Former Deputy Attorney General Yates testified yesterday that former National Security Advisor Flynn was “compromised” by the Russians. They knew he was lying when he claimed his conversations with the Russian Ambassador did not discuss relief from sanctions and could have used that knowledge to blackmail him. They also knew he had accepted payments uncleared and unreported to the Defense Department, as required for former military flag officers.
Yates told the White House General Counsel, but President Trump waited 18 days before firing Flynn until reports of his lies became public. He fired Yates far more quickly: the day after she refused to defend his travel ban in court, which several courts have now ruled unconstitutional. Yates yesterday called it “unlawful,” which was presumably intended to convey that she was not obligated to defend it.
This tale may sound boring in the heartland, but in DC it rarely gets juicier. Flynn, a three-star Army intelligence officer who climbed on the Trump bandwagon early, would have been a fabulous asset for Moscow as national security advisor, though we don’t know that he was ever fully “turned.” We do know that he took payments from Russia Today, Moscow’s virulent propaganda arm, and also from Turkey. And that he cared enough about his rapport with Russia to lie not only to the public but also to the Vice President.
Even better: President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn. Trump not only hired him but appears not to have properly vetted him and then tried to protect him. That might have been just the defensive crouch of a new Administration anxious not to suffer any early losses. Or, the President himself may also have been compromised in one way or another, making him reluctant to buck President Putin by firing Flynn. There is really no way to tell with the information at our disposal.
More isn’t likely to become available. No one with a job in the White House is going to help clarify the President’s motives for hesitating to fire Flynn. Only someone now outside, but early in the Administration inside the tight circle surrounding Trump, will know. Nor is the Congress likely to get to the bottom of the matter: at yesterday’s hearing, the Republicans–who control the investigations in both houses–appeared reluctant to ask about anything but why Yates refused to defend the President’s travel ban in court and how Flynn’s lies became public.
So what have we here? A president who tried to protect someone the Russians had compromised fingered by a former official whom he did quickly fire once he knew she would not do his bidding. Call me old fashioned, but this is a scandal of major proportions, with likely far-reaching ramifications. Flynn isn’t the only one compromised.