Twenty-five days after taking the oath of office and assuming the role of President of the United States, Donald Trump, self-proclaimed management genius, reality TV personality and purveyor of shitty steak knives, saw another wheel come off his presidential wagon and roll quickly past him on the road to oblivion with the announcement of the resignation of his National Security Advisor, retired 3-star General Michael T. Flynn.
On or around December 29th (coincidentally just after newly announced sanctions by the Obama administration against Russia for meddling in the 2016 election), Flynn contacted the Russian Ambassador in what he thought was a private telephone call. That phone call turned out to be the beginning of the end for Trump’s key security advisor.
When asked about it at the time, Flynn maintained that the topic of sanctions was never discussed. Instead, Flynn said, the call was simply to discuss arranging talks between the newly elected Trump and Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.
This continued to be the story firmly parroted by the entire Trump administration team even as Flynn’s own recollection of events began to be expressed in increasingly vague terms. This sudden lapse of memory was not surprisingly long after the FBI began interviewing Gen. Flynn on January 26 and then again, a few days later, just days in fact after Trump had been sworn in.
Following these interviews, an alarmed acting attorney general Sally Yates briefed the President on the FBI investigation, reporting that the situation left Trump’s national security advisor supremely compromised and an easy target for Russian blackmail.
Yet instead of doing anything about Michael Flynn, Trump instead fired Sally Yates 4 days later, seemingly in response to her statement regarding the legality of the administration’s recent Muslim ban. But considering the timing of what we know now
was that Trump’s only reason for demanding the resignation of Sally Yates?
It wasn’t until a surprising 2 weeks later that Trump acknowledged anything regarding Flynn, and only after news reports began to spring up, forcing Trump into making a statement that he planned to “look into it.” It was then and only then that the White House finally confessed that the President had indeed been briefed on Flynn’s activity weeks before.
Then finally, on February 14th, in a rather over-long letter Flynn stated that
“because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”
What Flynn didn’t say was that he apparently also tried to cover up the fact that he had implied certain promises regarding how a Trump administration would roll back any sanctions imposed by the previous administration – a blatant violation of the Logan Act, signed into law in 1799 by President John Adams (the Logan Act prohibits private citizens from communicating with foreign governments for purposes of negotiation or to influence actions).
Contact between a private citizen and a foreign power isn’t necessarily unprecedented in recent memory, but strangely (strangely indeed), one similar incident happened in the Nixon administration. Yes, that’s right. Prior to Dick Nixon taking office, his pick for National Security Advisor, one Henry Kissinger, met with a K.G.B. agent at the Soviet Embassy shortly after the election in 1969 to open “lines of communication.”
The difference with the Kissinger meeting however was that he contacted J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI before the meeting to let them know what he was doing (possibly one of the last times anyone in the Nixon administration worried about coloring within the lines of the law).
Flynn’s exit from the Trump administration marked the second time this suddenly ignorant but consistently irrational career conspiracy theorist has been forced out of an appointed position. The first occasion came in 2014 when Flynn was given the boot from his role as Director at the Defense Intelligence Agency (the DIA) after 18 months – a position appointed by then President Barrack Obama.
The reason? Apparently, Gen. Flynn quickly became known as something of a jerk to his subordinates with little regard for reality. And this brings us to the third and final National Security Advisor in Day 25’s sad tale of woe.
According to emails leaked from former Secretary of State (and former National Security Advisor) Colin Powell, Flynn was fired from his DIA post because he was “abusive with staff”, “didn’t listen” and “worked against policy” – three qualities that made him a natural fit in the Trump administration, but apparently not the Obama administration.
Most importantly however, Gen. Flynn, like some kind of 3-star Rumpelstiltskin had a penchant for spinning his own reality gold out of the fertile straw around him. Flynn was in fact so adept at rolling his own truth that his subordinates referred to his fanciful notions as “Flynn facts” – things that were outlandishly not true yet he persisted in believing. Now where have we heard of that more recently?
Yes, that’s right: before there was Kellyanne Conway and “alternative facts” there were “Flynn facts”!
And finally, consider Trump’s summation of the whole unsavory whirlwind affair with this simple ode to alternative facts. Posting that day from his Twitter account the embattled president offered his own take on the Flynn fiasco:
No, Donald, that is not the real story.
The real story is that someone undoubtedly told Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador that day (and particularly that day – the day when sanctions were announced) to reassure Putin that they would make everything better once the Trump team set up shop. Team Trump knew the Gen. Flynn had previous dealings with Russia from his consulting work and that he had met Putin on previous occasions. Who better for a clandestine call? The only question remaining is: was it senior neo-Nazi Steve Bannon or was it Trump himself that directed the deed?
The real story is that Trump tried to conceal the Flynn investigation from the press (or at least stall the news) by firing Sally Yates 4 days after she alerted him to the FBI investigation.
And finally, no, Mr. President, as fiercely as you tweet to the contrary, the real story is that if news of this investigation had not leaked out, forcing you to acknowledge the incident, we may never have known about it. That’s the real story on day 25.