Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is demanding immunity against criminal prosecution before he agrees to testify before congressional committees investigating Russia’s involvement with our presidential election and our president’s potential involvement with Russia.
Flynn is Washington’s latest dumpster fire, another sign that the stink from Russia engulfing the Trump administration will not go away anytime soon. On Friday, the administration refused to back off on sanctions against Russia, giving its first clear signal that President Donald Trump now sees no political benefit from befriending Vladimir Putin and “resetting” the relationship with Russia. That’s a start. Next, Trump should stand with those Russians who are taking to the streets protesting Putin’s corrupt regime.
Until Trump can remove any suspicion of nefarious ties to Russia, he will never get around to the important business of operating the world’s most powerful nation. This scandal is sinking his agenda and diminishing the influence of the United States.
In search of answers
The nation needs answers. The administration won’t be able to move forward until it has them, and provides them.
That Russia was working to influence the 2016 presidential election is not even in doubt. Top U.S. intelligence officials confirm it. And Russia’s ongoing dirty tricks in Europe show this is business as usual for the Kremlin.
It seems only Trump, stung by allegations he feels make his presidency appear illegitimate, is claiming the Russian interference never happened. He should move on. Russian attempts to sway voters to Trump in the primary or general election would not make Trump’s victory illegitimate: the voters made the choice they made.
There are more troubling issues. Did Trump’s campaign confidants coordinate those Russian attempts, including the WikiLeaks release of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton? On whose behalf were Flynn and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, working when they were talking to the Russians?
In Washington the pattern is often that the cover-up ends up worse than the original sin. In that vein, the White House may have gone too far in trying to cover the president on the widely discredited claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones.
First, the White House tried to claim the British did it. That blew up. Then there was the stunt by Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. The California Republican and member of Trump’s transition team claimed he had gotten secret information he urgently needed to share with the White House because it might defuse the Obama wiretapping controversy. Now it looks like he got the information from the White House, intelligence to which perhaps the president’s lawyers might not have had legitimate access.
Claims and obfuscations
As a result of Trump’s hamfisted claims and obfuscations, we have lost sight of some important questions: Is there a kernel of truth to the claim that U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring Russians improperly revealed communications by American citizens? Were the contacts Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak legitimate?
Trump’s son-in-law, top adviser Jared Kushner, met with a Russian banker tied directly to Putin and his spy network, and sources say Kushner and the banker disagree over what was discussed, national policy or real estate development. Manafort had to resign over his pro-Russian connections in Ukraine and the millions of dollars he reaped from them. Carter Page, who served as a campaign foreign policy adviser, and legendary political trickster Roger Stone, a longtime Trump crony, have been tied to the Russians.
Congress has to find the answers. Nunes is discredited because of his secret meeting at the White House; he is still refusing to disclose who let him on the grounds and what he did while he was there. If that wasn’t bad enough, Nunes then canceled planned testimony about Flynn by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, however, seems to get the importance of the task. GOP chair Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner are working in a bipartisan manner and they should be given all of the intelligence reports and other documents necessary for a comprehensive report. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should not stand in their way.
The need for truth
This isn’t all about domestic politics. Throngs of Russians protested an increasingly harsh government last weekend, and hundreds were jailed for it. Opposing Putin has become a deadly risk and the bodies of his enemies are starting to fill the streets.
We need a president, Cabinet and Congress focused on governing the nation. Trump must allow the executive branch to fully participate in the criminal probe and the Congressional investigation. Stop the meddling. Stop the obfuscation that has become the daily White House briefing.
Until the truth is revealed, Trump’s presidency will be in peril. As will Americans’ belief in the integrity of their government.