Was Michael Flynn the First Scalp Taken by the Establishment?
It was announced Monday that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had turned in his resignation amid questions surrounding conversations he had with the Russian ambassador regarding U.S. sanctions. While President Trump was perhaps justified in seeking Flynn’s resignation, let’s not be drawn in by the media’s overblown hype. The trouble with Flynn was that he apparently lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the administration, forcing them to defend him using an incomplete set of facts. If the trust isn’t there, Trump had no choice but to cut Flynn loose.
On the other hand, consider Flynn’s original sin, as it were. The FBI says they have him on tape discussing the sanctions against Russia in a vague, general way, asking the ambassador not to rush into any hasty reaction and indicating that the Trump administration would revisit the subject after the inauguration. He didn’t make any promises. He merely cautioned against the kind of vengeful retaliation that would have made it difficult for Trump to reconsider U.S.-Russian relations.
Furthermore, we can’t pretend that Flynn is so stupid that he would be unaware that his conversations with the ambassador were being monitored by U.S. intelligence officials. Perhaps he violated the spirit of an obscure, never-before-used foreign policy law, but it’s absurd to act as though the FBI caught him in an act of treason – as some left-wing commentators are suggesting.
Lost in the drama now unfolding is the fact that the sanctions in question – the ones imposed by the Obama administration in November – were mostly political in nature. They were an overreaction by a president who was embarrassed by the outcome of the election and worried about his endangered legacy. They were an attempt to hamstring the incoming president and prevent him from doing what Obama couldn’t – align with Russia against the Islamic State.
Now, the really disturbing part of this is how it played out. Flynn’s resignation came after intelligence officials leaked the substance of his calls to the press. That’s not supposed to happen. It indicates that there are forces within the U.S. intelligence community working against the president. Indeed, some have reported that the NSA and other agencies have been deliberately withholding intelligence from the administration because they “fear” the Kremlin’s intrusion. Is this a legitimate fear, or are we watching the Establishment – Obama loyalists and others – wage war against a man who has threatened to shatter the old boys’ club?
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