Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump Saw the Transcript(s) and Sacrificed a Troublesome Knight

foxnews |  As President Trump sometimes awkwardly comes to terms with being the fish in the fishbowl, he gets to observe the case of his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.

The main issue for Flynn is that he did not tell the truth about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. It would have been bad enough if Flynn had simply misled the press, but he also seems to have let the vice president step forward and repeat those untruths on his behalf.

Flynn, who has attributed the misstatements to poor memory and not any intent to deceive, has reportedly apologized to Pence and is doing his best to dig in against his internal foes.

The retired general’s perilous position is highlighted in a couple of different ways. We know of reports about tensions between Flynn and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Mattis has more pull inside the administration, arguably, than any other cabinet member and if he has issues with Flynn, that’s a big deal.

But more ominous for Flynn was the news over the weekend that the CIA director had nixed one of Flynn’s top deputies for failing to qualify for high-level security clearance. If Trump’s newly minted CIA boss, Mike Pompeo, feels obliged and willing to shut down the president’s closest national security adviser that’s a big deal.

Flynn or his allies seemed to make the case that the deputy got booted because of a turf war between the agencies and as retribution for Flynn’s efforts to reform U.S. intelligence.

Remember all of the drama at the time of the inauguration about Trump questioning U.S. intelligence and wondering if the Russians weren’t telling the truth and the CIA lying? That was probably Flynn’s voice coming through.

But to renew allegations of corruption against the CIA after Trump’s director is in charge is something different. It’s hard to imagine Trump would believe Pompeo is a crook so soon after selecting him and so soon after the president visited the agency to make peace.

Trump will presumably see or has already seen the transcript of Flynn’s calls and will make up his own mind about whether keeping Flynn’s counsel is worth the internal strife and external narrative.

But whatever Trump decides, he can learn one key lesson from Flynn: Somebody is always listening.