What the removal of Flynn as the national-security adviser reveals about Donald Trump’s White House... the Washington Post revealed that Flynn, while he was still a private citizen and Barack Obama was still President, had discussed American sanctions against Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador in Washington... The episode created countless concerns, about the President’s truthfulness, competence, temperament, and associations. How much did Trump know and when did he know it?.. Reporters were just chasing after wild theories, while neglecting to consider his career as a decorated Army officer. “You don’t just sprinkle magic dust on someone, and, poof, they become a three-star general,” he said... “Wake up, America!” Flynn said, his jaw set and his hands gripping the sides of the lectern. The United States was in peril: “Our very existence is threatened.” The moment demanded a President with “guts,” he declared, not a “weak, spineless” one who “believes she is above the law.”.. Marks regarded Flynn as “smart, humble, and funny.” What he saw on TV was something else: “That’s a vitriolic side of Mike that I never knew.”.. The beginning of Trump’s Presidency remained true to his campaign: even when it came to the highly sensitive issues of national security, Trump and his aides acted with ideological ferocity and a heedless sense of procedure that alarmed many inside the government. The Trump Administration’s early days have invited comparison to the most unnerving political moments in memory, particularly Richard Nixon’s behavior during the Watergate scandal... Bannon had seemingly moved to set up a kind of “parallel, shadow” national-security staff for his own purposes, one council staffer told me. Bannon, who had no direct experience in policymaking, seized a central role on issues dear to Trump. For example, during the campaign Trump had railed against nato members for not paying their full freight, which unnerved diplomats and politicians throughout Europe. On February 5th, according to the staffer, Bannon sent questions to the N.S.C. staff, requesting a breakdown of contributions to nato from individual members since 1949. Many of the rank-and-file staffers were alarmed, not just because the questions seemed designed to impugn nato’s legitimacy but because they represented a breach of protocol by tasking N.S.C. staffers with political duties. “Those were Flynn’s people, not political operatives,” the staffer said... His father was a soldier, a veteran of the Second World War and Korea, who retired as a sergeant first class in the Army; his mother, a high-school valedictorian, worked at a secretarial school and was heavily involved in Democratic politics, before going back to school to get undergraduate and law degrees.
.. Flynn encouraged his men to think more like detectives as they hunted Al Qaeda militants; he brought F.B.I. agents in to instruct operators in how to collect and preserve evidence... A former Ranger recalled storming a house, flex-cuffing the tenants, then staying for several hours, risking exposure, while he and his teammates searched behind walls and under mattresses for a single thumb drive—which they found, eventually, in a pipe beneath the kitchen sink. Intelligence operatives would gather information by hacking militants’ computers, intercepting their phone calls, and surveilling them with drones. “We were able to mass so much information against individuals we captured that at some point they realized it was no use lying to us anymore,”.. Intelligence officers are often irascible figures. “We are trained to be contrarians,” Marks, the retired major general, who was the senior intelligence officer during the invasion of Iraq, said. “I’m the only guy in the room who gets paid to tell you that you’re not as handsome or as smart as you think you are. I’m the one who looks the boss in the eye and says, ‘Your plan is all fucked up.’.. His office was a windowless converted shipping container, and during long days he took briefings and pored over classified assessments. Flynn often ate his meals in the chow hall and chatted with subordinates. “I have no recollection of any other general officers doing that,”.. His talent for absorbing information could race ahead of his analytical abilities. “He is not a linear thinker,”.. Flynn got “jerked around by the data”—he would contend that the Taliban were nearly defeated and then, with no less conviction, argue that the militant group was stronger than ever... “If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves.”.. Flynn dispatched a Marine Corps first lieutenant to travel around the country interviewing marines, soldiers, and civilian partners about their intelligence needs. The lieutenant, Matthew Pottinger, had been a Beijing correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.. “But it was confusing, and these would be the same kind of discussions you’d have with him about the nature of the insurgency—you’d leave his office and spend an hour trying to figure out what he was trying to say.”.. a neoconservative historian named Michael Ledeen, who was then a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. Ledeen had been obsessed with Iran for decades... Iraq was a distraction; Iran was “the real war.”.. Flynn, too, increasingly viewed Iran as a great menace. In Iraq, he had seen scores of young Americans killed by sophisticated armor-piercing explosives, supplied to Shiite militias by the Quds Force, an élite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Flynn and Ledeen became close friends.. “I’ve spent my professional life studying evil,” Ledeen told me. Flynn said, in a recent speech, “I’ve sat down with really, really evil people”—he cited Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Russians, Chinese generals—“and all I want to do is punch the guy in the nose.”.. A team returned to the materials and uncovered documents that seemed to point to a closer relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran than was previously understood. In one memorandum, a lieutenant asks bin Laden for permission to send an associate planning attacks in Europe into Iran for “around three months” to “train the brothers.”.. James Mattis, the Marine general in charge of U.S. Central Command, whose responsibilities included the Middle East and Central Asia, had been pushing for more aggressive action against Iran... “To higher-level observers, Flynn looked like this bold leader, willing to make changes in the face of opposition. But, the further down you went, the more negative impact there was, because it was complete chaos.”.. Moreover, Flynn could be sloppy with numbers and details—misstatements that his staffers derided as “Flynn facts.”His habit of chasing hunches also exasperated some staff members... Hall told me. “Every time we have tried to have some sort of meaningful coöperation with the Russians, it’s almost always been manipulated and turned back against us.”.. But America faced bigger foes than isis, he said. “Iran has killed more Americans than Al Qaeda has through state sponsors, through its terrorist network, called Hezbollah.”.. He cited other instances, but his math made little sense, and the numbers fell far short of the nearly three thousand killed by Al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11... Flynn wanted to position himself as a sage counsellor for the upcoming Presidential campaign... They were often polemical works, with titles such as “The War Against the Terror Masters” and “The Iranian Time Bomb,” and were filled with sweeping statements like “Islamic fundamentalism, of which the ideology of the Iranian regime is a textbook case, draws much of its inspiration from Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin.”.. he quickly realized during the visit that Flynn’s “easygoing pragmatism” had given way to some “very hard-edged ideas,” particularly on Iran... “I’ve encountered plenty of military officers who were deeply upset by the role that Iranian-backed militias played in Iraq, but Flynn’s animosity was off the charts,”.. Flynn expressed similarly harsh views of Islam in general, describing the faith as a political ideology, and not a religion... Two months later, Flynn appeared on RT, the English-language Russian television channel, formerly known as Russia Today. The outlet was widely regarded as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, even before a recent U.S. intelligence report on Russian hacking and the Presidential election said that the channel had become an important part of a “Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government.”.. Simone Ledeen urged her former boss, and family friend, to reconsider. “I begged him, ‘Please, sir: don’t do this. It’s not just you. You’re a retired three-star general. It’s the Army. It’s all of the people who have been with you, all of these analysts known as “Flynn’s people.” Don’t do this to them. Don’t do this to yourself.’ ”.. Flynn was seated at the head table for dinner that evening. Putin sat to his left. Cyril Svoboda, the former foreign minister of the Czech Republic, sat to Flynn’s right... After dinner, Putin went onstage and congratulated RT on its success. The Russian government wasn’t perfect, he said, so he appreciated RT for its presentation of “various points of view.”.. Not long afterward, he retweeted a picture apparently showing refugees tromping across the European countryside with text that read, “Historians will look back in amazement that the West destroyed its own civilization.”.. Although an isis flag is pictured on the front cover, “The Field of Fight” is, in many ways, a call to action against Iran. “Every day we see evidence of Iranian espionage in the United States,” Flynn writes. “It is hard to imagine that there are no Hezbollah terrorist groups inside this country. If they could blow up buildings in Buenos Aires, they can surely do the same here.”.. Michael, Jr., promoted stories from Alex Jones.. in a tweet that used the hashtag #NeverHillary, shared an anti-Semitic comment that read, in part, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” (He subsequently deleted the tweet, calling it “a mistake.”) “I’m not perfect. I’m not a very good social-media person,”.. In August of last year, a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hired Flynn Intel Group on a lobbying contract to help promote the view that Turkey’s business climate was a positive one. This was a challenging task, given that Erdoğan had survived a coup attempt just the month before, and was, in retaliation, rounding up anyone considered insufficiently faithful to his regime. Flynn had previously been critical of Erdoğan, whom he viewed as an Islamist threat. He put those concerns aside now as he vouched for Erdoğan’s government, writing an op-ed for The Hill that heralded Turkey as “our strongest ally” against isis... Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser, said that Flynn enjoyed Trump’s “full confidence.” Then, within the hour, Spicer said that Trump was “evaluating the situation.”
But, that evening, another Post article appeared online, this time about the Justice Department’s blackmail fears. Soon afterward, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. The news broke just before eleven.
.. The predominant view in the state media and among Russian analysts is that the Flynn affair, coupled with the American intelligence report on the hack of the Democratic National Committee, is likely to limit Trump’s ability to make some of the major changes in U.S.-Russia policy that he was hinting at throughout the campaign.
.. Trump had known “for weeks” that Flynn was lying. “The fact that they were O.K. with that tells you a lot about their comfort level misleading the public.”
.. Some of Flynn’s former military colleagues, even those from whom he’s drifted apart in recent years, told me they were skeptical that Flynn would have conducted shadow diplomacy on his own. Despite his reputation as an agitator, he was, in the end, a soldier who followed orders
.. I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.” ♦
What the removal of Flynn as the national-security adviser reveals about Donald Trump’s White House.