We have not yet reached the end of the Mike Flynn story. The former national security advisor’s abrupt resignation on Monday night might have been the end of his story, as far as the American people are concerned, had his downfall been personal or isolated. But the factors that cut Flynn’s White House tenure short are complex and intermingled with so many other issues.
Congress will be conducting hearings and investigations over what, exactly, Flynn spoke about with the Russian ambassador. The FBI’s own investigation, which included interviews with Flynn in the first days of the Trump administration, could yield more answers to questions we don’t even know about yet. The leaks from intelligence and administration personnel that helped shed light on Flynn’s misdirection will rightly prompt new scrutiny of a politicized culture in the intelligence community, where sensitive government information needs better protection.
Reince Priebus and Donald Trump. Credit M. Scott Mahaskey for POLITICO
And in the end, the internal turmoil within Donald Trump’s administration demonstrated by the Flynn flap will only be exacerbated. Reince Priebus’s role in ousting Flynn may have been his attempt to bring order to the West Wing, but it doesn’t seem to have made the target on the chief of staff’s back any smaller.
There will be plenty of questions and revelations about and around Flynn’s resignation over the next days, weeks, months, and likely years. But the big question, for the country and the future of Trump’s presidency is this: For how long can all this turmoil be sustained?
What About the FBI
One more point regarding the FBI’s interviews with Flynn in the first days of his tenure as national security advisor. As the New York Times reported, officials say the FBI did not believe Flynn was “entirely forthcoming” in those interviews, and the Times suggests the feds believe he could have lied to the FBI.
We have no idea what, exactly, the FBI is investigating, why it needed to interview Flynn, and what it has to do with his infamous calls with the Russian ambassador. But the fact that the interviews happened at all suggests that the requests for foreign surveillance warrants by the FBI to monitor conversations of the Russian official that Flynn was a part of. As David Kris argues, convincingly, the law’s “minimization” requirements for listening to FISA warrant-tapped calls appear to have been fulfilled in the Flynn calls.
Bibi to Meet Donald
The series of official visits from foreign leaders continues Wednesday, when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Trump at the White House. For a primer on the meeting, take a look at Elliott Abrams’s recent WEEKLY STANDARD article on Trump, Israel, settlements in the West Bank, and more. Here’s an excerpt:
Benjamin Netanyahu has had little luck before now with American presidents. During his first term in power, June 1996 to July 1999, the Clinton Administration intervened in Israeli politics to help Ehud Barak defeat and eject him. When Netanyahu returned to power in March 2009, he faced Barack Obama—whose preference for the Israeli left and “peace movement” was as obvious as his personal distaste for Netanyahu. So Donald Trump represents something entirely new for Netanyahu: an American president who is sympathetic and supportive.
Will the visit have an effect on American policy toward Israeli settlements and the so-called “peace process?” During his campaign, Trump was vocally pro-Israel. Soon after being elected he named a well-known lawyer, David Friedman, as his new ambassador to Israel, and it was reported that Friedman, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump’s in-house lawyer Jason Greenblatt would form a triumvirate charged with making policy toward the Jewish State. All three men are Orthodox Jews, and Friedman and Kushner have been supporters of settlements in the West Bank. While none of them has diplomatic experience, they get along very well and taken together constitute a very powerful agglomeration of brain power and of influence with Trump. On several occasions Trump has evinced a desire to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, and he has publicly assigned the task to Kushner. He told The Wall Street Journal shortly after the election that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is “the ultimate deal. As a deal maker, I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made.” So the Trump objective is the one that has eluded Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Mike Lee. Getty Images
Mike Lee and “Conservatism for the Forgotten Man”
One of Donald Trump’s most ardent conservative skeptics throughout the GOP primary was Senator Mike Lee. The Utah Republican will deliver an address at the Heritage Foundation Wednesday morning that will attempt to bridge Lee’s conservative principles with the populist promise of Trump’s election.
Entitled “Conservatism for the Forgotten Man: Reform in a Divided Society and Global Economy,” the speech will touch on tax reform, trade, and immigration. Lee will attempt to demonstrate how conservatives can answer the call from the American people on these and other issues with new ideas.
Here’s an advanced excerpt from Lee’s speech, which he will deliver at 9 a.m.:
Donald Trump’s tabloid and reality-TV persona may be an artifact of America’s glib celebrity culture. But his presidency represents a substantive indictment of Washington’s political and policymaking consensus, very much including the consensus within the G.O.P.
And it’s an indictment I co-sign. Almost seven years ago, I first ran for the Senate as an anti-establishment challenger against an incumbent of my own party. Four years ago, I first came to the Heritage Foundation and urged conservatives to reconnect with the working families and struggling communities our party had too long ignored. And I spent the bulk of my first term in the Senate advocating for policy reforms to help and empower the “Forgotten Americans” that Washington’s broken status quo was leaving behind.
President Trump’s peculiar brand of populist, nationalist politics is not what I had in mind. But nor must his election be the existential threat to conservatism, republicanism, and constitutionalism that many of his critics on the Right fear.
Song of the Day
“High and Dry,” Radiohead
Can anyone benefit from all this?