Snared by the press in a non-scandal but big enough to cause unwanted distraction, 58-year-old former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn bit the dust for running his mouth with Russian U.S. Amb. Sergey Kislyak. Hounded out by unidentified leaks inside the White House, Flynn fell prey to his own ego, overstepping his boundary on Dec. 28, the day former President Barack Obama booted out 35 Russian diplomats, announcing new sanctions for Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. Flynn took liberties in conversations with Kislyak to discuss possible ways to mitigate Obama’s sanctions, consistent with President Donald Trump’s goal of improving U.S.-Russian relations. Flynn guaranteed 57-year-old Vice President Mike Pence that he only talked to Kislyak about future scheduling on a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When Pence went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Jan. 15, he told John Dickerson that Gen. Michael Flynn did not discuss lifting sanctions when he spoke with Russian Amb. Sergey Kislyak Dec. 28. Whether Pence really knew what Flynn talked about is anyone’s guess. Pence insists that Flynn told him he and Kislyak only discussed scheduling issues with an upcoming meeting between Trump and Putin. Letting the press hound Flynn out of his position as National Security Advisor defies logic. If they can get rid of Flynn, the press will no doubt go after any Trump official making what looks like inconsistent statements. With Russia-phobia sweeping Capitol Hill, it’s easy to see why Flynn bit the dust. Unfounded accusations, innuendo, specious rumors about Putin’s meddling in the 2016 election and Trump’s ties with Moscow all made a perfect storm for Flynn’s early demise.
Whatever Flynn discussed with Kislyak, including the possibility of dealing with Obama’s new sanctions, was not illegal or even unethical, despite Flynn’s public statements confining his talks to just scheduling issues. Flynn’s public remarks were about as credible as former Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch insisting she talked about her grandkids with former President Bill Clinton Oct. 3, 2016 on the tarmac of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak did not warrant termination as National Security Advisor. Flynn was canned for failing to inform Pence about the details of the conversation. “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and other with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador . . “ said Flynn, publicly apologizing for his screw up.
Flynn was accused of violating arcane 1799 Logan Act, banning unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Phone conversations between an incoming National Security Advisor and a Russian ambassador about possible sanctions relief does not qualify as unauthorized “negotiating” with a foreign government. Flynn got the ax because he admitted to giving “incomplete” information to Pence before he discussed Flynn’s conversations on national TV. Setting a dangerous precedent for the Trump administration, allowing a nonsensical hullabaloo to force a Cabinet-level appointee out of office. “I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology,” said in his resignation statement. Joining his son, Michael, who resigned Dec. 6 from the Transition Team, Flynn was always a weak link.
Flynn showed the apples don’t fall far from the trees or vice versa, watching his son resign because of preposterous fake news, suggesting former Democratic nominee Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ran a child sex trafficking operation. Flynn’s idle chitchat with the Russian ambassador about Obama’s sanctions amounted a hill of beans. Yet, not fully briefing Trump or Pence is where Flynn went wrong. Had Hillary not made equally spurious charges about Trump’s close ties to Putin, the anti-Russian hysteria would not be sweeping Washington. Replacing Flynn as interim National Security Advisor, Gen. Keith Kellogg place-sits until Trump’s new pick, centering on former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus or Gen. Robert Harward, deputy commander of U.S. Centcom. Petraeus, who resigned in disgrace Nov. 9, 2012 due to an affair with hi biographer Paula Broadwell, would be controversial.
Pulling the plug on Flynn wasn’t an easy decision for the White House. On the one hand, Flynn didn’t do much wrong. On the other hand, he was a loose cannon bound to get the White House in hot water. Given the chance for Flynn to hang himself, White House 64-year-old Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon and 30-year-old wunderkind Stephen Miller seized the chance to pull the plug. “The Trump administration has yet to be forthcoming about who was aware of Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador and whether he was acting on the instructions of the president and other officials, or with their knowledge,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), working hard to make political hay out Flynn’s departure. Getting rid of Flynn wasn’t easy but made the most PR sense since replacing him isn’t a problem. Looking under every rock, the media’s out for blood for anything Trump.