On February 13, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn resigned from his post as President Trump’s National Security Adviser. Flynn’s resignation came as evidence mounted that he may have violated the Logan Act, which forbids American civilians from negotiating with foreign powers. Though Flynn had always had connections to Russia that were troubling to both Democrats and Republicans, recent news report indicated that the Justice Department had serious concerns that Flynn had actually broken the law, and that the White House was aware.
The potential wrongdoing was discovered before Trump’s inauguration. The Obama administration was bracing for any possible response from harsh sanctions it had imposed on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election. Much to the outgoing administration’s surprise, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced there would be no retaliatory measures. Intelligence analysts, in trying to understand Putin’s uncharacteristically humble response, made a startling discovery. The Russian ambassador and Flynn, still a civilian, had been in contact.
Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General fired by Trump for refusing to defend the travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, characterized the conversations as being “highly significant” and “potentially illegal.” She notified the White House. Flynn had denied that sanctions were discussed, then backtracked and claimed he no longer was sure what was discussed, or when. After several news outlets reported on the Justice Department’s warning to the President, Flynn’s historically short tenure of just 25 days came to an abrupt end.
There are good things about Flynn resigning from his position. Perhaps most obviously, there is now at least one less individual with uncomfortably close ties to Russia influencing important decisions made regarding National Security.
Flynn was also one of the most bellicose American hawks with regard to Iran. While the Islamic Republic’s interests run distinctly counter to those of the United States more often than not, there were serious concerns that Flynn desperately wanted to ignite a broader conflict with Iran in the Middle East. With no clear end to the war in Afghanistan in sight, ISIS still very much a threat in Iraq and Syria, and ongoing military operations in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, there was serious cause for concern that Flynn would propel Trump into a reckless conflict. With the US already overextended, a war against Iran and its nearly 83 million inhabitants is a dubious gamble at best. Civilian deaths and their contributions to jihadist propaganda and the creation of even more refugees fleeing violence do nothing to serve the interests of America, to say nothing of the cost in blood, equipment, and money for all potential belligerents.
Flynn also possessed questionable temperament. He had already been fired by the Obama administration for his disorganized management style, posted links to fake news stories on social media during the presidential campaign, and joined the chorus of other blow-hards who seemed to think that shouting “radical Islamic terrorism” as loudly as possible was a meaningful contribution to the ongoing War on Terror.
Despite whatever solace these positives can temporarily provide, Americans have every right to be furious at Flynn, as well as the entire Trump regime. Whether it had any bearing on the outcome of the election or not, this administration shall be forever linked to Russian interference in the 2016 election, and it’s clear that Putin decidedly favored Trump’s electoral victory. Between the campaign and the new administration, Flynn is the third high-ranking official to resign from Tump’s political organization as a result of murky ties to Russia. He may not be the last.
This is even more inexcusable given that top U.S. national security leaders are confident that Russia is currently training anti-U.S. insurgent forces in Afghanistan, where our military has continuously been engaged since 2001. If American service members are killed by fighters trained by the Russian government with whom Flynn was so cozy, the nature of his crime shifts from one of blatant impropriety to a deeper betrayal of the very men and women with whom he used to serve, and it warrants consideration of a proportional punishment.
Given all this, it’s the height of irony that Flynn was one of the loudest critics of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her private email server on the campaign trail. He led chants of “Lock her up!” at the Republican National Convention and routinely criticized her when appearing on Fox News.
Flynn’s resignation letter referred to his “distinguished” service during his notably brief time serving Trump, yet his chief contribution seems to be only the raid on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula compound in Yemen’s Al Bayda province. That operation left Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens dead, may have unearthed outdated intelligence, handed extremists valuable propaganda in the form of dead civilians (including at least one eight-year old girl, and possibly as many as nine children total), and has jeopardized further U.S. cooperation with friendly Yemeni forces.
President Trump is saying that the real story ought to be the leaks to the press that continue to emerge from the White House, rather than the disorganization and incompetence percolating within. His staff can’t get their story straight. Kellyanne Conway told Matt Lauer the morning of February 14 that Flynn resigned. Hours later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump fired Flynn. Neither reflects well on the administration; Conway’s version implies Trump hadn’t properly vetted his National Security Adviser, whereas Spicer’s suggests Trump ignored potential criminal activity by one of his senior officials.
If there is credible evidence that Flynn broke the law, he needs to answer for those crimes. The American people deserve to know the full extent of his ties to Russia, as well as any similar ties elsewhere in Trump’s administration. Whatever his service and accomplishments in Afghanistan or Iraq in the past, Flynn’s lack of judgement and integrity has rendered him nothing more than a disgrace to the uniform he wore and to the country he once served.