The first scandal has surfaced less than one month into the Trump administration, and it’s significant enough that Republicans must overcome their natural inclination to give a president of their party the benefit of the doubt.
The resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a decorated Army lieutenant general — after just 24 days in office should be setting off alarm bells. His covert contacts with Russian officials before he took his post require a thorough investigation. It’s difficult to believe that a career military man would “go rogue” on a sensitive topic like Russian sanctions without a go-ahead from above. It is already known that President Trump knew of Flynn’s contacts before they became public, because the FBI informed him weeks ago. If those contacts were not authorized, why was Flynn allowed in on national security briefings until the day he resigned?
This is not an incident that can be swept out of sight with the resignation of a single scapegoat.
To their credit, some Republicans of standing have come forward to say an investigation regarding Trump and Russia is needed. Among them is Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who sits on the Intelligence Committee. “I think we should look into it exhaustively,” he said, “so that at the end of this process, nobody wonders whether there was a stone left unturned.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said she supports committee investigations but would like to see Republicans get behind Democrats’ call for a broad-ranging independent commission that would examine Russian interference in the U.S. election, of which Flynn’s actions might be a part.
Meanwhile, disappointment in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s lack of leadership continues to grow. Inexplicably, Ryan has so far declined to call for an investigation because he first needs more information. Hint: The way to get more information is to investigate.
Most alarming of all was the news Tuesday that while the national security team was having a late-night meltdown, the Russians apparently have secretly deployed a new cruise missile, in violation of a decades-old landmark arms control treaty. It would be well within the Russian playbook to create instability and then seize the advantage it creates.
Republicans and Democrats alike must do the jobs they were sent to do, which involves more than just cheering for one’s own side and tearing down the other.
Trump, true to form, has reverted to his favorite format — Twitter — to say that “the real story” is the leaks coming out of Washington. No, Mr. President. That is not the real story. Distraction won’t work this time. After rumors of Russian ties with previous campaign aides, after boasts by a Trump son of extensive business dealings with Russia, after Trump’s own high-profile urgings that Russia essentially hack into his campaign rival’s e-mails and distribute them, it is time for the American public to know exactly what is going on between the Trump administration and a longtime adversary of this nation.