what did Trump know and when did he know it — is amplified by the weeks Trump has spent covering up for Flynn, and his bizarre silence on Flynn's resignation. The explanation for that could be found in what Trump does not know: namely, what's on the tapes and transcripts that have been and will be uncovered by the task force investigating the administration's ties to Russia. A soft landing for Flynn could be their best chance at stopping the buck with him.
Trump hired Flynn as a national security advisor during the presidential campaign and then appointed him to the highest national security position in the nation with full knowledge Flynn had previously worked with the Russia state propaganda outlet, Russia Today, after he was fired by President Obama when he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Additionally, the Washington Post piece cited above quotes former and current government officials involved in the investigation as saying "they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition." Flynn is now the third Trump advisor to be separated — at least publicly — from the Trump team due to concerns about ties with the Russian government, following Paul Manafort and Carter Page.
Democrats are already pressing for continued investigation of Flynn, and the full truth is bound to come out, but even where we sit today, the Trump White House has been implicated in a cover-up that, at a minimum, knowingly placed a compromised figure smack in the middle of several national security crises. They should be held accountable now.
As Flynn himself has said, "We do not need a reckless president who believes [he] is above the law!"
WATCH EVERY SECOND OF THIS. DON'T MISS A THING. IF THE PHONE RINGS, START IT OVER. WATCH IT THREE TIMES. pic.twitter.com/HTNiaQWF9b
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) February 14, 2017