February 14th, 2017

The Michael Flynn resignation

Regarding attitudes towards Trump, there are three kinds of people.

And it may be that each type represents about a third of the population, although that’s just a guess of mine.

The first group is composed of the die-hards, those people Trump was referring to during the campaign when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they wouldn’t much care. The second group consists of their opposites, those who believe Trump is evil incarnate, should be impeached (or worse) immediately and should have been impeached before taking office.

The third group is everybody else. That includes me. It may even include you.

The news of the day is that Michael Flynn—Trump’s National Security Advisor for 24 days—has resigned. You can read about the Flynn brouhaha here—and read about it and read about it and read about it, because it is being covered as though it’s another Watergate or worse. But I doubt you’ll get much clarity on it, although I encourage you to try.

I did. I’ve been reading about this for about two hours, and it still feels unusually murky. However, I offer the following observations—

That first group I mentioned will go on defending Trump. Members of the second group think this is the tip of one of the many icebergs that will finally sink the Trump Titanic, the sooner the better, because Trump is uniquely evil and is also in league with the nefarious Russians (about whom any concern was oh-so-80s back in 2012 when expressed by Romney, but never mind).

Many in the third group will be puzzled. Some will shrug and ignore it: who’s Michael Flynn and why should we care (and what about job creation and the economy)? Some will buy the idea being stated by the MSM that what happened is awful and a reflection of the continuing and widespread chaos (turmoil, confusion, strife) in the Trump camp. And some will distrust everything the media says and everything the Trump people say.

In other words, I don’t think this will sway the basic opinions of the vast majority of people. But I am quite sure that this is just one of a continuing train of stories that will be reported on during the Trump administration, with the intent of sinking Trump and everyone and everything associated with him.

As far as what actually happened with Flynn goes, the basic facts can be found here. For the underlying issues, this is one of the better summaries, I think:

1. This Won’t Answer Questions About The Trump Team’s Ties To Russia. This will surely reinvigorate the narrative that Vladimir Putin helped Wikileaks hack Democratic institutions in order to swing the election to Trump, with the knowledge that Trump would be far friendlier to Russia than Hillary. That’s still speculation, of course, but the speculation will ramp up far higher than it did before with Flynn resigning…

2. Trump’s Administration Is Going To Have Serious Leak Trouble. This story only broke because nine sources – nine! – told the Washington Post that the Flynn conversation apparently covered sanctions. Trump’s running into some serious opposition in the intelligence community, and they’re undercutting him with leak after leak…

3. At Best, There’s Some Confusion In The Trump Administration. One of two things is true: either Flynn fibbed to Pence and White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump himself, or Trump authorized Flynn to speak with the Russians, but didn’t authorize Flynn to tell Pence and Spicer about it. Either is possible…

4. Democrats, As Always, Aren’t Interested In Truth. Democrats are mostly interested in pillorying Trump. If this same thing had happened under Barack Obama, Democrats would have defended him with alacrity…

5. The Media Are Drooling. The media have a scalp now. They’re receiving leaks. They’re reporting. And they’re not letting up…

I see #5 as key to the significance of this story. Unless further revelations come that broaden or deepen the tale, I see the Flynn episode as one in a long line of crises—both real and manufactured—that we will be reading about as long as Trump and the GOP are in power.

And yes, that would have been true of any GOP president. But it’s even more true for Trump. That’s because there really is quite a bit of disarray and confusion in his administration, in part because of his lack of experience as an executive in government (which is different from running a real estate project), and also because of other exploitable characteristics in his personality and style. It’s also because the MSM and the left see him as uniquely vulnerable because of his slim margin of victory, and because a great many of his voters were not really all that keen on him but were voting against Clinton. These all combine to make Trump’s legions of enemies on the left very focused and very motivated in their attacks, and quite relentless.

22 Responses to “The Michael Flynn resignation”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    On MSNBC today Tom Friedman of the NYT was of the opinion that the alleged Russian “hacking” of our election was on the scale of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. I kid you not. Completely unhinged.

  2. Ike Says:

    And the anti-Trump faction edges closer and closer to open sedition and insurrection every day. And yes I am aware that America has no actual law condemning acts of sedition; nonetheless, sedition is what it is, even when it isn’t illegal. That’s the point of Obama’s D.C. HQ of OFA and all his “troops” and staff.

  3. Esther Says:

    The whole war against Trump is freaking me out, although I didn’t support him initially–there was a lot not to like.

    I guess I’m in the camp that is nervous that the possibility of a deep state takedown, such as described by Eli Lake at Bloomberg, poses a greater threat than “Russian blackmail.”

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Yes, all part of the bring Trump down by whatever means necessary.

    But in misleading Pence, Flynn had to go.

    Most disturbing of all is the DOJ & FBI secretely listening in on a private phone call between the Vice President of the United States and the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Cornhead:

    But for Tom Friedman et. al., the result of that election was on that order. So they must wage war against it.

    It was a sneak attack, too, because they didn’t see it coming.

  6. expat Says:

    What hasn’t been revealed is who brought up sanctions in the discussion with Flynn, and did Flynn really have a serious discussion about them or did he merely try to deflect the matter until Trump got into office. Without knowing these things, I can’t make a judgement.

    The media is able to call up videos of anything a Trump appointment has said, but they don’t show Obama saying he would have more flexibility after the election or that the 80s are over. Nor do they mention Hillary’s uranium deal. CNN showed a video of Flynn at a Trump ralley saying that Hillary should be in jail for her unprotected email server. I guess that was supposed to show what a nut he is.

    I am sick of it all. How much do they pay those pundits for talking endlessly about things they know nothing about?

  7. Montage Says:

    Vox, which leans left, writes that the departure of Flynn actually begins to make Trump’s foreign policy cabinet now look normal. I think they fall into a 4th group, which is they dislike Trump but try to take a view of him that is a bit more sober and news-like – rather than conspiracy-like. Yes, they call Flynn extreme. But they essentially say everyone else in the cabinet is closer to what we have seen over the years.

    http://www.vox.com/world/2017/2/14/14609478/michael-flynn-trump-foreign-policy

  8. parker Says:

    Trump needs to twitter less and move fast to purge BHO and any remaining WJC moles in the bureaucracy.

  9. Janetoo Says:

    They need to somehow get a handle on it. Isn’t there anyone who isn’t a progressive working in the govt?

  10. Jim Doherty Says:

    This is on Pompeo. I know he hasnt had time to do anything about it yet. But he must stop this. The media truely thinks they are doing gods work. They have no idea how much damage they are doing to their own interests: namely that big brother is us.

    BHO always tried to nomalize the govt by saying we are the govt.

    The media is putting that lie in the grave.

  11. DNW Says:

    Funny. What if Trump simply turned off the mainstream media, and began working with the tools and powers which he has?

    Yes, I know the left which felt it had a lock on society forever, without hindrance or let, will subvert and wail and wage war …

    But the fact is the GOP has the legal hammer.

    They need to tune out some of the static and let the lunatic left shriek , as they make the laws and policy.

    If the left begin to resort to civil insurrection that is another thing. But blocking cars and storming residential dwellings is unlikely to give them the results they imagine.

    The those identifying with the political right now know with an absolute moral certainty, that the left want them dispossessed of their property, deprived of their liberty and personal independence, their moral communities destroyed, and them themselves, ultimately … dead.

    We present-day libertarians or conservatives grew up watching and understanding the previous generations of leftists which our parents found so incomprehensible that they just could not wrap their heads around how morally alien, and not simply “kooky” or flaky they actually were.

    That’s not likely to replay out the same way this time. We know it’s open malice, malevolence, and threat, from the moment they with their masked faces start banging on your door.

  12. donkatsu Says:

    Part of the problem is the bloat at all levels of the federal bureaucracy. It is almost impossible to vet the 400 holdover NSC staffers from Obama’s regime in a few weeks. Short of fluttering them all, how can you figure out quickly who is loyal with so many people to sift through. Polygraphing the full NSC staff would probably take about two weeks, but only after the lawsuits and the anguished gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by the poor oppressed staffers and their journalist/OFA buddies.

    On the other hand, maybe it is time ti trim things a bit. Reagan won the Cold War with fewer than 70 NSC staffers. Clinton seldom had more than 100 NSC staffers. What Trump will need to do is pare down these staffs, put the unreliables into positions where they are unable to do much damage, and move on to the next departments with the same mission.

    He needs people to do this and a clear sense of how government works so that he does not get bogged down in process by his enemies.

  13. Cornhead Says:

    When does the FBI come investigate Ben Rhodes, Sally Yates, John Brennan and Clapper?

  14. Cornhead Says:

    And hiw could I forget Susan Rice.

  15. sdferr Says:

    Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon: “Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn

    The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.

    The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.

    It is a very juicy story Mr. Kredo relates, and there is oh so much more to it, mostly centering on Obama official’s efforts to protect their precious deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, natch. Do read on.

  16. donkatsu Says:

    Cornhead,

    You have listed the crew that would have had clearance to hear the Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence material recorded by the NSA in the conversation(s) between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador in December.

    Oh yeah, two more, Barry himself and the Prime Minister, ValJar. And how many of these people could have obtained even a “Secret” clearance in more sane circumstances?

  17. miklos000rosza Says:

    A very left-wing journalist I know — we’re not really friends, though she’s visited my home in the past — posted on Facebook today “Next we’ll get Kellyanne Conway. Then Steve Bannon.” This really gives me the creeps.

  18. Tuvea Says:

    Geoffrey Britain opined:

    “But in misleading Pence, Flynn had to go.”

    Exactly right. He lost the trust of the President. Any advice he could have offered would automatically be suspect.

    Even if you don’t like President Trump ( I certainly do; I’m thrilled when I see him stand behind a podium having The Seal of The President of the United States on it ) you should want him to make decisions based on reliable information.

  19. Yankee Says:

    I first heard the term “Deep State” applied to the bureaucracy in Turkey, and with what just happened with Mr. Flynn, something similar may be going on here. It’s possible that some in the CIA and other agencies have their own agenda, and their policy preferences, and will do what they can to maintain their autonomy, and disallow any changes they do not approve of. After all, Flynn was an outsider, with a reformist agenda, and just a few days earlier, one of his aides, Robin Townley, was denied a security clearance by the CIA.

    But all those who are attacking President Trump right now should be careful what they wish for. Mr. Trump may fight back, and he has many tools and strategies at his disposal. One of these includes just releasing information about what went on during the previous (Obama) administration.

  20. AesopFan Says:

    Janetoo Says:
    February 14th, 2017 at 4:21 pm
    They need to somehow get a handle on it. Isn’t there anyone who isn’t a progressive working in the govt?
    * * *
    Not many, if any, and they don’t advertise if they are.

    The most troubling thing to me has always been the leaking of what should obviously have been a top-secret conversation, even if Flynn was just the presumptive (not sitting) official; hitting the ground rolling is what transitions are for.

    http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/02/14/flynns-ouster-blood-water-lighthouse-sight/

    A few comments on the drama, which WaPo now warns us is just getting started.

    The news magically changed in the last three weeks

    This, you probably won’t remember. But on 23 January, WaPo cited “U.S. officials” in a report that the FBI had reviewed the recorded phone calls in question – exactly the phone calls anonymous sources later told WaPo were damning evidence against Flynn – and said (emphasis added):

    “The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump — but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government, U.S. officials said.”

    Sally Yates, trotted out for a political resurrection

    Nevertheless, the FBI’s boss at the time, (then) acting Attorney General Sally Yates, is now said to have told the White House “near the end of January” that she thought Flynn was dirty.

    (Kenneth) Timmerman has no doubt that the hand of the “shadow warriors” whom he calls “rogue weasels” is on this. He and Eli Lake both point to the gross impropriety of the leaks to the Washington Post about the electronic monitoring of the Russian ambassador – something that suddenly, last week, was suffered to become a topic of routine public conversation. WaPo, in fact, barely registered in its reporting that this is a sensitive program.

    I found that telling myself last week, and know just what Timmerman means when he says of the leakers: “What sets off this particular episode of the shadow warriors [i.e., what distinguishes it – J.E.] is the willingness of former top officials to leave their fingerprints behind.”

    The sense of the “shadow warriors” assassinating someone in the open, and then taking credit for it, is palpable.

    Adam Kredo’s article is in some ways the most intriguing. His sources have told him explicitly that the campaign against Flynn was organized by members of the Obama administration. Reportedly, a key purpose was to dirty up Trump’s national security team before it reveals the details of the 2015 “Iran deal” (the JCPOA) that have been kept secret from the public, and even from Congress, in the 18 months since.

    Lawmakers on the Hill are expressing grave concern about the leaks to the Washington Post (discussed above; Eli Lake and Ken Timmerman both emphasized them). And their concern is not just about the leaks, but about one obvious feature of the leaked information: that the leakers knew the identity of the person Ambassador Kislyak was talking to. By law, they aren’t supposed to.

    Unless he was the subject of an investigation, Mike Flynn’s identity in the monitored phone calls should not have been known to anyone outside the FBI’s monitoring team. His identity should not have been recorded at all, or ever discussed.

    Yet in January, the FBI reportedly said it had reviewed Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – even though the FBI also said Flynn was not under investigation. (See, I told you you’d want to remember that.)

    Congress very properly wants to know if the FBI had a warrant for identifying Flynn in such phone calls. And if so, why the BS story from January about not monitoring Flynn himself, because he wasn’t under investigation? Which version is the truth?

    Consider just the following. Trump can still name his own national security adviser. He’s got his new attorney general and his CIA director (Mike Pompeo). He has the legitimate pretext now for a wirebrush investigation of the very officials who were working so hard over the last couple of weeks to undermine his national security team — and Congress wanting that investigation. These are leakers who apparently were gathering information improperly on a U.S. citizen. (Which, to be clear, is a felony, even aside from the “leaks” aspect of this.) They’re not the ones I’d want to be, going forward. You really have to think Trump is stupid, to imagine that he doesn’t see that option clearly.

    And – three – regarding the revelation of the secret protocols to the “Iran deal,” those are written down in black and white somewhere. Imposing handicaps on their release is a losing proposition, and the long run on that won’t be so very long.

    Maybe the assault on Flynn was part of a larger effort that includes trying to blackmail Trump to keep him quiet about the “Iran deal” protocols. Keep in mind, merely revealing the secret protocols would be considered a breach of the “deal” by Iran. Trump’s opponents in the U.S. have more than one reason for wanting to prevent the public exposure. They don’t want to present Iran with triggers that have to be reacted to.
    … etc.
    * *
    Remember that Dyer is a retired Navy intelligence officer. She knows what spooks do.

  21. DNW Says:

    Re the CIA.

    This probably ain’t your father’s CIA; nor my father’s FBI.

    I think we can go back to the Plame charade to get some idea of how politically invested in domestic change some of these employees are.

  22. Big Maq Says:

    “The third group is everybody else.” – Neo

    I recall elsewhere writing that NBC had a poll that showed this is likely two groups:

    1) Those that are Conditionally supportive of trump / hopeful – probably where many traditional GOP supporters are.
    2) Those that are Curious (i.e. can be convinced to support trump), though they are now highly skeptical given his GOP “alignment” – probably mostly center or left of center, the latter probably traditionally dem voters.

    The line between the two is probably rather blurred and perhaps is situational / dependent on events and their timing. Plus, I don’t like the left vs right paradigm (vs the Nolan Chart view), which might explain some of that blur.

    Committed trump supporters and these two groups are roughly equal in size, while those dead Opposed to trump are ~35%.

    The two extremes in those four groups are probably predisposed to believe conspiracies that fit their view (and have the greatest affinity with blue vs red team arguments, imho).
    .

    “2. Trump’s Administration Is Going To Have Serious Leak Trouble. … Trump’s running into some serious opposition in the intelligence community, and they’re undercutting him with leak after leak”

    Who says it is all in the intel community?

    Anyone who has seen a few episodes of “The Apprentice” would observe that trump encourages combative competition, and admires “strength”.

    Makes for tv ratings, but who says that is not how he likes to run things?

    In that environment, it would be no surprise at all if leaks come from those surrounding him, aimed at their competitors.

    There you go, another possible (and plausible) conspiracy theory to spin up and counter some of the rest wrt the intel community.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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