One of Trump’s cabinet picks that I have not written about yet is National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. I did not intentionally neglect him, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I simply had not gotten around to him. Turns out, I should have. Flynn, a retired United States Army lieutenant general, served 33 years in the U.S. Army. Trump named him to be National Security Advisor, a position which does not require the advice and consent of the Senate. Concerns about Flynn began almost immediately, for his purported close relations with Russia, and for his role in the smear campaign against Hillary Clinton, using fake news and conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit Ms. Clinton.
Having already proven that he is not above playing dirty pool, it should come as no surprise that he may have significantly breeched a code of conduct and broken the law on Christmas Day, 2016, during a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. That a conversation between Flynn and Kislyak took place on December 25th is verifiable fact. The content of the conversation is what seems to be in dispute, and much is yet unknown. However, I am a firm believer that when there is a lot of smoke in the house, you ought to call the fire department. First, Flynn claimed that he only called Kislyak to wish him a “Merry Christmas”. Then, it was said by the Trump transition team that the two discussed arrangements for a phone call between Trump and Putin.
Note that this was at a point during the final days of President Obama’s administration when he had a tough decision to make. It had been confirmed that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC and releasing confidential information that may have affected the election. As of December 25th, President Obama had made the decision to impose sanctions on Russia, but had not yet done so.
Now comes the part that is not, as yet, verified, but that may well be a smoking gun. According to nine “unnamed current and former national security sources”, Flynn allegedly gave Kislyak a ‘heads up’ that President Obama planned to impose sanctions, but not to worry, as Trump would remove them once he took office.
In January, Mike Pence stated that the two “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” Then as recently as Wednesday, Flynn was asked twice whether he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak, to which he responded both times that he had not. Then the very next day, Thursday, Flynn’s spokesperson said that Flynn, “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” He cannot remember if he discussed the forthcoming sanctions or not. This is where the trouble starts.
Four days after the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, President Obama announced the sanctioning of Russian intelligence officials, expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats suspected of being spies and shutting down two Russian facilities in the United States. Many expected Putin to respond angrily and with retaliation, but instead he simply said, “It is regrettable that the Obama administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.” It was puzzling, at the time, almost sinister, but if he already knew of the sanctions and knew they would soon be lifted, that would explain a lot. Trump, of course, condemned the president and praised Putin.
The FBI continues to investigate, and even if it can be proven that Flynn did, in fact, discuss the sanctions with Kislyak, the outcome is still uncertain. I cannot speculate. Flynn served under President Obama as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until his firing (or resignation, depending on which version you read) in 2014, amid controversy about his chaotic management style (a good fit with his current boss, yes?). Under another president, Flynn would likely be ousted if the accusations prove true, but under Trump, even the political analysts are not predicting what will happen. Trump will almost certainly attempt to put some positive spin on the whole thing, but first you can bet that he will call it all ‘fake news’ by a ‘biased media’. Meanwhile … stay tuned …