Hours after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser over a leaked phone call with the Russian ambassador, Washington insiders began pointing to signs the whole ordeal is part of a campaign to undermine the Trump administration.
Former Obama officials and national security bureaucrats could be working together to selectively leak highly sensitive information, such as the transcript of Flynn’s call with the ambassador, writes Eli Lake in Bloomberg, pointing out such leaks are unusual. U.S. intelligence services often monitor phone calls with foreign officials, but are supposed to protect the identity and speech of Americans involved in such calls. The goal could of this leak could be to undermine Trump’s government.
“The questions someone in the White House should ask the National Security Agency is why it didn’t use minimization procedures to protect Mr. Flynn?” the Wall Street Journal editorial board asked in a piece Monday night. “Or did it also have a court order to listen to Mr. Flynn, and how did it justify that judicial request?”
Trump himself raised the point on Twitter Tuesday. “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” he tweeted. “Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?”
Flynn’s resignation followed accusations he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the phone call he had with the ambassador, in which he discussed American sanctions against Russia. The call took place in December, before Trump took office, and may have violated laws prohibiting private citizens from conducting foreign policy.
Flynn said in his resignation letter he “inadvertently” gave Pence “incomplete information” about the phone call, and said both Pence and Trump had accepted his apology. But the Trump administration suggested it didn’t buy the “incomplete” information line, and suggested it was closer to a deliberate lie. Either way, the information embarrassed Pence, who inadvertently lied on national television about the call because of the information Flynn presented.
The misinformation is reportedly what sealed his ouster, but Lake suggests another possibility is that news of the “lie” was really just the final straw that pushed him out the door. The White House forbade Flynn from defending himself over the weekend as he was inundated with negative press, he points out, so if it was really the lie that sunk him, why didn’t he get fired in January when the administration was alerted to it? It seems Flynn was in fact on rocky footing from the start of the administration.
“There does appear to be a well orchestrated effort to attack Flynn and others in the administration,” Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the House select intelligence committee, told Bloomberg. “From the leaking of phone calls between the president and foreign leaders to what appears to be high-level FISA Court information, to the leaking of American citizens being denied security clearances, it looks like a pattern.”
Nunes told reporters Tuesday the House select intelligence committee would not open an investigation into Flynn, but that the committee would investigate the source of the leak and why Flynn was being recorded when he spoke with the ambassador.
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