National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a former lieutenant general, resigned early in President Donald Trump’s new administration after it was revealed that the man had improper contacts with Russian officials while still a private citizen. At first, Flynn’s transgressions seemed almost trivial, but the story quickly grew. Reports revealed that Flynn had lied about talking to the Russians, and then that he had accepted financial gifts from Russian sources. Things kept going from bad to worse.
Scrutiny, inevitably, came to focus on Flynn’s temporary boss: Trump himself. Why did the hard-charging business mogul hesitate to sack Flynn immediately when evidence emerged? Did Trump try to protect his appointee, courting scandal?
Quickly, Donald Trump blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the allegedly-flawed vetting process that did not catch Flynn’s illegalities. Apparently, the fact that the Obama administration had given Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn a top-secret security clearance means that Trump is blameless in the whole debacle. While this certainly does not answer why Trump waited a suspiciously long time to fire Flynn, you can almost understand the reasoning: Why wouldn’t a political neophyte like Trump automatically assume that a decorated military officer under the previous administration was trustworthy?
But, a new wrinkle has emerged that could really hurt the former real estate scion. It turns out that Barack Obama actually warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn…and within forty-eight hours of Trump winning the election!
Rarely are presidents caught so red-handed in such lies. Donald Trump tried to play innocent and pretend that he had no advance warning of Michael Flynn’s improper actions, but it has been revealed that he was unequivocally warned. Also, Trump’s aides were not warned by just anybody: Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General who was abruptly fired by Trump for refusing to support his controversial immigration ban, was the individual who sounded the warning on Flynn.
Was Yates’ unorthodox termination solely due to her disagreement with Trump’s immigration ban…or did Trump want to remove a critic who might dig deeper on Michael Flynn?
For those who pray nightly that Donald Trump will be impeached, that once-outlandish scenario now appears a lot more plausible. Conceivably, Trump could someday be called to testify about why he and his administration foot-dragged on removing Flynn from the NSA post. If he lies, which seems to be his inclination, he might be facing a perjury charge. If you think this could never actually happen, you must have forgotten about William Jefferson Clinton and a little saga called the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Trump’s penchant for lying, especially when it comes to blaming political woes on Barack Obama, could be his undoing. As a former reality television star and routine philanderer, the self-proclaimed “king of debt” may be unable to suppress his natural inclination to fib, misdirect, or outright lie. Any sort of investigation into Michael Flynn will be devastating for Trump, who will be his own worst enemy under either direct or cross-examination. If Trump even knows the whole truth, he may not be able to bring himself to say it in front of Congress.
Already, Trump’s deceitful attempt to pin the blame for Flynn on the Obama administration will hurt him. As the president’s public image continues to erode, conservative allies in Congress will want to distance themselves from him. The Obamacare repeal, which has passed through the House of Representatives, may now fizzle in the Senate as fewer Republicans there want to be branded as supporting “Trumpcare.”
As usual, the opposition will be invigorated even further. Democrats, despite controlling none of the federal triumvirate (White House, Senate, and House of Representatives), are almost giddy with excitement. Their unexpected energy indicates possible upsets in the 2017 special elections, which are to fill [safe Republican] Congressional seats opened up by Trump Cabinet appointments, and a possible surge to power in Congress in the 2018 midterms. Whenever Trump shoots himself in the foot, Democrats double down on planning for what may become the most intense midterm election season in U.S. history.
Bureaucratically speaking, Trump’s “blame it on Obama” strategy may also bring a political pinch. The outspoken outsider has been extremely slow at filling important posts, meaning he cannot afford to do anything to dissuade potential appointees. Trump’s second pick for Army secretary, for example, has just withdrawn from consideration, raising questions about whether the president’s team is competent enough to assemble an executive branch leadership. The Flynn debacle, if anything, will make it harder to find willing appointees.
Who wants to gamble a future political career on joining Team Trump? Even people who ardently support the beleaguered commander-in-chief must consider their own resumes and job security. After Flynn, prospective nominees will have to wonder whether the president can be trusted when he tells them that he will support them, or that any past foibles are truly inconsequential. Did Trump know about Flynn’s contact with the Russians and tell the former general that it was “no big deal”?
If Trump swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, what will we hear?