Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, May 9th, 2017.


Why Michael Flynn?

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Trump Maladministration

As I was writing this I got a news flash that James Comey has been dismissed as FBI Director. I’m not sorry, but I am surprised. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

I’ve been really busy and only partly following yesterday’s hearings on Michael Flynn.  After reading about the testimony, however, I have three questions.

One: After all the warnings he received about Flynn, including one from President Obama himself, why did Trump go ahead and appoint Flynn?

This comment is from March:

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the Trump administration was aware of Flynn’s lobbying when he was selected to be national security adviser. “I don’t believe that that was known,” he said. On Friday, however, the Associated Press reported that the White House had confirmed that the Trump transition team knew before Inauguration Day that Flynn might be required to register as a foreign agent. In fact, on November  18, mere days after the 2016 election, Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence inquiring about Flynn’s ties to the Turkish government.

In fact, it would be laughable if Trump officials had not known, since a simple Google search could have tipped them off. On Election Day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill floridly praising Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a crucial ally against ISIS and calling for the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader and former Erdogan ally who lives in the U.S., and whom Erdogan blamed for instigating a failed 2016 coup. Flynn complained that Barack Obama had kept Erdogan at arm’s length.

So it was well and widely suspected in Washington that Flynn was working for Turkey before he was appointed. Just as an aside, whether Turkey will remain a crucial ally is now questionable, since Trump is arming Syrian Kurds. But let’s go on …

Two: Why did Trump not fire Flynn sooner?

The former head of the US Department of Justice told Congress that she had warned the White House twice in January that Michael Flynn, the first national security adviser appointed by Donald Trump, could be blackmailed by Russia. …

… Mr Trump eventually fired Mr Flynn, a retired general who had previously been ousted as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but allowed him to stay in his post for two weeks following Ms Yates’ initial warning. During those two weeks, Mr Flynn participated in sensitive discussions on Russia policy.

“Integrity” is an alien concept to Trump, so it’s possible he didn’t see Flynn’s compromised position as a big bleeping deal. Of course, it’s also possible there was more to Flynn’s role in the Trump campaign and administration than we know about yet.

And Three: Does anybody really believe Mike Pence didn’t know anything about Flynn’s, um, issues? Or, as Joy Reid put it, was Pence lying or is he incompetent? Seriously.

Getting back to Why Flynn — my Facebook friend Jeff Feldman wrote that the Trump administration was “without any interest in or awareness that law limits action in government. Instead, they seem to be acting with the assumption that they were free to do whatever they wanted.” And if anyone objected, they could just engage in endless litigation to keep consequences at bay. What Trump has always done, in other words.

And this may or may not mean that the Trumpettes are hiding anything in particular. “Rather than learn the rules and live by them, they identify the rules and seek to skirt them. Such an easy matter to just not hire Flynn. But no. You hire him and then climb aboard the good ship chicanery all the way to crazy bay,” Jeff F. wrote. Rules are for losers.

But now Comey is gone. WaPo says,

Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a “small number’’ of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the “hundreds and thousands’’ he’d claimed in his testimony.

The letter was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, more than a week after Comey testified for hours in defense of his handling of the Clinton probe.

Of all things that might have pushed Trump’s buttons, I would not have thought that would do it. But this may be a sign that he’s realizing that his administration is absolutely bogged down in stupid scandals and unforced errors. Or, maybe there’s something else going on we don’t know about.

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