National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation on Monday over the ongoing controversy surrounding the Trump regime’s connection to the Russian government is a good sign some of our country’s major institutions—our spy agencies, the U.S Justice Department under former leadership, the media—are still holding strong.
Democrats demanded an inquiry of the Russian role in U.S. affairs. Republicans remained largely silent. https://t.co/BnCxK7RzOY
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 14, 2017
It’s a hopeful sign but still meager, and it’s only a beginning, and there’s still so much missing, mainly information about the authoritarian President Donald Trump’s personal, financial and campaign connections with the government of Russia. Because Trump has refused to release his tax records, for example, and with the ongoing complicity of his voter base and disinterested fellow Republican colleagues, we still don’t know the extent of his business dealings in Russia.
Just knowing specifically how much money Trump business concerns have and perhaps still are generating from Russian ties would, at the very least, open up more avenues for media scrutiny and perhaps force real official investigations.
Let’s back up. Flynn resigned Monday after it became clear that after the Nov. 8 election he discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak the sanctions former President Barack Obama issued against Russia for meddling in our recent presidential election by hacking into Democratic Party email accounts and then revealing content that hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
As an aside, it’s important to note the mainstream media reported the content of these emails with breathless urgency, although they revealed little but what seemed like typical infighting in a political campaign. The mainstream media frame, however, made them seem like a huge deal. Meanwhile, the real story—the Russian hacks and the Trump campaign’s apparent ties to Russia—wasn’t pursued with the same breathless urgency before and after the election until now. That is and remains the real story because it deals with how an authoritarian government and longtime adversary of the U.S. meddled in our election to get a particular candidate elected president. The story has grown by immense proportions in the media now that Trump is president, but it has been around for the telling for a while now.
Flynn initially told the press he didn’t discuss the sanctions with the ambassador to perhaps tell him they would be mitigated under a Trump administration, which, if true, might have even been against the law, according to some speculation, but then he backed away from that initial claim and indicated it might have been possible he actually did discuss the sanctions. It also became apparent he at least told Vice President Mike Pence in the Trump administration that he hadn’t discussed the sanctions. Pence had defended Flynn, repeating his lie.
The speculation had been that Flynn, a diehard Trump loyalist, had to resign for lying to Pence, but White House press Secretary Sean Spicer Tuesday said Trump actual knew about the lying allegations for weeks. Why did he wait until now to ask for Flynn’s resignation?
All this means that it’s also quite possible Trump even asked Flynn to tell the Russians he would mitigate the sanctions. When the controversy didn’t die down, however, something had to happen with the hope the story would go away, although even this scenario doesn’t fit with how Trump operates through disruptions and nonsense claims of “fake news.” His voter base, for now, and certainly his closest surrogates don’t care whether Trump tells the truth or not. The Republican leadership, for now, doesn’t seem to care if Trump tells the truth, either. Why would they hold Flynn or anyone in his administration to some truth standard at this point?
So why did Flynn really have to resign? What’s one more liar among a pack of liars under an administration that consistently uses lies to disrupt the reality? Meanwhile, The New York Times reported yesterday that members of Trump’s campaign and some of his associates had communicated with Russian intelligence agents and government officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
U.S. officials said Trump campaign aides had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials https://t.co/xmzgmzTVew
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 15, 2017
What has become increasingly likely is that Trump himself is personally tied in ways to the Russian government to an obvious but greater extent than we know—we do know he has had business dealings in the country and admires President Vladimir Putin—and the not-so obvious, such as his potential direct knowledge and encouragement of that country’s role in helping him win the presidency. This would constitute a grave constitutional and existential crisis in our country, and it would mean the nation is quickly descending into an authoritarian state and becoming an extremely unique type of Russian satellite or partner country. Unfortunately, the Flynn resignation hasn’t shed much light yet on these very real possibilities and potentially could even lead to media disinterest in the issue, which is what Trump and members of his regime must hope.
Then there’s that intriguing dossier put together by former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, that contains, among other information, salacious information about Trump. CNN recently reported that “U.S. investigators” have corroborated some of the non-salacious materials in the 35-page document. I could care less about the personal information, which is a sideshow. Everyone, though, should want to know the full extent of Trump’s and his regime’s connection to Russia.
Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns and Republicans don’t care. As The New York Times columnist Charles Blow has pointed out, Trump is a “pathological liar” so we can’t trust what he says. Others have pointed out Trump’s obvious mental illness, which may include “malignant narcissism.” As Trump’s cabinet and appointees takes office, how much can we expect some of its members will actually investigate the man who appointed them to office? It’s probably not likely.
What needs to happen is resistance inside and outside official agencies. More than likely, it’s not going to come from top officials, but that’s not an absolute given. Perhaps, there’s a brave soul or someone with a conscience who will reach a breaking point. Will it take more leaks from our national security operations to open up more media and official investigations?
Regardless, people need to show up on the streets to express their support for our country’s basic democratic institutions under an unhinged president.