13th Feb — Flynn
So Flynn’s gone. Resigned over the calls to the Russian ambassador. The reason he actually gave was that he had inadvertently “misled the Vice President”. That would be when he told Mike Pence, and in fact the world at large, that he had not discussed sanctions, when in fact he had. His announcement claimed that he had “crossed no line”, but at this stage that’s almost beside the point — that’s the first scalp of the Trump administration, and it’s in connection with allegations over Russia. There’s blood in the water.
Trump has tweeted that the real story is leaks from the Whitehouse, and wonders if this will be the same when he’s dealing with the North Korea crisis. Given that the other major story of the day is that he was photographed taking a call about North Korea in the dining room of his country club within earshot of other guests and there are stories circulating on twitter that he had his aides use their phone camera lights to illuminate classified documents in the same dining room so he could read them by candlelight, the leaks would appear to be originating from quite high up. Hypocrisy-spotting again, but this is yet another stick to beat him with.
The obvious question at this point in why Flynn was discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the election. Why was it necessary to have that form of negotiation with that specific foreign power at that stage? It doesn’t seem plausible that he did this on his own initiative, but even if he did, why? Was there a tacit understanding that this would be discussed but that plausible deniability would be maintained, or were the instructions more specific?
It seems highly likely that some sort of deal was struck. As I’ve previously mentioned I don’t think that Putin is the evil mastermind being painted, but given the allegations of the hacking of the DNC, the purportedly-damning dossier of compromising pictures of Trump that was around in late 2016, and the apparent view from the NSA and CIA that the Whitehouse is compromised, there seems to be something that’s at least deserving of investigation.
Elsewhere, something else interesting has happened: Kim Jong Un’s brother has been murdered in Malaysia. I don’t know much about Kim Jong Nam, other than he was once seen as the hier apparent and then fell out of favour with Kim Jong Il. Given the belligerence and apparent confidence in North Korea, it’s hard to see this as a disconnected event, I just have no idea what it means.
Europe has been making some odd pronouncements. Firstly we’ve had some sabre-rattling over the City post-Brexit, saying that there’s a big difference between regime equivalence and single market access — not hugely surprising. What’s more interesting is the demand that the UK not attempt a divide and conquer strategy whereby different sweeteners are offered to different EU countries to fragment the EU team. That is weirdly specific, it’s like saying “definitely don’t attack out left flank between Wednesday and Friday next week because it will be completely undefended”, shouting a perceived weakness to the rafters. Peculiar.