Paul Waldman wrote this before the Flynn resignation. It’s titled “This Is What Incompetence Looks Like.”
But in the latest round of stories about Flynn, what is perhaps most striking is what a chaotic mess the White House’s national security operation — which Flynn is supposed to manage — has become. As the New York Times reports Monday, National Security Council staff “get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.” Then there’s this:
Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.
Several staff members said that Mr. Flynn, who was a career Army officer, was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency — for, say, a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the detonation of a dirty bomb in an American city.
This story — of key White House staff surprised to learn how some particularly important process actually works — is something we’ve seen again and again. For instance, the process leading to the executive order on travel restrictions was apparently overseen by Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller without the input of the relevant agencies or legal counsel, and it ultimately was put on hold by the courts — which was of course precisely what happened, to the president’s shock and anger.
Flynn was asked to resign, a White House official told Talking Points Memo. There were reports last week Flynn was being thrown under the bus. Apparently he gets on peoples’ nerves. TPM also points out that “Flynn is the third member of the Trump campaign/administration to resign over issues related to Russia: Manafort and Page.”
Naturally, the utterly partisan toady Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, says his committee won’t bother to investigate in spite of the big, honking, neon-lit appearance of illegal activity in the Trump maladministration. Chaffetz is too busy looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails, it seems.
The House Intelligence Committee will be no help, either.
An important point to note. Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn just resigned amidst a counter-intelligence investigation into, among other things, his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. But only three or four hours before Flynn resigned, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence), Devin Nunes, said there was no problem and it was just the President’s enemies (“the swamp” in his words) making trouble. “It just seems like there’s a lot of nothing here,” Nunes told Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis.
This is only a particularly embarrassing illustration of a larger problem. The Republican Congress has no interest in any oversight of the Trump administration. None. Sure, opposing parties usually scrutinize administrations more aggressively. But it’s rare to have this level of complete refusal. Again, only three or four hours before Flynn resigned in disgrace, Nunes put forward an aggressive defense of Flynn and said nothing was wrong at all.
And this just in — Russia has deployed a missile that violates our arms control treaty. What will the so-called president do? If anything? Give Putin a pass?
Meanwhile, Kennyanne “Mouth of Sauron” Conway is spinning so many clashing talking points even Matt Lauer told her she wasn’t making sense.
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.
Sally Yates is, of course, the acting Attorney General fired by Trump for standing in the way of his unconstitutional travel ban. Perhaps that firing needs to be revisited.
Finally, see 10 unanswered questions after Michael Flynn’s resignation. Here are the ten questions (read the article for commentary):
1. What, if anything, did Trump authorize Flynn to tell the Russians before his inauguration?
2. Why was Trump planning to stand by Flynn?
3. What did White House counsel Donald McGahn do after the then-acting attorney general notified him last month that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail?
4. What is the status of the FBI investigation into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia?
5. Will Spicer and Pence apologize for making false statements to the American people?
6. Will Flynn face prosecution under the Logan Act?
7. What will the Senate Intelligence Committee uncover about contacts Flynn and others affiliated with Trump had with Russia before the election?
8. Who replaces Flynn?
9. Who else leaves the White House because Flynn is gone?
10. Who exactly is in charge at the White House?
No grown-ups; that’s for sure.