Less than a month into the Trump Administration, the Democrats have already begun executing the playbook they used to nearly destroy the Bush presidency. The Democrats are trying to do with the Michael Flynn episode what they did with the Valerie Plame affair – cloaking their efforts to destroy a presidential administration in their ostensible concern for national security. With the Flynn matter, Democrats are clothing their efforts to undermine the Trump Administration in their ostensible national security concerns about Flynn’s contacts with the Russians. As an added bonus, the Democrats get to cement their false but self-soothing narrative that the Russians were responsible for Trump’s victory, not their message or their candidate.
This poses huge dangers for the administration that it must get on top of immediately. To survive and reassert their authority, the Trump Administration must take a number of actions.
Get Congressional Republicans in line and shut down open-ended, broad-scope investigations into Flynn and other Trump Administration officials. Congressional Republicans are trying to look bipartisan by sharing the concerns of the rabidly partisan Democrats and supporting investigations into Flynn’s conduct and the conduct of other officials. This is fraught with danger. The same Democrats who stonewalled on the real scandal of Benghazi and pooh-pooed the idea that Hillary Clinton’s server might have been insecure and hacked suddenly interested in national security investigations? Congressional Republicans need to say sorry, but we’re not fooled. Congressional Democrats concern for national security only seems to fire up when GOP boogeymen are in the crosshairs. Already, they are saying they not satisfied with Flynn’s scalp and they want broader investigations into Trump Administration officials.
We’ve seen his movie before. The Valerie Plame investigation is the model for what is about to happen. Remember when Joe Wilson said he wanted to have Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs? That’s what they’ve got planned for the Trump administration. The Plame investigation severely damaged the Bush administration and nearly made it impossible to prosecute the war in Iraq. It helped cement the false narrative that George Bush lied the country into war and then vindictively retaliated against Joe Wilson, who supposedly only spoke truth to power, by outing his wife as a CIA employee. And it paralyzed the administration, making it nearly impossible for it to implement and execute the surge that led to victory in Iraq.
Only years later did Congressional investigations conclude that Wilson was a liar and the report from his trip to Africa actually supported the conclusion that Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake uranium in Africa. But who remembers that? All we remember is that an administration official, Scooter Libby, was convicted of perjury. And who recalls that Judith Miller, one of the journalists who refused to testify, recently realized that investigators may have misinterpreted information they used to convict Libby? No one remembers that either. And very few remember that the special prosecutor continued the investigation even after identifying the leaker of Valerie Plame’s identity (Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage), obtaining Libby’s perjury conviction well after the ostensible subject of the investigation had been discovered. The whole thing took on a life of its own, with the Democrats and MSNBC fanning the flames the whole way.
Any “bipartisan” investigation of the Flynn matter will turn into a circus. Undoubtedly someone will say something that doesn’t perfectly comport with something someone else says, and there will be a whole new round of scandals, manufactured outrage, calls for more investigations, and I’d bet dollars to donuts, a special prosecutor.
All this needs to be nipped in the bud now. Flynn has been cut loose. The administration cannot afford to have its nat sec officials embroiled, day after day, in Congressional investigations. Congressional Republicans on the intelligence committees need to rein this in and prevent an open-ended investigation that will prevent the administration from doing its job. It does not pay for the Republicans to be the “bigger person” and showing genuine concern about Flynn when all the Democrats are looking for are GOP scalps.
Remind the world that the only reason the Democrats are fired up about Russia is that it is a handy excuse for their election losses. The nub of the entire Flynn controversy is that Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador just as the Obama Administration began taking action against Russia for its supposed meddling in the presidential election. That is, the Democrats’ ginned-up, recently discovered concern about Russia is what underlies the entire Flynn matter. The Obama Administration only began taking a hard line on Russia in the last few weeks of its tenure, probably to help reinforce the notion that Russia somehow helped Donald Trump win the presidential election. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine and indiscriminate bombing and atrocious human rights violations in Syria didn’t lead to serious consequences for Russia. Only when the Democrats went looking for someone to blame the election loss on did Russia enter the crosshairs. Remember, the Democrats failed to pin the election on racism (Jennifer Palmieri at the Harvard Institute of Politics), the unfairness of the Electoral College system (and the effort to persuade Republican electors to be faithless), “fake news,” and James Comey. But with the Russian hack of the DNC and the supposed Russian support for Donald Trump, the Democrats got traction. So they settled on “the Russians did it” as the reason for their loss and took steps, such as expelling diplomats and imposing sanctions, to reinforce that narrative. Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador got caught up in this. It seems perfectly reasonable for an incoming National Security Advisor to speak to foreign ambassadors during the transition – isn’t that what transitions are for? – but because the conversation occurred with the backdrop of the hysteria about the supposed Russian involvement in the election, suddenly the contact became nefarious.
Any investigation needs to have as a main focus the leakers of information about the conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Those are serious concerns that, as journalist Eli Lake has pointed out, reflect the “deep state” using intelligence to commit a “political assassination” of a domestic government official. That’s police state and banana republic stuff. If the Democrats can’t get behind that aspect of any investigation, we’ll know their concerns about the whole Flynn affair are a sham and they are only using the Flynn situation for partisan advantage.
Get people into the agencies, pronto. The agencies have had weeks without political leadership as the Democrats have bogged down the confirmation process to an unprecedented degree. Democratic bureaucrats have had weeks to create all kinds of mischief. The agencies need adult supervision and they need it yesterday. Republicans can no longer allow the Democrats to slow-walk their nominees. Trump administration personnel need to be running the agencies. Now.
Release the secret parts of the Iran deal and more of the document trove from the Osama bin Laden raid. The Washington Free Beacon has reported that former Obama Administration officials and others who support the Iran deal orchestrated the leaks and stories about Flynn because he planned to release the secret elements of the Iran deal. The Trump Administration should make it a priority to release the secret portions of the Iran deal. They should do this anyway as a matter of good policy and civic hygiene – there is no good reason why in our democracy the public and the legislature should not know the details of a supposed world-saving agreement. If it embarrasses former Obama Administration officials, too bad. The public has a right to know. And if the former Obama Administration officials really did orchestrate a campaign that led to Flynn’s ouster, embarrassing them would be an added bonus. It would also be a warning – try this with other Trump officials, and you will pay dearly.
As for the bin Laden documents, there is no good reason why at least more of them have not been released. The public should see at least some of them. This is a gong the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes has been banging for some time, and he is right. It’s time to see more of the documents and get a better explanation for why we can’t see others. If that embarrasses the people who apparently orchestrated the defenestration of Mike Flynn, so be it. Not my problem.
Change the subject. Time for tax reform. Get the economy humming again. One thing we learned from the Clinton Administration is that an administration can weather a lot of scandal when the economy if going strong. If tax reform succeeds, the economy will roar to life. Americans won’t want to disturb that. Under these circumstances, Americans will view efforts to defenestrate more Trump administration officials and destroy the administration with much greater hostility, same as they did to the Republican Congress that impeached Bill Clinton.