Trump and Russia: The plot thickens and sickens

     Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

    Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

    It was perversely fun to watch Stephen Miller, the latest talking head to emerge from the primordial Trump clustermuck, as he stalked the Sunday morning shows, serving up imperial alt-facts at warp speed. The best part was when he assailed the judiciary and decreed that Trump’s powers “will not be questioned,” which was high hilarity indeed, because the Supreme Court has been the final arbiter of the Constitution since Marbury v. Madison was decided in … oh, let’s see … 1803.

    And yet, for all his non-stop jabbering, he instantly went mute when the most sensitive of all scandals was raised.

    We all know that Russia interfered bigly in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, an unprecedented breach of our democracy by a foreign adversary. As post-election punishment, President Obama hit Russia with sanctions and kicked Russian diplomats out of the country. But now we’ve learned that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn undermined Obama – and U.S. policy – by phoning a key Russian in late December and essentially saying: Hey, don’t worry about Obama’s sanctions, we’ll reward you when Trump is president.

    When the news of Flynn’s call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak broke weeks ago, the nature of their chat was a mystery. Flynn told everyone — notably, Mike Pence — that the sanctions weren’t discussed. Pence dutifully told CBS News, “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.” But now we know, thanks to nine intelligence leakers from inside Trumplandia, that Flynn had indeed discussed the sanctions and lied to the vice president when he denied doing so. The leakers know this because phone conversations with top Russians are routinely monitored.

    I plan to share Stephen Miller’s reaction to all this. But first, more context:

    Michael Flynn’s conduct (and his lying) highlights anew the unanswered questions about the Trump-Russia link and Putin’s penetration of our national security. It’s easy to forget about this top-tier scandal, amidst all the hourly Trump idiocy, but we do that at our peril. We’d do well to heed the people who are paying attention.

    Two examples: David Frum, the conservative commentator and ex-Bush speechwriter, tweeted yesterday: “It’s as if a hostile foreign power has seized the U.S. government and is, by remote control, steering it toward the maximum possible catastrophe.” And John Schindler, an ex-National Security Agency analyst, says our intelligence community is so worried about Trump’s “troubling ties to the Kremlin” that it’s starting “to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.”

    Anyway, Stephen Miller was asked yesterday to comment on Flynn’s pre-Inaugural conspirings with Russia (i.e., Flynn’s outreach to the adversaries who helped elect his boss). Miller became virtually monosyllabic. Referring to his White House overlords:

    “They did not give me anything to say.”

    Wow, a reticent response! Remember, this is a tinpot regime that defends everything. Nordstrom drops Ivanka, Mark Cuban disses Trump, John McCain knocks the Yemen raid, judges do their job — whether the insult is big or small, Trump and his flacks hit back. But apparently not this time. In Miller’s words, this is “a sensitive matter.”

    Gee, ya think? Leave it to Trump to have a national security chief who can’t be trusted. When the nine leakers outed Flynn in The Washington Post last Wednesday, the reporters asked Flynn whether he’d discussed Obama’s sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Twice he emphatically said no. But on Thursday, he changed his tune. All of a sudden, he had “no recollection” of discussing sanctions and “couldn’t be certain.”

    And now we have fresh reports, via new leaks (the Trump regime already leaks like a sieve) that “the knives are out” for Flynn in part because he hung the vice president out to dry. Nor did Trump utter a word all weekend in Flynn’s defense.

    But if Flynn gets thrown under the bus, don’t assume it’s the end of the story. 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 pollution into our election air. Heck, we still don’t know the extent and nature of team Trump’s contacts with Russia during the campaign. We still don’t know whether or to what extent Russia has the goods on Trump; and whether there are business entanglements that compromise Trump.

    Naturally, the purblind Republicans on Capitol Hill have little interest in probing this huge national security scandal. After all, it’s not Benghazi.

    But those of us with functioning minds understand that liar Michael Flynn is just the tip of the iceberg. As a senior Pentagon intelligence officer told ex-NSA analyst John Schindler, the intel community now assumes that the White House Situation Room has been compromised, that “the Kremlin has ears inside the Sitroom. There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point.”

    How would Republicans respond if Hillary Clinton had sublimated us to Russia in exactly this fashion? That’s an easy one. They’d be jabbering at the speed of Stephen Miller.

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

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