Michael Flynn has become a full-blown Trump scandal
There have been big developments in the scandal surrounding Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, an act that may well violate several laws including the Logan Act.
One of his top lieutenants has been fired from the National Security Council after being…
… refused top-secret clearance on Friday, according to a report.
Robin Townley, the senior director for Africa and one of Flynn’s closest deputies, was subsequently fired from the NSC, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Politico.
The move, which was reportedly approved by President Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo, angered Flynn and his deputies, who speculated that the snub was an act of retaliation aimed at their skepticism over the intelligence community’s leadership, sources said.
“They believe this is a hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him,” one source told Politico. “Townley believes that the CIA doesn’t run the world.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants Flynn himself out the door…
if he lied about talking about sanctions with a Russian official.
“It’s unacceptable that during the transition, General Flynn discussed lifting sanctions with Russia’s ambassador,” Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.) said in a statement Friday.
“This action would be deeply troubling under any circumstances, but considering Russia’s effort to tip the election toward President Trump, the General’s actions are disqualifying,” added Engel, who endorsed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“And if General Flynn negotiated with Russia to change American policy, he may be in violation of the Logan Act, which bars such conduct. The President must relieve General Flynn immediately.”
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wants an FBI briefing on the matter…
“as soon as possible” on communications between President Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
In a letter to FBI Director James Comey on Friday, McCaskill – the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – voiced concern over reports that Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the month before Trump’s inauguration.
“As part of these communications, General Flynn may have struck an agreement or implied future cooperation with Russia and President Vladimir Putin regarding sanctions relief or some form of preferential treatment,” McCaskill said in the letter.
McCaskill said that possibility justifies the committee receiving a closed briefing on the communications.
“Given the significant implications that any such communications may have had for the nation’s homeland and national security, I request that you provide a closed briefing for the Committee as soon as possible regarding the scope and status of any current FBI investigation related to General Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government,” she said.
Flynn had been in contact with Kislyak a number of times before Trump’s electoral win in November.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who has been awfully quiet on the matter, says he will “look into” the mushrooming scandal:
“I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it,” said Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Air Force One late Friday, during a flight to Florida from Washington. Several news outlets reported on Thursday that Mr. Flynn and Ambassador Sergei I. Kislyak had discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia.
The White House has denied publicly that the two men discussed sanctions.
Even as Mr. Trump professed his lack of knowledge of the episode, administration officials were scrambling to contain the fallout of the latest revelations about the embattled former three-star general, who has been criticized internally for his judgment and for staffing the National Security Council with military officers instead of trained civilian personnel.
Perhaps a bigger concern for Mr. Flynn is his relationship with Vice President Mike Pence, who sometimes has had to defend him in public.
According to two administration officials, Mr. Flynn told Mr. Pence in January that he had only exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Kislyak during a phone call in December and denied discussing sanctions with him. Mr. Pence repeated Mr. Flynn’s account during a television appearance.
The president still confers daily with Mr. Flynn, one of the few former military leaders to support him during the campaign.
But three weeks into Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Flynn’s role on national security matters has been challenged by other West Wing power players — including the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who have both taken expansive roles shaping foreign and defense policy.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, questioned on Friday whether Mr. Flynn should be allowed to stay in his job.