Lack of Accountability For Michael Flynn Corruption
National Security adviser Michael Flynn resigned over the discovery of illegal contacts with the Russian ambassador. Specifically, he made promises to the Kremlin regarding the lifting of sanctions, then misled the American public about such communication. After just twenty-four days of holding the position, Flynn issued his letter of resignation.
In the letter, Flynn states, “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.” The unprecedented 2016 presidential campaign, Trump’s history with Putin along with Russian operatives, Trump’s refusal to release his taxes, Obama’s Sanctions on Russia, the National Intelligence community report on Russia, the newly discovered $67,000 payment from Russia to Flynn, and the U.S Treasury department easing sanctions on Russia, are all indications that Trump will likely avoid holding Flynn accountable for lying to the American public about his contacts with Russia.
The 2016 Presidential campaign was unprecedented. For the first time, a woman (Hillary Clinton) became the nominee of a major political party. While an unqualified, reality television, bigot (Donald Trump) became the nominee of another major political party.
Throughout the campaign, the Republican Party expressed deep concern about Clinton’s handling of classified information during her tenure as Secretary of State. Twice the FBI cleared Clinton over the use of a private email server. Despite being cleared, then Republican nominee Trump exploited the relentless Clinton investigations. Trump used the email scandal as ammunition to lead his rabid “Lock her up!” crusade.
Just eleven days before the election, FBI Director James Comey injected himself into the election by announcing he was examining newly discovered emails sent or received by Clinton. Comey elected to wait two days before the election to announce that he was standing by his original assessment, ‘Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges for using a private email server.’
Questions of Trump’s involvement with Putin and the Kremlin did not begin during the election. However, the election highlighted the potential collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Remarks made by Trump, his senior advisers, business partners, and his undisclosed taxes, all give the impression he colluded with a foreign enemy to win an election.
Trump was asked about Putin in an October 2013 Larry King interview. During the interview, Trump explained, “I think he’s done really a great job of outsmarting our country,” in reference to Putin dissuading the U.S. government from striking Syria. On October 11, 2015, during a program titled “Face the Nation,” Trump was asked about the similarities between himself and Putin. Trump answered, “I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on '60 Minutes' together and we had fantastic ratings. One of your best-rated shows in a long time," Trump joked. "So that was good, right? So we were stable mates." Also troubling were February 2017 remarks from President Trump during an interview with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly referred to Putin as a killer. This seemed to personally offend Trump, as he defended the Russian authoritarian claiming, “There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?”
During the campaign, nearly 200,000 U.S. citizens signed a petition calling on Trump to release his tax returns. Kellyanne Conway, the former campaign manager, currently serving as counselor to President Trump, said that the president would not release his tax returns. This despite repeated promises during the campaign. The White House quickly clarified and reminded the public of the lie often repeated before the election, ‘Trump’s tax returns will be released once the [seemingly nonexistent] IRS audit is completed.’
President Trump is the first modern U.S. president not to release tax returns. Countless Americans believe the release of Trump’s taxes will help solve the mystery of foreign influence and help determine whether the current White House occupant has the ability to lead the free world.
Conway mentioned in an interview with ABC, that “... Most Americans are very focused on what their personal and family tax returns will look like under Trump, not what Trump’s returns look like. And you know full well that President Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president.” It seems obvious that the public does NOT know that Trump and family are complying with ethics rules.
Former President Barack Obama sanctioned Russia on December 29, 2016, for meddling in the presidential election. In a statement, Obama informed, “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
To conduct an investigation and produce an extensive report to assess Russian activities during the 2016 Presidential election, the National Intelligence community on Friday, January 6, released a declassified report. The mission of the Office of National Intelligence was to, “Seek and reduce the uncertainty surrounding foreign activities, capabilities, or leaders’ intentions.” The report included analytic process, cyber incident attribution, and judgments from the CIA, FBI, and NSA.
Overwhelming evidence suggests that Russia “hacked” the 2016 Presidential election via strategic mining and dumping of data to harm one candidate and advantage another. What remains unknown is the effect of the breaches, and the scope of individuals involved.
Fourteen days after Trump took office, the U.S. Treasury department eased sanctions on Russia that were established in the finals weeks of Obama’s presidency. US News reported, “The move will allow U.S. companies to conduct limited deals and negotiations related to information technology exports, provided those interactions do not violate other restrictions and do not exceed $5,000 in any calendar year.”
The Los Angeles times reported that prior to the election, Russian companies paid Flynn more than $67,000. According to the LA Times, “The newly released files show that RT — designated by the U.S. intelligence community as a propaganda arm for Russia's government — also paid for luxury hotel stays and other expenses incurred by Flynn and his adult son, Michael Flynn Jr., during the Moscow trip.”
Clinton’s email controversy cannot be ignored when discussing Flynn’s scandal. The Republican Party and party supporters endlessly harassed Clinton for her use of a private email server. Threats of locking her up, and the need to impose the death penalty abounded. Objectively, it is difficult to ascertain, how Republicans differentiate between Clinton and Flynn. Perhaps it was Clinton’s gender, or her perhaps it was her plan to preserve Obama’s legacy. Whatever the convenient distinction, the two scandals were entirely different.
Silence from Republican surrogates on Flynn’s Russia dealings is deafening. Where is the republican outrage? Republican apathy towards Flynn and his secret promises to relax sanctions levied against Russia makes it clear that their Clinton fears were merely a politically motivated farce.
Necessary sanctions against Russia, unreleased Trump tax returns, and Trump administration corruption is all central to the question – Will Trump's White House hold Michael Flynn accountable for lying to the American public about his illegal contacts with Russia? Trump’s administration has deep ties to the Russian government and was complicit in the undermining of U.S. democracy by the Kremlin.
Flynn was just one person out of countless advisers including former campaign chair Paul Manafort and former campaign senior adviser Jeff Sessions who have had extensive contact with Russia. Just twenty-four days in the position, Flynn was forced to resign. Why exactly? Until we know in full how deep Trump's ties with Russia extend, we will be unable to hold Trump and his administration accountable for potentially colluding with a foreign enemy.
In the meantime, it is imperative that Michael Flynn is held accountable for his role in lying to the U.S. public about his contacts with Russia and those contacts intentionally subverting the will of the U.S. Government. But how could a president hold the National Security Adviser accountable when the president is Donald J. Trump?