Prepare for the Trump Russia scandal to worsen
Luca Trenta at The Conversation explains why:
The White House was apparently notified weeks before Flynn resigned that his calls and behaviour were being investigated by the FBI; former acting attorney-general Sally Yates reportedly warned the White House in January 2017 that Flynn (as well as other members of the Trump team) had extensive contacts with the Russians. (Trump famously fired Yates after she declined to defend his “travel ban”.)
The story is still developing, and it seems Flynn’s resignation might be only the start – not least since Trump’s preferred replacement for him has already declined to take the job. …
We already knew that during the election, Russia helped steal and release emails that damaged Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration later responding with new sanctions. Around the same time, several members of Trump’s team were reportedly in touch with Russian intelligence officials.
Flynn’s ties with Russia were well known even before the election. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned before the election due to his pro-Russia stance and business ties. Trump is known to have business ties in Russia – and he has many times praised Vladimir Putin while refusing to criticise even his more repressive practices.
Even after all this, Trump seemed to care little for the potential political or security fallout. For secretary of state he picked Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, a company which would stand to gain if the sanctions on Russia were lifted. Tillerson is a noted recipient of Russia’s Order of Friendship, the highest honour it confers on foreign citizens.
The evidence on the administration’s connections to Russia is certainly of concern. Even more worrying is the fact that Republicans in Congress have so far shown little desire to formally investigate them. That includes the same Republicans who spent several years and millions of dollars doggedly investigating Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server.
After months of reporting information that predates Trump’s inauguration, the press corps is now in a position to cover the Flynn/Russia scandal as it develops. As proposed inquiries are stonewalled by Congress and ridiculed by the White House, the president’s tweets have tried to distract from the story by suggesting that the real issue is leakers in the intelligence agencies, not potential treason.