Insecure? Issues with Trump's Top Security Advisor and Russia
Have you or somebody you know ever said or done something that immediately isolates you from your friends once they have caught wind of it?
Well, that's exactly what's happening in the White House with top National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, in the wake of new accusations of ethics violations for discussing sanctions on Russia before the new administration took office.
While the Trump administration works through a treacherous White House environment filled with leaks to the mainstream press, staff members with questionably low morale, and an unprecedented amount of scrutiny from the media and the general public, a new obstacle has emerged with Michael Flynn’s unauthorized talks with Russian representatives. Intel from officials suggest that the conversations with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, were unambiguous and easily pointed to the former general attempting to reassure the Russian government that they would be taking a more lenient foreign policy approach than their predecessor in regards to the sanctions that Obama had placed on the country in response to allegations of Kremlin involvement in the 2016 election. The conversation is a very serious violation of government ethics, according to legal experts.
What’s more interesting is lack of defense coming from the White House. Mike Pence, who had originally stated, unequivocally, that Flynn had not discussed government business pertaining to the previous administration’s foreign policies, walked back his statements suggesting that Flynn had not discussed with him any foreign business that may be have been brought up.
The President too has been oddly silent about the recent allegations. With such a serious investigation being waged against arguably one of the President’s most important allies in the White House. The President has found time to tweet about the appeals process of his current lawsuit with Washington State and his daughters’ recent business troubles with Nordstrom Department store.
Stephen Miller, Senior White House policy advisor, offered no clear defense of Flynn on Sunday morning roundtables like NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ or CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’, stating that the situation with the Vice President was “a sensitive matter” and that when it comes to the opinion of the President he stated “That’s a question for the President.”
UPDATE: Since starting this story, Michael Flynn has resigned (was fired) for the possible illegal conversations he had with the Kremlin and allegedly lying to White House officials for it. Reports have stated that Mike Pence was the primary driver behind Flynn’s ousting. Reports also stated that the Justice Department, while Sally Yates was still acting attorney general, had warned the white house that the President’s top national security advisor was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government.
While the White House and many GOP officials have called to move on from the issue, many critics and congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that this may be just the beginning of this story and are pressuring the administration to conduct a full investigation.
Why does this matter?
Stories I produce about the Trump administration are carefully selected. It can be easy to get caught up in all the information and scandals that come out of the White House on a daily basis. However, when I discuss information pertaining to a particular individual, it is because I feel that person’s presence in an administration is vital to the operation of the country. Mike Flynn’s situation is particularly intriguing because, in addition to constant innuendo being brought on by the administration’s uncomfortably close ties to Russia, the NSC as a whole has experienced an unusual amount of controversy since Trump took office.
The controversy starts with the long-standing holes in key security positions that need to be filled as soon as possible. This is overshadowed, however, by the President’s executive order to introduce a spot for his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, on the Security Council as well as him demoting the Joint Chiefs of Staff to a “need-to-know” only role. Officials report that Donald Trump apparently did not know what he was signing and further controversy came about when it was discovered that Bannon actually oversaw the draft of the order in question.
This brings up the key issue with the Trump administration, poor management. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the White House is struggling just to get its stories straight with its own staff, thus making it even more difficult to manipulate public opinion. The fact that the President has not come to publically address this issue signifies one of two things: that he either was not aware that his senior security advisor made the call with Russia and he is unable to excuse that lack of knowledge, or he was aware and he is not sure how to move forward with the lie.
This leads to the even bigger issue, which is that the NSC cannot afford to be mismanaged. Sure transitionary periods within the National Security Council can always be plagued with infighting and disagreements. There has never been, however, an issue with top officials being brought up on ethics charges and possibly threatening to undermine national security. This highly public level of miscommunication and poor management underscores the chaotic and scandal-driven news cycle following this administration. The only question now is… What does this mean for the rest of the White House?