The first casualty of the Trump national security scandal

    Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is shown in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci

    Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is shown in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci

    Hey, what’s the difference between a Trump government and a car wreck?

    One is a smoking heap of shattered glass and twisted metal, triggered by people who can’t drive. The other is a car wreck.

    Never before has such mayhem rocked the White House right from Day One. The majority of Americans who voted in 2016 knew that Trump would be a disaster, but few of us thought it would be obvious so soon. Yet here we are, stuck for the forseeable future riding on a ship of fools — albeit with one less fool, now that Michael Flynn has taken flight. He will forever be the answer to the trivia question, “What national security adviser lasted fewer days than President William Henry Harrison?”

    Harrison died on Day 31. Flynn quit at the tail end of Day 24 — but the hitch is, he never should’ve been hired in the first place. Which tells us plenty about Trump, the central character of this burgeoning national security scandal.

    It’s the Watergate question redux: What did the president know, and when did he know it?

    Flynn’s bromance with Vladimir Putin has long been public knowledge; in 2016, he surfaced repeatedly on RT, the Russian propaganda TV network; in 2015, he sat beside Putin at RT’s 10th anniversary dinner, and delivered paid speeches in Moscow. And Flynn was well known to be a malevolent liar. But did any of this give Trump pause? Nah. He went ahead and gave the top national security post to a celebrant of Russian propaganda. Conservative commentator John Podhoretz says it best:

    “Flynn’s unfitness for the job, both as a matter of temperament and as a matter of fact, given his too-close financial association with Russian interests, was starkly evident from the moment his name was floated for it. The fact that Trump rewarded him with it was one of the earliest signs of the flippancy and carelessness with which the incoming president was handling his new and awesome responsibilities …”

    Indeed, the Trump regime was warned by the Justice Department — weeks ago — that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail; that Flynn pre-Inauguration, had undercut U.S. policy by telling a key Russian that Trump would cozy up to Putin by nixing President Obama’s sanctions; that Flynn had lied to Mike Pence when he told the incoming veep that he’d never discussed the sanctions. Pence duly repeated the lie in a TV interview, as did propaganda minister Sean Spicer, who told reporters that Flynn’s pre-Inaugural call to the Russian was innocent, “plain and simple.”

    And yet -— for weeks, despite the Justice Department’s warning — the Trump regime did nothing. Flynn stayed in the loop, supposedly enjoying Trump’s “full confidence.” (So said Kellyanne Conway, late yesterday afternoon. But we all know the value of a Kellyanne decree. As Podhoretz said about Trump’s den of dysfunction, “We are told five different stories a day about what is going on.”)

    But seriously, folks. Are we really supposed to believe that Flynn went rogue?

    As I wrote here yesterday, we still don’t know whether Flynn was freelancing with the Russians — or phoning them at Trump’s specific behest, to reward them for pumping anti-Hillary cyber-pollution into our election. We don’t know the extent and nature of team Trump’s contacts with Russia during the campaign (according to U.S. intelligence, Flynn conversed with his Russian contact during the campaign), we don’t know whether or to what extent Russia has the goods on Trump, we don’t know whether business entanglements with Russia could compromise Trump, and we don’t even know whether top Trump officials shared the Justice Department warning with Trump.

    The FBI is reportedly investigating all this — unlike its public announcement about Hillary emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, this time the FBI is tightlipped — but this scandal cries out for a thoroughly independent congressional probe. The pro-Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin asks: “When will Republicans start taking oversight seriously and demand a select-committee or even an independent commission to investigate Flynn and the White House’s communications with Russia during the campaign? Now that Flynn has left the White House he can be subpoenaed to testify.”

    Notice that I never need to quote a Democrat about the Trump disaster? Steve Schmidt, the veteran Republican operative and commentator, tweeted last night: “GOP Congress has an obligation to investigate this matter. Refusal to do so is a betrayal of their duty and oaths.”

    The problem, of course, is that most ongressional Republicans prioritize fealty to Trump over love of country. That itself is a scandal of epic proportions. But their craven ‘tude could change if or when they feel the rising heat of an enraged persistent citizenry. The tumultuous town hall meetings appear to be the harbinger of things to come. (And maybe this is an early change of ‘tude.)

    And remember, Flynn went down because leakers inside our government — civil servants concerned about our national security — spilled bigly to our free and independent press. Hopefully, he’s only the first to go. As Schmidt tweeted this morning, “This is not the end of the story, it is the beginning.”

    By the way, Kellyanne was back on TV this morning, because of course. When asked on ABC about the Flynn debacle, she said this:

    “I can’t reveal what the White House knew or didn’t know or who in the White House did or didn’t know.”

    Or, as Lewis Carroll wrote in his poem Jabberwocky:

    “‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.”

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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