“The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.”
– Henry Cate
This latest news story requires its own post, otherwise the Weekend Links update will be unreadably long. The still-breaking story about Gen. Flynn’s leaving the administration after an unprecedented 24 days is ongoing but at the moment…it’s a mess. It’s a bonkers, ridiculous, upsetting mess.
Getting the timeline right still isn’t easy. By my count thus far…Kellyanne Conway has said Gen. Flynn resigned, but Press Secretary Spicer then said President Trump asked for his resignation. Spicer said Gen. Flynn was an internal issue for weeks, but President Trump last week told reporters he knew nothing of the DOJ’s or any report to the White House that the general was a potentially serious liability. Conway speaking yesterday for the WH says that the problem is that Gen. Flynn lied to VP Pence, but just two days ago said that the President had complete trust in the general, and Spicer again is now claiming that the WH knew about this issue (with the exception of the VP, apparently, who found out he was either deceived or misinformed following the story breaking). At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning.
But in summary, as far as I can make out, the fundamental options seem to be that either the then-President-elect directed Gen. Flynn to have a conversation with the Russian ambassador discussing the possibility of easing sanctions when the new administration came to power, or Gen. Flynn did this on his own volition. Either option is against the law. We’re only talking orders of magnitude at this point.
At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning. CNN is now reporting that aides for the first candidate then President-elect have been in routine communication with Russian officials for months. While not wholly unprecedented during a transition period between governments, the frequency of communications seems to have raised enough red flags to have the intelligence community alert both the sitting and in-coming presidents to the fact.
In summary again, either candidate/President-elect Trump knew both that these communications were happening–and that it was illegal or at the very least wildly inappropriate–and allowed them to continue, or he knew that it was happening but didn’t understand that it was illegal/inappropriate. Our options here are malice or incompetence.
Elected officials in general and Republicans in particular, if you think you can wait this latest scandal out, you are wrong. If after eight years of obstructing and scrutinizing an administration’s actions out of “principle,” you are suddenly unwilling to do the same now in the face of blatant incompetence and dangerous allegations of foreign collusion, you are lost as a political group. If you believe it’s more important to maintain party and partisan power than have a functioning, trustworthy, and respected government, you are unfit for office.
Congressional leadership seems to be (finally, cautiously) starting to critique the White House, but overall the response thus far from the president’s own party has been craven. Some of my own representatives have been among the worst offenders–looking at you, Rep. Chaffetz–and no one seems to be willing to be the first to stand up and say, “In the face of this many allegations, this many procedural missteps in executive action, and this level of dysfunction, I demand investigations.”
I have said it before, I will say it again. I am not cheering for President Trump to fail; I did not and do not want the stability of my government undermined. But I did not vote for him because I believed that he was a fundamentally unsafe character with unsound plans and unformed opinions/goals, based on unconstitutional principles, who would put unqualified or unvetted people into power alongside him, to chaotic effect. It’s taken less than a month for him to prove me right.
This is the result.