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There are too many theories about National Security Adviser Lieutenant General (ret’d) Michael Flynn’s resignation on Monday, February 13, 2017 and too much information unknown to the public.
Sure, Flynn’s name has been all over the media for weeks, but more than one element is likely to be involved in his departure. You decide.
Deep State and the Democrats
Just after the New Year, Democrat Charles E Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, told MNSBC’s Rachel Maddow in a discussion about President Trump’s rebuttal of notional Russian hacking:
Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.
There’s also another angle.
The Free Beacon analyses how Obama’s people feared Flynn would reveal more about the former president’s nuclear deal with Iran, so they set out to destroy him (emphases mine):
The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.
The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.
The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.
Leaks from within the White House
Close observers knew it was questionable whether Trump could use the Oval Office after the inauguration.
It was always likely — perhaps probable — that the Oval Office is or was bugged. No doubt, Trump had it swept prior to the inauguration. However, the success of the sweep depends on who did it and how thoroughly:
Then there are Obama appointees still in place because senators were slow in approving Trump’s key cabinet appointments. Rex Tillerson is now in place as Secretary of State. Jeff Sessions is now Attorney General. However, it will take some time for both to make their own staff appointments.
There could also be people close to Trump — his personally appointed staff — who are leaking to the media.
With regard to Flynn specifically, the Washington Post (WaPo) says that the retired general had discussions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as early as December when he was part of the transition team. He would have been in New York at that point. New York magazine gives a summary:
Several current and former U.S. officials say National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed new sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration during conversations with that country’s ambassador in December. That may be illegal, and to make matters worse, it contradicts denials made by senior members of the Trump administration, including Vice-President Mike Pence.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that nine current and former U.S. officials who had access to intercepted communications between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak say that Flynn made explicit references to election-related sanctions. Two said Flynn even urged Russia not to overreact. “Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said one former official.
When the Post asked Flynn on Wednesday if he ever discussed sanctions with Kislyak, he said no. Then, on Thursday, his spokesman walked that back, saying Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
Flynn exchanged phone calls and texts with Kislyak a day before the Obama administration imposed new sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats over the Kremlin’s alleged attempt to meddle in the U.S. election.
Those sanctions came during the Christmas holiday.
As Flynn’s conversations from December have been revealed, it is possible that Trump has a GOPe mole in his midst.
Trump is rightly concerned about who is leaking:
On February 14, WaPo featured quotes from conservatives who voiced their concerns about Trump transition and administration leaks:
“I think this really was the death by a thousand leaks,” Laura Ingraham, a conservative news commentator, said on Fox News. “The leaks that were coming out of this administration and the transition — before the administration — were at a level that I don’t remember seeing for quite some time.”
Not long before Trump tweeted, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said on Fox that “somebody in the nebulous intelligence community” would have had access to the information about Flynn’s calls.
“Who tapped the phones? Who is listening to it? Who leaked it? I think those are legitimate questions to ask,” Johnson said Tuesday morning.
The senator said he did not know whether those who leaked the information about Flynn broke the law, but he added: “Leaks of this nature are incredibly damaging to America, to our national security, and we need to look into it.”
On the opposite side of the political spectrum, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald agrees:
That Flynn lied about what he said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was first revealed by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who has built his career on repeating what his CIA sources tell him. In his January 12 column, Ignatius wrote: “According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking.”
That “senior U.S. government official” committed a serious felony by leaking to Ignatius the communication activities of Flynn. Similar and even more extreme crimes were committed by what the Washington Post called “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls,” who told the paper for its February 9 article that “Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.” The New York Times, also citing anonymous U.S. officials, provided even more details about the contents of Flynn’s telephone calls.
That all of these officials committed major crimes can hardly be disputed. In January, CNN reported that Flynn’s calls with the Russians “were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats.” That means that the contents of those calls were “obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of [a] foreign government,” which in turn means that anyone who discloses them — or reports them to the public — is guilty of a felony under the statute.
Yet very few people are calling for a criminal investigation or the prosecution of these leakers, nor demanding the leakers step forward and “face the music” — for very good reason: The officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact that they violated the law. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter — his conversations with Russian diplomats — and the public has the absolute right to know this.
The trust issue
In January, the then-acting Secretary of State Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had not been entirely honest with Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
In his press briefing of February 14, Sean Spicer announced:
We’ve been reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth. We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change.
The President was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the Vice President and others. He was also very concerned in light of sensitive subjects dealt with by that position of national security advisors — like China, North Korea and the Middle East — that the President must have complete and unwavering trust for the person in that position.
The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the President to ask for General Flynn’s resignation. Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House Counsel of the situation, the White House Counsel briefed the President and a small group of senior advisors. The White House Counsel reviewed and determined that there is not a legal issue, but rather a trust issue.
During this process it’s important to note that the President did not have his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who he trusts immensely, approved by the Senate. When the President heard the information as presented by White House Counsel, he instinctively thought that General Flynn did not do anything wrong, and the White House Counsel’s review corroborated that.
… The issue here was that the President got to the point where General Flynn’s relationship — misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation.
That’s why the President decided to ask for his resignation, and he got it …
Larry Johnson of No Quarter, who worked for the CIA then the State Department, wrote:
Sad day for Mike Flynn. The only thing he did wrong was not tell Vice President Pence the full truth. That’s it. He was well within his rights as the incoming National Security Advisor to talk to the Russians and to talk about any issue. The only thing he could not do was pass on classified information. That’s it. The people who insist he did something untoward with Russia are either woefully ignorant about the duties of the incoming Director of the NSC or are being deliberately disingenuous.
Another security expert, Richard A Moss, wrote about Flynn’s indiscretion in the way he communicated with the Russian ambassador. From WaPo:
Flynn resigned not because of his communications with the Russians, but rather because of his lack of discretion, misleading Vice President Pence about the nature of the exchanges, and, allegedly, opening himself up to blackmail by the Russians.
Moss goes on to explain how Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon co-ordinated Kissinger’s communications with the Russians during Nixon’s transition period between 1968 and 1969:
… Nixon and Kissinger synchronized the two back channels to the Soviets during the 1968 election and the transition period …
We know these details not because of the content of reportedly leaked FBI wiretaps, as in the case of Flynn, but because of good record keeping. Kissinger wrote detailed memorandums of his various back-channel exchanges and shared them with the president (and, occasionally, others who had a need to know). In Washington, political warfare is frequently fought on the battlefield of competing memorandums. Kissinger also had his staff make transcripts of his phone conversations, eventually off recordings of the calls, but initially by having a secretary write in shorthand by listening on a telephone with a muted microphone.
Flynn operated differently:
By contrast, Flynn’s inconsistency over the content of his conversations with Kislyak hurt his credibility and brought on scrutiny both inside and outside the White House.
Somewhat strangely for a career intelligence officer, Flynn also used insecure means of communication by talking on open telephone lines to Kislyak. In military-speak, he used poor communications security (COMSEC), which was apparently subject to FBI monitoring — and, hypothetically, foreign intelligence collection …
Flynn’s preference for the phone is ironic since Trump said a few weeks ago, “You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way.”
Ultimately, nearly 50 years ago:
Kissinger kept good records and he kept his boss, Nixon, informed. Fundamentally, back channels require the confidence of the person at the top. Kissinger understood this and became the indispensable man for Nixon’s foreign policy.
Flynn clearly lost the confidence of those at the top and had to go.
It should be noted that, on February 14, WaPo walked back earlier reports on the FBI and Flynn. This is at the end of a different article, not the one Richard A Moss wrote:
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Michael Flynn was the reported object of FBI investigations. This version has been updated.
Accuracy In Media states that the FBI cleared Flynn.
Is this important?
The double standard
We are seeing an egregious double standard in play.
The aforementioned article from The Intercept points out:
What matters is not the motive of the leaker but the effects of the leak. Any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing — as this one did — should be praised, not scorned and punished.
However, keep in mind that those cheering Flynn’s resignation were blind to the transgressions on their own side for eight years:
It’s hard to put into words how strange it is to watch the very same people — from both parties, across the ideological spectrum — who called for the heads of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Tom Drake, and so many other Obama-era leakers today heap praise on those who leaked the highly sensitive, classified SIGINT information that brought down Gen. Flynn.
It’s even more surreal to watch Democrats act as though lying to the public is some grave firing offense when President Obama’s top national security official, James Clapper, got caught red-handed not only lying to the public but also to Congress — about a domestic surveillance program that courts ruled was illegal. And despite the fact that lying to Congress is a felony, he kept his job until the very last day of the Obama presidency.
Unintended positive consequences
The Intercept goes on to say that this leak and Flynn’s resignation may work for Trump and the American public rather than against them:
numerous leaks have already achieved great good in the three short weeks that Trump has been president.
Trump knows, his staff know and the American public know.
As negative as these events appear right now, they could help Trump to ‘drain the swamp’.
I would put this right at the feet of John Brennan and Jim Clapper and I would go so far as to say the Obama White House was directly involved before they left. Ben Rhodes and those folks… The Democrats are behind this and some of the Republicans are involved with the leaks. So I say ‘Bring it on!’
Flynn’s replacement could be even better
One of the men being discussed as a replacement for Flynn is retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward.
Gateway Pundit reports that Harward served under then-General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis at US Central Command and that he speaks Farsi:
Harward could prove to be a much better candidate than Michael Flynn which would be disastrous for the left who just spent weeks trying to get Flynn removed.
Those of us who watched Trump put together his transition team late last year remember that Flynn did consulting work for Turkey and is pro-Erdogan. Geopolitical expert Joel Richardson wrote about that at the time:
… in a Facebook post on Dec. 7, Richardson called for the Trump administration to cut ties with Flynn, because “he’ll be gone within the first year.”
… Richardson blasted Flynn for reportedly owning a company that lobbied for an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey’s government and President Erdoğan himself. Richardson characterized the hiring of Flynn as a betrayal of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” by removing lobbyists from government positions.
“On Election Day, Flynn published a fairly lengthy opinion piece, and a very strong opinion piece, in the online news website called The Hill, a real prominent website,” said Richardson. “Specifically, he was urging the U.S. to support Turkey and Turkey’s controversial president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. … Those who follow my program know I am no fan of President Erdoğan. He is a dictator and I am likening him to an emerging Adolf Hitler. … This guy is dangerous.”
Flynn’s temporary replacement is Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr.
To everyone who doubts Trump’s ability to rectify the situation, remember, he is there to win the war. Battles will be lost from time to time. Flynn’s departure is one of them. However, in the words of Machiavelli (H/T: The Conservative Treehouse):
It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
Onwards and upwards. MAGA!