Flynn’s Lies About Russia Connections Give Trump Only Bad Options

After disappearing from the radar screen for a few weeks, it looks like Trump’s Russian connections are back with a vengeance. And increasingly the focus is on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

CNN is reporting that various pieces of information in the “Russian dossier” that accused the Trump campaign of numerous contacts with Russia are apparently being confirmed by US intelligence sources. Most of this information concerns meetings and discussions between individuals on specific days that the intelligence agencies have been able to verify actually occurred. This, of course, lends even more credence to the other allegations in the document. Intelligence officials stressed that they have not been able to verify any of the most shocking accusations such as the fact that the Russians have material with which to blackmail Trump. It is doubtful those allegations will ever be “proved”.

In a more disturbing development, it appears that Flynn actually did speak to the Russian ambassador about the new sanctions Obama put in place over Russian hacking in the weeks preceding Trump’s inauguration. Flynn has repeatedly denied this accusation, and Vice President Pence has repeated Flynn’s denial. But now Flynn has backed off his explicit denial and is now saying he “had no recollection of discussing sanctions”, but “he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” In addition, it now appears certain that Flynn was in frequent contact with the Russian ambassador before and after the election. This puts a lie to another Pence claim, that there had been no contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.

At least nine officials privy to the details of the call now say that Flynn did discuss the sanctions with the Russian ambassador and, according to the Washington Post story, “Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.” Because Flynn was in essence negotiating with the Russians while he was still just an American citizen rather than a representative of the US Government, this is a clear violation of the Logan Act. For obvious reasons, no one has ever been prosecuted for a Logan Act violation and it is probable that Flynn will not be the first.

Flynn will probably have bigger worries than the Logan Act. It was probably not a good move to put Pence out there to lie for him as that will certainly create some backlash. More intriguing is the request by Democrat Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee for the FBI and intelligence community to confirm whether Flynn discussed sanctions and if he used encryption to avoid having those communications monitored. Schiff asks the relevant question, “It’s far less significant if he violated the Logan Act and far more significant if he willfully misled this country. Why would he conceal the nature of the call unless he was conscious of wrongdoing?” Democrats are on the attack, with both Pelosi and Cummings suggesting Flynn should have his security clearance at least temporarily revoked.

In another apparently related incident, one of Flynn’s top aides was denied a security clearance by the CIA. Although it is probable there was at least a legitimate reason for this denial, it has also fueled the war between the Trump administration and the CIA, with Trump aides call it “a hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him”. Additionally, there are reports tonight that the CIA is withholding certain sensitive information from the White House because the assumption is that the Kremlin has eyes and ears inside the Situation Room. It is hard not to see this as a situation that is untenable for any prolonged period of time.

For Trump, firing Flynn would be the easy way out and something every other President would have done by now. But Trump obviously is quite loyal to Flynn which complicates that easy decision. Interestingly, Stephen Miller, who was doing the rounds of the Sunday chat shows spouting unrelenting false propaganda, refused to comment on the Flynn situation, saying, “They [the White House] did not give me anything to say.” That is hardly a big vote of confidence. But the longer Trump sticks with Flynn, the longer it looks like Trump is keeping him on because of the Russian connections and the longer it will keep the story in the news. Both firing Flynn or keeping him in place looks bad. Either way it is a lose, lose situation for Trump. And that is a win for the country.

[I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com]

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E.Eggert(m2c4)

E.Eggert(m2c4)

Thoughtful discussions on politics and economics with some sidelights in photography and astronomy.