Last night Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser resigned after serving only three weeks in the position. Flynn had said he gave “incomplete information” (alternative information?) to Mike Pence regarding a phone call where he had discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak just weeks before the inauguration.
Based on that information, Pence had said previously that Flynn didn’t discuss sanctions with Kislyak. Such a conversation is in breach of the Logan Act, which is aimed at preventing private citizens from conducting U.S. diplomacy. The Justice Department warned the White House last month that Flynn could be in a “compromised position,” and Steve Bannon had also called for his resignation.
In a resignation letter, Flynn said he had held numerous calls with foreign officials during the Trump transition. “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,” he wrote. “I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology.”
Following his resignation, Trump tweeted out the following:
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
According to Fox News, Flynn echoed that point. Asked Tuesday morning whether the leaks were targeted, coordinated and possibly a violation of the law, Flynn told Fox News: “Yes, yes and yes.”the leak itself is raising serious questions — because when the intelligence community captures phone calls of an American inside the U.S., even if the discussion involves a foreign national (in this case an ambassador), steps must be taken to shield the American caller’s identity.
Recent leaks also have revealed reported details from phone calls between Trump and the leaders of Australia and Mexico and from the intelligence community investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign.
“If [the Flynn conversation] was picked up inadvertently, then that would have had to have been approved by someone in the last administration to actually unmask his name so that the FBI or intelligence officials knew who it was on the other end of the phone talking to the Russian ambassador,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told Fox News. “If, in fact, the press reports are right, someone made the decision to deliberately listen to General Flynn’s phone calls and that is, I think, unprecedented, unwarranted and flat-out wrong.”
Nunes said he is going to “be asking the FBI to do an assessment of this to tell us what’s going on here because we cannot continue to have these leaks as a government.”
Senate homeland security committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told Fox News that “somebody in the nebulous intelligence community” would have had access to the Flynn discussions.
“Who tapped the phones, who was listening to it, who leaked it? I think those are legitimate questions to ask,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “Leaks of this nature are incredibly damaging to America … and we need to look into it.”
A congressional source told Fox News they believe the intelligence was known to a small circle of Obama administration officials and appointees at the end of last year, including some working within the intelligence community — and the leaks were targeted and coordinated to undermine the administration.
Leaks notwithstanding, it does beg the question as to why Flynn would withhold information and/or lie to the vice president.
Furthermore, it reflects a different attitude than Trump had during his campaign, when he told he crowd at a campaign rally “I love WikiLeaks” as the group continued to release hacked emails from Clinton’s top aides, but it’s now national security that’s at stake. It’s unclear both whether or not this will contain the scandal – and who leaked the information (it’s doubtful that Democrats will blame the Russians this time).
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]