Michael Flynn’s Resignation is Great News for the Trump Administration, America, and the World
Whoever replaces him as National Security Adviser will be a big improvement
The official story, according to Flynn’s resignation letter: “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”
The unofficial story: other national security principals didn’t trust him. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo were meeting with each other behind Flynn’s back.
Why it’s good: Flynn is a lunatic. Great at hunting insurgents, poor administrative skills, enthralled with conspiracy theories, and an avowed Islamophobe. As a top foreign policy adviser and chair of the National Security Council, he was a danger to the United States and the world.
In December, before assuming office, Flynn told Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Trump might lift the sanctions Obama imposed in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. This violated the Logan Act — under which only the president and his designated representatives can make foreign policy — because Obama was still in office.
Flynn told Pence and other senior officials that his conversations with Kislyak consisted of nothing but pleasantries. When reporters asked about the phone calls, Pence defended Flynn, but in late January, acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House that Flynn lied.
The revelation that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions embarrassed Pence, and showed the administration Flynn can’t be trusted. Russia knew Flynn violated the Logan Act and was covering it up, which made him vulnerable to blackmail.
I’m skeptical that Yates’ report shocked the White House. Earlier in January, leaks appeared in the press suggesting Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak. He also might have closer ties to Russia than anyone else in the administration (which is saying something). Flynn appeared as a paid speaker numerous times on Kremlin propaganda outfit Russia Today, and sat next to Putin at RT’s 10th anniversary party.
There’s a good chance the administration knew about the phone calls. At the very least, they should have suspected.
Maybe they thought it didn’t matter and no one would care. Once the media found out, maybe the White House thought it would blow over, or a new story would distract everyone. Now they might think sacrificing Flynn will put the larger Russia issue to bed.
Regardless, removing him is a positive development.
Flynn had no business being National Security Adviser.
He had a distinguished military career, culminating in director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (2004–2007), Centcom (2007–2008), and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (2008–2009). In Iraq and Afghanistan, he synthesized massive streams of information to target insurgent fighters. It’s a crucial task and he was very good at it.
In 2012, Obama appointed Flynn to run the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was forced out two years later, reportedly for denigrating subordinates, clashing with superiors, and propagating questionable information so often that DIA staffers coined the term “Flynn Facts.”
According to Flynn, the Obama administration fired him because he issued warnings about radical Islamic terrorism and they didn’t want to listen.
After retirement, Flynn wrote a book, called The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. As the title suggests, Flynn’s interpretation of that war is expansive.
Flynn also gave speeches arguing that “Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind being a religion.” He called the religion “a cancer,” and spread stories of numerous Islamic terrorists sneaking into the United States as part of a plan to “get into the bloodstream of” Western nations.
His son, Michael Jr., helped spread the infamous “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory — which claimed Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of the basement of a D.C. pizza place — and Flynn made his son part of the transition team until a shooting at the restaurant pressured him to resign.
Reports indicate that Flynn brought his combativeness and conspiracy mongering from DIA to the National Security Council, and high-level national security officials leaked that Flynn oversaw a chaotic transition.
Flynn was one of the earliest people of any prominence to back Trump. He attended Trump rallies in 2015, and became an official adviser in February 2016. To put that in perspective, the New Hampshire primary was on February 9, and then-Senator Jeff Sessions became the first national officeholder to endorse Trump on February 28.
The president could have insisted the accusations against Flynn were fake news — as he does with so many other fact-based accusations — and refused to get rid of him. But he didn’t.
Trump bowed to pressure for the first time. The president values personal loyalty, and Flynn was with him when no one thought he could win. Removing the National Security Adviser after three weeks — the shortest tenure ever — is an embarrassing admission that Trump’s first major decision was a mistake. But some combination of public and private criticism got him to change course.
While the administration still has considerable problems, that’s a sign of growth.
As for foreign policy, Trump’s inner circle appears divided between two camps:
- Those who see a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam, want the United States to become more aggressive against radical Islam — which they define broadly — and generally want to upend the world order. (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller).
- Those who want the United States to continue it’s role as leader of the free world, maintaining the American-led international system. (Mattis, Tillerson, Pompeo, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly).
Flynn was a powerful member of the first camp. As chair of the NSC, in charge of bringing together Cabinet departments and various agencies to formulate national security and foreign policy decisions, he was arguably the most dangerous.
His resignation indicates the second camp is gaining influence. It’s the best news this year.