General Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, was fired last night. It’s important to understand what happened, and that Flynn’s violation of the Logan Act is only a very small part of it.
On December 29 of last year, President Obama imposed additional sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian diplomats. The sanctions that had been imposed previously were in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea. The new sanctions were a result of Russia’s disruption of our elections and successful attempts to elect Republicans in Congressional races and the presidential contest. On that same day, December 29, just after the sanctions were announced, General Flynn–whom Trump had already designated as nominee to be National Security Advisor—spoke on the phone to the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
In the days that followed, Mike Pence assured America that Flynn’s conversation had nothing to do with the sanctions—first, because that would be a violation of the Logan Act, and second, because it would imply the Trump team had known all along about the Russian meddling and had cooperated with it. Any discussion of the sanctions, or any offers to ease or to lift those sanctions, would naturally be seen as a quid pro quo, a favor Trump would do the Russians in repayment of their favor to him of putting him into the White House.
Meanwhile, the world braced for Putin’s inevitable reaction to the imposition of new sanctions. Russia, it was thought, would likely retaliate by expelling American diplomats, or possibly by taking some further provocative action in Crimea or elsewhere. Surprisingly, Russia’s reaction was to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. This altered the US intelligence community that something unusual was going on, and the CIA and NSA took a long, thorough look at communications intercepts from the period just before and after Dec 29.
They had, for example, a transcript of Flynn’s phone conversation with the Russian Ambassador.
People who have seen that transcript say that yes indeed the sanctions were discussed. More details than that have not yet been made available. But Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was concerned enough by what she saw to want to give the information to Donald McGahn, Trump’s incoming White House Counsel. FBI Director James Comey, however, convinced her to wait, claiming it would “interfere” with an ongoing FBI investigation into Trump’s connections to Russia.
Yates finally overruled Comey and went to McGahn, warning him that the contact between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak indicated not only that they’d been talking about the sanctions, but that Flynn appeared to be compromised, and could be a security threat. No one yet knows to whom McGahn gave that information, whether he talked to Trump or Pence or Bannon, for instance. This was right around the time of inauguration. Over the next two weeks, Trump rolled out a series of horrendous executive orders and memoranda, including the Muslim ban, which Yates refused to enforce. Everyone thought she was fired for that refusal—but questions are now being raised as to whether part of her dismissal may have been due to her wanting to press the Flynn matter, and reveal Flynn as a compromised Russian asset within the US intelligence community. She may have been fired, at least in part, in an attempt to silence her.
The most important questions now revolve around the Republican Administration’s knowledge—how much did they know, and when did they know it?–and the extent of their involvement with Putin. The White House has known for nearly a month, maybe longer, about the true nature of Flynn’s call to Ambassador Kislyak, and yet they did nothing. They did not fire Flynn (in fact, they pushed for him to be confirmed as National Security Advisor), they did not correct Pence’s statements about the conversation, and they apparently didn’t take any steps to increase security measures. It is not remotely credible that McGahn kept the information to himself; a White House Counsel does not sit on the revelation that a possible Russian spy is the National Security Advisor unless that was already known and McGahn was in on it.
Nor it is remotely credible that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about lifting sanctions purely on his own initiative. He would not have had the authority to deal in such matters at all without the president’s permission (legally, he would have needed then-President Obama’s permission; more likely, he would have had the permission of Shithead Elect Trump or Trump’s chief advisor Adolph Bannon). This presents the frightening likelihood that, at the highest level in this new Administration, it is known and approved of that Flynn has been working for Putin.
Then there are Pence’s reassurances to America that Flynn’s call was not about what it was about. Either Flynn lied to Pence (which is what Republicans are currently claiming) or Pence lied to America in an effort to cover up Trump’s quid pro quo. It’s clear Flynn had to have had authorization for his conversation from someone at the highest levels—it had to have been Trump, Bannon, or Pence, and it seems likely all three knew what was happening (with the possible exception of Trump, who may be too stupid to understand any of this).
So at this point, the Logan Act violation—negotiations with a foreign government by someone who isn’t empowered by the sitting president to carry out such negotiations—is the least of the malfeasance and treasonous activity. The problem isn’t that a rogue ex-general decided to talk to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions against Russia, nor that he did it within some sort of vacuum that left him insulated from what was happening around him, and that left those around him insulted from his own criminal acts. No. We are looking at strong evidence of collusion between a hostile foreign power and the highest levels of the new Republican Administration—in fact, the entire Republican Party, the Congressional leadership of which continues to support Trump and continues to refuse to investigate Trump’s Russian financial and political ties, and which continues even now to pretend Flynn was acting alone and now that he’s been fired we should just move on.
Of course, we won’t “move on.” Opposition to the RepubRussian takeover of our democracy grows louder and stronger every day. America has been assaulted, and patriots will stand up to defend our nation.