As stories of the chaos and dysfunction of the Trump administration continue to spill out of the White House with alarming regularity, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep all of the competing scandals straight.
But perhaps the most dangerous looming scandal involves Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is rapidly emerging as the nexus of Trump’s troubles with Russia.
Individually, Flynn’s ethical issues are disconcerting enough – but laid out in chronological order, they paint an even grimmer big picture of relentless treachery.
The following highlights the track record of Flynn’s duplicity thus far…
- Throughout 2016, Flynn serves as a trusted member of the Trump campaign, even though he was fired by Obama, clashed with the intelligence agencies, was strangely soft on Russia, stated that Islam was a “malignant cancer,” and was prone to conspiracy theories.
- During the summer of 2016, American spies intercept information that Russian officials were boasting about how they could influence Trump through their ties to Flynn and campaign manager Paul Manafort.
- The day after the election, President Obama warns Trump not to hire Flynn as his national security adviser.
- Flynn admits to the Trump transition team that he’s under federal investigation over secretly lobbying for Turkey during the campaign.
- Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates also warns the Trump transition team not to hire Flynn, explaining that he’s susceptible to blackmail from the Russians. (Note: Trump subsequently fires Yates for her refusal to support his Muslim travel ban, which she deems unlawful. Weeks later, several federal judges will confirm that she was right.)
- Warnings be damned, Trump hires Flynn anyway as his national security adviser, giving Flynn access to America’s top secrets.
- Flynn scraps a Pentagon plan for Kurdish forces to seize the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria. Turns out this is what Turkey wants as well – and by sheer coincidence, Turkey paid Flynn $530,000 the year before as a foreign agent. (Note: After Flynn was fired, Trump went through with this plan after all.)
- The Washington Post publishes a story about Flynn lying to Vice President Mike Pence about having discussed the easing of sanctions with Russian officials during the campaign.
- Trump is furious at the government leaks that have exposed the deceit of his national security adviser. The disclosures humiliate Trump as an indictment of his judgment in hiring Flynn.
- After weeks of mounting national shaming, during which Flynn continues to have access to America’s most classified information, Trump finally fires Flynn … but he’s enraged at having to concede hiring Flynn was a stupid idea and now demands to know who leaked this embarrassing story to the press.
- Trump meets with FBI Director James Comey in the White House, tells Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room, then asks Comey to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn, saying, “I hope you can see clear to letting this go” because “Flynn is a good guy.”
- Comey doesn’t drop the FBI investigation into Flynn, angering Trump.
- Trump asks Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and NSA Director Michael Rogers to push back against the FBI investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, urging them to deny any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
- Comey testifies before Congress and confirms that despite Trump’s denials, the FBI is indeed investigating potential ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign related to Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf.
- Days after Comey requests more resources for the Trump/Russia investigation, he is abruptly fired. Since A.G. Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation for lying to Congress about having met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak while a member of the Trump campaign, he has Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein write up a memo explaining Comey is being fired due to his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
- Trump later admits in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he personally decided to fire Comey, and that his decision was related to the Russia investigation that he continues to denounce as a “made-up story.”
- Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak – a key figure in the FBI’s Russia investigation – inside the Oval Office, barring the American press from the meeting. Trump then smears Comey to the Russians as “crazy, a real nut job,” and admits, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
- Flynn invokes his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination by refusing to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request for him to hand over documents related to his interactions with Russian officials.
Now, conservatives may scoff at the idea that Trump’s unsettling pattern of behavior regarding Flynn and Russia constitutes abuse of power or obstruction of justice. But let’s not forget why Bill Clinton was impeached by House Republicans: he lied in a civil deposition about a consensual affair.
If perjury about an affair is now the bar for an impeachable offense, then Republicans may want to reconsider their conclusion that Trump has nothing to worry about here, particularly given the damning revelations pouring out of Washington on an hourly basis.