President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned Monday night, driven out of the job after just 24 days by a torrent of leaks suggesting he lied to colleagues, who in turn lied to the public, about his pre-inauguration conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The leaks themselves, and Flynn’s departure, were rightly interpreted as major stories, but the theory of what motivated the leaks, and then the departure, remains unclear. Flynn has a famously hostile relationship with much of the intelligence community. Did his professional enemies simply sense an opening and take revenge? Does the Trump White House, which routinely lies to the public, really believe that lying to colleagues is a fireable offense (if and when the press gets wind of it)? Relatedly, what did Trump know and when did he know it? Does this story have anything to do with the Moscow-directed subversion campaign aimed at helping him defeat Hillary Clinton?
These are all good questions, but they point to a fairly widespread lack of clarity about what makes the reported facts of the story so damning (beyond how embarrassing it is for Trump, who only hires “the best people,” to lose one of his closest advisers in such an embarrassing way). To see why Flynn had to go, and why the story is likely to engulf more people, it’s useful to look at the Flynn-specific leaks in isolation, as if the larger story about Trump, his aides, Russia, the infamous opposition-research dossier, and so much else doesn’t exist.
In that confined universe, the story begins with an incoming administration that wants to normalize relations with Russia, and an outgoing one that has just imposed new sanctions on Russia’s government. The president-elect’s national security adviser thus conducts a little unofficial diplomacy, in a series of phone calls with Russia’s ambassador on the day the sanctions are announced, to prevent things from escalating before the transition is complete. This would perhaps technically qualify as a violation of the Logan Act, prohibiting private citizens from meddling in U.S. foreign policy. But that law seems almost entirely unenforceable, and—let’s face it—if an incoming administration thinks the outgoing one has shit the diplomatic bed, how much restraint should we expect them to show? Flynn perhaps should’ve held off, but Trump himself flouted the one-president-at-a-time convention constantly, and in much more galling ways.
Source/ rest: newrepublic.com