Let’s be clear about the latest bit of chaos from the dysfunctional — that’s John McCain’s description — Trump White House. The real Mike Flynn scandal was not the one that led the national security adviser to be fired. The scandal is that he was ever hired.
This is the overtly anti-Muslim Mike Flynn. The lock-her-up-chanting Mike Flynn. The I’ve-seen-signs-in-Arabic-along-the-border-guiding-radical-Muslims-into-the-United-States Mike Flynn. The retweeting-fake-news-Clinton-sex-crimes Mike Flynn. (It was Mike Flynn Jr. who was the #pizzagate Mike Flynn, but it’s easy to get confused.)
You know, the unhinged Mike Flynn.
It’s the same Gen. Flynn who was fired from his last job in the Obama administration for being what Colin Powell described, in a hacked email, as “right-wing nutty.” This the Flynn-Facts Mike Flynn. Flynn Facts preceded alternative facts as the alternative truth we have come to expect from the White House.
Flynn was, of course, hired because he fits right in with the conspiracy-obsessed president and his conspiracy-obsessed men (Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, for starters). So, the scandal is only tangentially about Flynn lies or about Flynn’s relations with Russia or about anything else that even some GOP senators are now saying demands actual investigation.
This is the story of the Trump White House. Flynn was fired only after the Washington Post revealed that then-acting attorney general Sally Yates (remember Sally Yates?) had told the White House weeks ago that Flynn had lied to Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with the Russians. The intelligence community (remember them — the Nazis?) were concerned that Flynn was therefore vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Would Trump have fired Flynn if the Post hadn’t run that story just hours before Flynn turned in his resignation? (Hint: no.) Hadn’t Kellyanne Conway gone on TV that day to say Flynn had Trump’s “full confidence”? What exactly changed Trump’s mind, and what took Trump so long for Trump to “lose trust” in Flynn? Hadn’t you lost trust long before?
And so the inevitable, if cliched, questions begin: What did Trump know and when did he know it? If it turns out that Trump knew about Flynn’s Russian discussions before he got to the White House, we have a whole different story. And even if it turns out that Trump was, uh, clueless, if anyone else on the Trump team know about it, it’s also a different story.
And don’t worry, there will be investigations. This is too big, too volatile, even for the compliant GOP Congress to ignore, even if Paul Ryan, apparently unconcerned about his own credibility gap, did say he was confident the White House would clear this all up. The story won’t go away because everyone knew about Flynn’s close ties to the Russians before he got the job. The story won’t go away because there will be more stories from the dishonest media and more of Trump decrying — as he did today in a tweet — the damaging leaks we see nearly every day. These leaks happen for a reason — the people with access to the damaging stories from the Trump White House are worried about just how damaging they are.
Don’t look for Watergate-style committees or even Benghazi-style committees, but there will be investigations. I know we’re still waiting for the hearings into whether the Russians interfered with the election, but this is different. Sen. Roy Blunt, a key Republican who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, has already called for an investigation of Flynn’s Russian connections. Mitch McConnell says it’s “highly likely” that the committee will look into it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cory Gardner calls for an investigation next. OK, I would be surprised, but you get the idea. The pressure will continue to grow and not just from Democrats hungry for scandal.
Meanwhile, there is the irony to be considered: Did Donald Trump, of all people, really fire a guy for lying? There had to be more to it, right?
So, here’s where we are. North Korea fires a missile and Trump turns the Mar-a-Lago outdoor dining area into a situation room, with the paying customers there for the show. Trump hangs up on the Australian prime minister. He tweet-dares the Mexican president into canceling a trip to Washington. He creates world-wide chaos with his immigration executive order and then insults the judges who overrule him. The list goes on and on and on, and we’re, at last count, only 26 days into Trump’s presidency.
And now, in the latest, it appears that Trump’s buddy and mentor in authoritarianism, Vladimir Putin, has secretly deployed a new cruise missile in apparent violation of a critical arms treaty. This would seem to be a test for Trump as to what level of humiliation — maybe we should employ color coding to help keep track — he’s willing to accept from Putin.
I know I’m repeating myself when I say this, but this is just the beginning. It will only get worse. Maybe the most important thing to remember about the level of chaos is that, fortunately, nothing remarkable has happened in the world since Trump took residence (at least on weekdays) at the White House. All the White House crises are self-made. Every wound is self-inflicted.
But stuff will happen. Stuff always happens.
And when it does, Trump will still be president.
Illustration of Michael Flynn by DonkeyHotey via Flickr:Creative Commons