There is a saying in Washington: “It’s not the lie, its the cover up.” The phrase implies that the public cares less about an official’s wrongdoings than they do the fact that they tried to cover it up. This is a lesson that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is learning the hard way as he faces allegations of illegally communicating with Russian Officials before officially taking office.
Back in December, during the waning days of the Obama Administration, then-President Obama declared 35 Russian diplomats “persona non grata” and levied new sanctions against the Russian Federation. The move, made in the tit-for-tat style that is the norm in global diplomacy, was expected to be reciprocated by the Russians against the United States. Except then it wasn’t. A few weeks later, after Trump was sworn in as President, it was revealed that Flynn had been in contact with the Russian Ambassador around the same time President Obama announced his decision. Rumors that Flynn had acted to undermine the Obama White House followed.
The Trump White House quickly denied these rumors. White House spokesman Sean Spicer made clear that the contact made was only focused only on arranging a phone call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even Vice President Mike Pence came to Flynn’s defense stating that Flynn had personally assured him that “they did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
Except, it turns out, maybe they did? Last Thursday, through a spokesman, Flynn told the press that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” Days later several former officials, who were in senior positions at the time of the calls, revealed that Flynn had in fact made references to the sanctions and that his assurances to the Russians were explicit. According to these officials Flynn had “left the Ambassador with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time.” As the story of what happened became more convoluted, Flynn’s denials became less believable. Eventually, Flynn would personally apologize to both the President and the Vice President and admitted “he may have talked about sanctions.”
While the question of who said what to whom is still unclear, what is certain is that Mr. Flynn lied to administration officials and the American people. The decision to cover up his actions not only has the potential to compromise our national security, but has undermined his own position within in the Administration. As National Security Adviser, Flynn is expected to be the filter for what information gets to the President, information that could mean the difference between life or death for American Servicemen, as was demonstrated only last week. By displaying a willing to deceive those around him, including the President and Vice President, Flynn undermines his own credibility and leaves those who are counting on his judgment further in the dark.
While in a normal administration Flynn’s actions would have resulted in his termination, it is yet to been seen if President Trump will ask for Flynn’s resignation.
UPDATE: 11:45 PM ET, Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Advisor.