Not looking good for Michael Flynn. The Washington Kabuki Theater for predicting and monitoring someone’s demise is well underway. There is a flood of anti-Flynn stories hitting the internet and the broadcast media. Unfortunately for Flynn, he has helped fuel this talk. The biggest problem is that it appears he lied to Trump and Pence about his conversation with Russia’s U.S. Ambassador and there are indicators he may be on the chopping block:
A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances Sunday to publicly defend embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration. . . .
Pressed repeatedly, top policy adviser Stephen Miller said it wasn’t up to him to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.
“It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind,” he said on NBC. “That’s a question for the president.”
The White House said in an anonymous statement Friday the president had full confidence in Flynn. But officials have been mum since then amid fallout from reports that Flynn addressed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call late last year. The report, which first appeared in The Washington Post, contradicted both Flynn’s previous denials, as well as those made by Vice President Mike Pence in a televised interview.
As I noted in my previous piece, there was no problem with Flynn talking to the Russians. But if he did not fully disclose that fact to the President elect or if he did not coordinate this conversation in advance with the Trump team then he was in the wrong. When one is in a position to act for or on behalf of the President you must never free lance, no matter how good you think your idea is.
Against this back drop comes news that one of Flynn’s deputies was denied a CIA clearance (the article describes it as an SCI clearance but it is more likely the clearance for getting access to Human Source reporting):
A top deputy to national security adviser Michael Flynn was rejected for a critical security clearance, effectively ending his tenure on the National Security Council and escalating tensions between Flynn and the intelligence community. . . .
On Friday, one of Flynn’s closest deputies on the NSC, senior director for Africa Robin Townley, was informed that the Central Intelligence Agency had rejected his request for an elite security clearance required for service on the NSC, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.
That forced Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer who had long maintained a top secret-level security clearance, out of his NSC post, explained the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.
One of the sources said the rejection was approved by Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s CIA director, and that it infuriated Flynn and his allies.
According to the Politico, their sources claim that Townley did not get the clearance because he had previously voiced skepticism of the intelligence community’s techniques — sentiments shared by Flynn. That does not sound right. Townley probably had to take a polygraph and apparently failed to pass. Without a good poly he could not get the clearance. Without the clearance he could not get access to critical human intelligence required to do his job. Hence, he’s out.
These kinds of battles are not unusual in any administration. You may not recall but there was a controversy that swirled around Admiral Dennis Blair, Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, who was fired by the President for allegedly disobeying orders after only 15 months on the job. Then there was Marine Corps General Jim Jones, who also had a contentious relationship with Barack Obama and resigned as National Security Advisor after 20 months on the job.
Flynn already is at a disadvantage with Jim Mattis over at Defense. Mattis, who was a four star General, outranks Flynn, who only had three stars. Although neither man remains on active duty, both are quite conscious of their previous status. If Flynn lied or dissembled in any way to the President or Vice President, then you can bet that Mattis will use that fact to challenge Flynn’s competence. For Flynn fans this is not good news.
UPDATE–Sad day for Mike Flynn. The only thing he did wrong was not tell Vice President Pence the full truth. That’s it. He was well within his rights as the incoming National Security Advisor to talk to the Russians and to talk about any issue. The only thing he could not do was pass on classified information. That’s it. The people who insist he did something untoward with Russia are either woefully ignorant about the duties of the incoming Director of the NSC or are being deliberately disingenuous.