President Donald Trump’s national security adviser resigned late Monday night. Michael Flynn admitted in his resignation letter to having conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States and providing then Vice President-elect Mike Pence with an incomplete account of those calls. There is speculation that Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador to the United States concerning U.S. sanctions against Russia before Trump’s inauguration. The Washington Post reported that the acting attorney general told Trump last month about the calls and suggested that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
I am missing something here. This isn’t meant to defend Flynn. It just means that I am missing something. There are two things that do not make sense. The first is that Flynn was an intelligence officer in Afghanistan and Iraq and at one point was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn knows intelligence. It is a stretch to believe that Flynn could have placed himself in a position to be blackmailed by the Russians. This is because there is no way Flynn didn’t himself know that phone calls he had with representatives of Russia or another foreign government were monitored. There is something mysterious in this; we still do not have clarity over precisely what happened.
Those are precisely the reasons that an independent investigation makes sense. He continues:
The second reason this doesn’t make sense is that talking to the Russian ambassador by itself would not have been grounds for dismissal or resignation. Under the Logan Act, which dates to 1799, it is illegal for someone not in the U.S. government to conduct foreign policy negotiations with a foreign power on behalf of the United States. However, no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act. Logan Act or not, private citizens are constantly engaged in conversations with foreign officials.
The most likely consequence of Gen. Flynn’s being prosecuted under the Logan Act would be for the Logan Act to be struck down as being too vague. And onwards:
Consider this. Anyone named to the post of national security adviser knows numerous officials from foreign governments. It is a job requirement. Before an election, he is simply a private citizen, as free as anyone else to speak to foreign officials within the limits of the Logan Act, which is never enforced but widely violated.
After an election, the president-elect is not yet the president and cannot speak for the U.S. government, nor can anyone he may have announced who will be a government official. But there is a difference between negotiating on behalf of the government and opening channels with foreign countries in anticipation of becoming part of the government. The idea that there should be no contacts whatsoever would mean that the new president would be starting from square one rather than hitting the ground running.
None of this will convince anyone, either those who hate Trump or those who support him unquestioningly.
As I’ve said before, I’m not sorry to see Flynn go. I think he was too gullible about Russia and too antagonistic with respect to Iran. His skills and personality weren’t right for NSC. However, we really need to know if anything improper was going on and the precise events and circumstances that have taken place.