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Flynn’s Resignation a Sign of Deep Instability

By Staff Writer Caroline Lupetini ‘19

· Caroline Lupetini

Image from Flikr.

Former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn resigned late February 13th, just twenty-four days into President Donald Trump’s administration. Flynn admitted that he had lied about the nature of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey I. Kislyak during the transition period before the inauguration. While Gen. Flynn had told Vice President Mike Pence that he had simply given holiday greetings to the Russian ambassador, it was revealed that he had indeed discussed the expulsion of several dozen Russian diplomats – one component of the Obama-imposed sanctions – with Kislyak. The Vice President had then used these false statements by Flynn to defend him in a series of televised conferences.

Further concerns came from the Justice Department, which warned the Trump administration that Flynn had not been truthful in his conversations with Pence. The DOJ report also included fears that Flynn could be susceptible to blackmail from the Russian government. To make matters worse, the Army has been investigating the possibility that Flynn received money from the Russian government during a 2015 trip to Moscow. According to the New York Times, this would violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which states that no citizen of the United States can accept a title of nobility or payment from a foreign government. According to press secretary Sean Spicer, the President demanded his resignation after the Justice Department notified White House Counsel Don McGahn’s office. However, Flynn has maintained that his resignation was “a violation of trust,” not “a violation of law.” This statement itself may be untrue as Flynn could be under FBI investigation already.

 

Flynn’s resignation is simply the symptom of a much larger and more important issue within the Trump administration thus far. The position of National Security Advisor to the president is an immensely powerful one: it does not require confirmation by the Senate, which means the president does not have to pander to a more moderate viewpoint to ensure his or her nominee is confirmed. The president can simply appoint the person that he or she feels is the best fit to advise the office of the president on matters of national security. However, in times of great distress – for example the 9/11 Attacks – the National Security Advisor will operate from the Situation Room, and, in general, this position is one with immense influence, with a direct line to the president’s ear. That Michael Flynn held this office for just twenty-four days – the shortest tenure in the history of the position – is a crucial indicator of instability and unrest within the administration. According to the Economist, there is rampant infighting within the office, falling into two main sides: establishment Republicans like Mr. Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus against far-right nationalists like White House Chief Strategist and Counselor to the President Steve Bannon.

 

Senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain has been one of the most prominent critics of the Trump administration. On February 18th, McCain spoke at the Munich Security Conference, saying that “in many respects this administration is in disarray and they've got a lot of work to do.” While he praised Trump’s Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis, McCain further still said Mr. Trump contradicts himself frequently and that observers must “watch what the president does as opposed to what he says.”

 

Mr. Trump’s constant contradictions and overall erratic behavior is certainly concerning for anyone invested in the American political process. Even more, it will be detrimental to our foreign affairs and relations with our allies. Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, even at times advocating that the United States leave the group. Trump even went so far to say that he could withdraw support from NATO if European countries did not raise their defense spending. Despite this, Gen. Mattis said that Trump gives his full support to NATO. This unpredictability will erode trust and friendship that our allied nations have in this country. Trump’s advisors have shown themselves to be antagonistic towards the ideals shared by the European Union, arguably one of our strongest allies. Our position as a preponderant nation in the world system depends on the trust and friendship we share with nations around the world. Trump and his team, less than a month in, are already disintegrating this trust, and thus, the respect others feel for the United States.

Further concerns came from the Justice Department, which warned the Trump administration that Flynn had not been truthful in his conversations with Pence. The DOJ report also included fears that Flynn could be susceptible to blackmail from the Russian government. To make matters worse, the Army has been investigating the possibility that Flynn received money from the Russian government during a 2015 trip to Moscow. According to the New York Times, this would violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which states that no citizen of the United States can accept a title of nobility or payment from a foreign government. According to press secretary Sean Spicer, the President demanded his resignation after the Justice Department notified White House Counsel Don McGahn’s office. However, Flynn has maintained that his resignation was “a violation of trust,” not “a violation of law.” This statement itself may be untrue as Flynn could be under FBI investigation already.

Flynn’s resignation is simply the symptom of a much larger and more important issue within the Trump administration thus far. The position of National Security Advisor to the president is an immensely powerful one: it does not require confirmation by the Senate, which means the president does not have to pander to a more moderate viewpoint to ensure his or her nominee is confirmed. The president can simply appoint the person that he or she feels is the best fit to advise the office of the president on matters of national security. However, in times of great distress – for example the 9/11 Attacks – the National Security Advisor will operate from the Situation Room, and, in general, this position is one with immense influence, with a direct line to the president’s ear. That Michael Flynn held this office for just twenty-four days – the shortest tenure in the history of the position – is a crucial indicator of instability and unrest within the administration. According to the Economist, there is rampant infighting within the office, falling into two main sides: establishment Republicans like Mr. Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus against far-right nationalists like White House Chief Strategist and Counselor to the President Steve Bannon.

Senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain has been one of the most prominent critics of the Trump administration. On February 18th, McCain spoke at the Munich Security Conference, saying that “in many respects this administration is in disarray and they've got a lot of work to do.” While he praised Trump’s Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis, McCain further still said Mr. Trump contradicts himself frequently and that observers must “watch what the president does as opposed to what he says.”

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