I have a few thoughts about the resignation of Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn. First, I’m calling it an “ouster” because it appears to be the result of a campaign against him. Indeed, Eli Lake calls it a “political assassination.”
Lake quotes Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, as follows: “”First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus.” “Put another way,” Lake adds (melodramatically?), “Flynn is only the appetizer; Trump is the entree.”
This doesn’t mean Flynn didn’t deserve to go. If there was substantial reason to believe that he intentionally misled the administration about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, this was sufficient reason to oust him.
Second, when Flynn was appointed national security adviser, I wrote:
Is Flynn an ideal national security adviser? Not in my view. However, he’s the voice Trump wants most to hear on national security issues. I believe that most of what Trump hears from Flynn will be sound.
I stand by both prongs of that assessment. The questions now are whose voice will replace Flynn’s and will the advice President Trump receives be mostly sound.
As Scott says, the frontrunner for the job is believed to be Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a protege of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. I know nothing about Harward, but having a Mattis protege in the position sounds like a good thing. So does having Mike Pence heavily involved in the selection process.
Ret. Gen. David Petraeus is also said to be in the running. The nation is greatly indebted to Petraeus for the Iraq surge and for his military service generally. But after his service to the Obama administration, it’s unclear to me that he would provide mostly sound advice to President Trump. It may be that he would serve up mostly the conventional wisdom of the Obama-era CIA, which Petraeus headed for a time.
Third, in his article on the “political assassination” of Flynn, Eli Lake observes: “It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens.” Trump himself has tweeted:
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
The Post says the recording of Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador was obtained by monitoring the ambassador, not Flynn. According to its reporters:
Intelligence analysts began to search for clues that could help explain Putin’s move [his announcement on December 30 of last year not to respond to the Obama administration’s sanctions]. The search turned up Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general with years of intelligence experience.
Whether the contents of the phone call were obtained by monitoring the ambassador or by monitoring Flynn, I think Trump is right. The leaking of those contents is a big part of the story, and a disturbing one.
The media-intelligence community pipeline is a swamp that needs to be drained. But can it be?