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Russian Contacts Spell the End for Michael Flynn

 

By BILL DELEHUNT

Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor Feb. 13. He held the position for a record 24 days; the record being that his time was the shortest tenure ever in that office. The last issue of The Minaret enumerated the actions and subsequent lies which got Flynn his walking papers, but the story hasn’t quite ended.

It has been well documented that Flynn inappropriately shared classified data in 2010, so it is not difficult to believe he would have an inappropriate relationship with Russian diplomats and high government officials in 2016. Republican lawmakers seem less concerned with Flynn’s actual antics than the newly public nature of those antics. They have called for investigations of the FBI and the intelligence agencies that brought Flynn’s possibly illegal contacts with America’s most dangerous enemy to light. This seems odd, but it’s true.

Trump tweeted, “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” One has to wonder what makes this leak illegal. Trump has gone on record, through White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, saying Flynn left office for lying to Vice President Mike Pence, not for his inappropriate conversation with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. This begs the question, why is releasing the transcript of Flynn’s conversation with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak an issue? If he was not doing anything illegal, if he was simply having a conversation to wish the Ambassador happy holidays and there was no release of classified information, then releasing a transcript of that call should not be any more important than one of your calls to mom and dad at Christmas. However, it has been alleged, perhaps Flynn was conducting U.S. foreign policy as a private citizen by discussing America’s sanctions against Russia, discussing secret information with foreign government agents. That would be a criminal action, and letting the public know of a crime involving a man who has access to the most highly classified information within our government is important. Now, which is it, President Trump? Either this was the release of an innocuous phone call, or it was the release of a transcript containing evidence of a crime.

If government Republicans think sharing information with Russian spies is important, you wouldn’t know it from some members of Congress. They are much more focused on the leak. CNN reports the following, “I want to hear from the FBI as to how this got out,” Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “We don’t even know if this is true. We just know this from press reports.” You would think the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee could request a briefing from FBI Director James Comey instead of speaking to reporters. Why wouldn’t he do that? Why are the Republicans so reluctant to investigate Flynn and his relationship with high ranking Russian officials?

There could be several reasons. Perhaps Republican lawmakers don’t want to know what Flynn and other members of Trump’s team have been doing with officials over the past several years. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobile Oil, has long-standing business ties in Russia. His former company stands to make billions in profits by partnering with Russian organizations to explore near the Arctic Circle. Who within the Trump administration – perhaps starting at the very top of the chain – could benefit from that relationship?

Paul Mannafort, former Trump campaign manager, also had business dealings with Russian contacts and frequently was in contact with Russians during the presidential campaign. He denies any involvement in illegal or nefarious activities. “This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.” He added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’” That’s exactly the point – high ranking U.S. officials within the government or merely representing those who wish to be should realize any Russian contact is either a formal or informal agent of Vladimir Putin. But, there is a more troubling reason why the Republican Party is dragging its collective feet in investigating the Trump administration’s connections with the Russian government.

Trial attorneys are taught to never ask a question in open court that they don’t already know the answer to. Do certain Republicans within our government already know what is hidden under the rocks of the Trump administration? Is that why they are so hesitant to begin an investigation of Flynn, because they know where it will lead?

At the same time, do the Republicans really think this story is going to go away? Is their memory so short that they have forgotten the Watergate hearings and how long they lasted; broadcast every day on all three major networks? It was enough to bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

The Republicans need to quickly embrace a thorough and independent investigation of Flynn. There is every likelihood more people within the current administration will be investigated. The sooner a detailed investigation is conducted and the truth brought to light, the better for the Republican Party, the Trump administration and the United States of America.

Bill Delehunt can be reached at william.delehunt@spartans.ut.edu.

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