By Doug Porter
On Monday evening the President of the United States accepted the resignation of his national security advisor, Ret. General Michael Flynn.
The oft-stated scenario has Flynn falling on his sword following news accounts calling into question his ties with the Russian government and the Trump administration’s refusing to acknowledge there might be a security problem because of the relationship.
There is, as you will see, a three-dimensional chess game going on in world politics, and this incident is just the latest move.
“Incomplete Information” is the New Lying
First, the “resignation” story, via USA Today:
In his resignation letter, Flynn said that, because of the “fast pace of events,” he “inadvertently” gave Pence and others “incomplete information” about his call with the Russian ambassador. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn wrote.
While a close adviser to Trump during his presidential campaign, Flynn was in trouble from Day One. Critics cited his past ties to Russia, and what appeared to be signs of disorganization within the National Security Council.
A former intelligence official fired from his post by President Obama, Flynn made himself a political target by campaigning aggressively against Clinton, sometimes leading Trump supporters in chants of “lock her up!”
Flynn resigned hours after Trump spokesman Sean Spicer announced that the president was “evaluating the situation” regarding Flynn — and hours after The Washington Post report that the administration had known about Flynn’s sanctions discussion for at least a month.
Flynn held the position, first created in 1953 by President Eisenhower, for a record-setting 24 days. Henry Kissinger holds the record for longest tenure at the post, lasting nearly seven years.
“If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” -Michael Flynn pic.twitter.com/X1RSwsc7Sb
— Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) February 14, 2017
Drip. Drip, Drip
The administration’s reaction:
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
Yup, the problem isn’t what was going on between the Russian government and a not-yet-in-power administration, it’s those damn leaks!
Via Politico: (Emphasis mine)
A White House aide told POLITICO last week that the administration has launched an investigation into leaks coming out of Washington. And Trump on Tuesday appeared to be echoing dialogue from this morning’s 8 a.m. hour of “Fox & Friends.”
Laura Ingraham, a Trump supporter who had expressed interest in serving as White House press secretary, told the co-hosts that “the long knives were out for Flynn almost the moment he was announced,” noting that she had heard such “through back channels coming from the White House.”
“But I think this really was the death by a thousand leaks. We’ve seen a leak problem,” said Ingraham, editor-in-chief of the conservative site Lifezette. “The leaks that were coming out of this administration and the transition before the administration were at a level that I don’t remember seeing for quite some time.”
Of course, there no problem with leaks if a breaking crisis like the North Korean missile launch gets discussed in a public dining room at Key Largo, as intelligence information is read by the flashlights of unsecured cell phones….
No big deal, says Vladimir Putin.
Via the UK Independent:
“This is the internal affair of the Americans, the internal affair of the Trump administration,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “It’s nothing to do with us.”
The state-sponsored RT sent out a (since deleted) tweet:
BREAKING: Gen. Michael Flynn retires as National Security Advisor https://t.co/u52CJcpZVL
— RT America (@RT_America) February 14, 2017
From US News & World Report:
Russia’s visibly muted reaction to Flynn’s departure comes one day before Tillerson is holding his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Tillerson, who has sealed multiple deals in Russia and was even decorated with the Russian “Order of Friendship” award, is widely described as a tough negotiator who will not give Russia promises he cannot keep.
Still, several senior Russian lawmakers took their disappointment over Flynn’s resignation out on social media early Tuesday.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Federation Council, said in a post on Facebook that firing a national security adviser for his contacts with Russia is “not just paranoia but something even worse.”
Congressional Reaction: Let’s Move On
This set of responses is one for ages.
Yessir, boss, via the Washington Post:
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the most significant question posed by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the press.
“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election.
“The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”
Earlier, Nunes went ahead and declared ‘executive privilege’ on behalf of the administration.
— The Hill (@thehill) February 14, 2017
How about pit bull Rep. Jason Chaffetz?
Nope. Via Daily Kos:
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee wants you to know that everything is hunky-dory now that Mike Flynn has resigned. Crisis over. Moving on. He’s not going to spend any of his committee’s time figuring out what’s going on with the Russian mole in the Trump regime.
Rep Jason Chaffetz R-UT tells reporters there’s no need to further probe Flynn. “It’s taking care of itself”
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 14, 2017
After all, he’s got more Clinton investigating to do, fulfilling his promise from last month.
I Say Something Nice
San Diego Congressman Scott Peter says “the Ruble stops here:”
“The White House was told by the Justice Department weeks ago that Michael Flynn lied to them about talking with the Russians, yet didn’t take any action to remove him from his position of power until these offenses were made public through dogged reporting. And even then, it took four days to show him the door.
“Would Flynn still have been entrusted with the security of the American people if this never became public? Did the White House intentionally mislead the America people about Flynn’s connections to Russia? And under whose authority was Flynn talking to the Russians about sanctions relief in the first place after we knew they attacked our democracy? Making Flynn the scapegoat doesn’t answer these questions.
“The ruble stops here. The American people deserve answers from President Trump himself. And if he doesn’t give them, then Congress must go get them.”
More Than One Thing…
…Can be true at the same time.
Gen. Flynn got the boot because the Trump administration has angered old-line cold warriors in the intelligence community.
How do I know that?
When transcripts of National Security Agency intercepts are being passed around Washington, it’s political.
It just kills me that some pundits are calling out stories about Russian intelligence operations as “Red Baiting.” The Red Scares of the 20th century had everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with nationalism, which is what we’re really talking about here. (Yes, I know what the dictionary says. Still…)
The connection between Russia and Trump is about Nationalism, specifically White Nationalism. And the bridge between America’s right and Russian nationalism was built by Christian fundamentalists.
In the first 18 months after his return to the presidency in 2012, Putin corralled protesters, smothered many of the remaining independent media outlets, and dissolved the distance between the Kremlin and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. All of his moves pointed toward a hard-right shift in outlook—to a return to Tsar Nicholas I’s triumvirate of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.”
America’s Christian fundamentalists followed Putin’s moves with glee—all the more after then-President Barack Obama earned a second term, and same-sex rights charged forward. In 2013, Moscow pushed an “anti-propaganda law” specifically targeting the country’s beleaguered LGBT population. Despite widespread condemnation throughout the West, members of America’s Religious Right tripped over themselves in supporting the Kremlin. Likewise, as a Daily Beast report found, the “anti-propaganda law,” like the anti-abortion measures before it, didn’t arise in some kind of retrograde ether, but “had emerged from a years-long, carefully crafted campaign to influence governments to adopt a Christian-Right legal framework”—stemming from the efforts of both American and Russian WCF officials who had “successfully disseminated a U.S.-born culture war that’s wreaking havoc on women and queer folks all around the world.” Even Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children that year managed to gain support within the U.S.’s far right, with Christian fundamentalists praising Putin’s move as preventing children from living with same-sex parents.
Follow the Money
While the very idea of US/Russian cooperation may be appalling to cold warriors who spent their lives battling the Soviet Union, there is another important angle to understanding what’s going on.
The emergence of a global economy poses a distinct challenge to nationalists, who are okay with the rich getting richer, but not okay with the multi-culturalism accompanying the freer movement of goods and services over borders.
The part of Trump’s program that threatens the arrangements of trade and security in place since Word War II is concerning to those economic interests benefitting from the status quo.
While the heads of various multinational enterprises have been careful not to directly challenge the Trump administration, the threat of an America First economy to their long-term interests is very real. And you can bet the Washington lobbyist crowd –whose stocks in trade are information and access– is doing everything in its power to undermine that threat.
None of the various forces at play in this international chess game have the interests of the less-than-rich at heart. Not Trump. Not the Russians and their nationalist buddies. And not the corporatist wing of the Democratic party.
So, while it’s heartening to see the Trump administration taken down a notch, the need to build a movement capable of addressing the economic, social, and political needs of the rest of us is more important than ever. The idea of a “Watergate-type” news story somehow undoing all the political wrong going on is simply a wasted fantasy. Change is hard work.
It is important to understand that traditional political and union organizations can be allies, but can’t be trusted to lead this movement. I’ll have more to say on this in the coming weeks.
Happy Valentine’s Day
St. Valentine’s Day menu, St. Nicholas Hotel, NYC, 1882: pic.twitter.com/g77SoswPjj
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 14, 2017
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