It’s highly unusual for a high-level official to leave an administration so quickly, within just three weeks. (Sometimes appointees are forced to withdraw before taking their jobs, but effectively never is one installed and then pushed out as rapidly as Flynn.) Last week, I suggested that the Trump administration had begun to look a little like a reality-TV show—Survivor: West Wing. If so, Flynn was the first to fall, but of course there’s always the next round of elimination. So who will be the next to leave the chaotic White House, and will be part of the post-Flynn shakeup, or for different reasons?
Is the FBI still investigating the Trump administration’s ties to Russia?
Once it became clear that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russian officials, there was speculation that he might have violated the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from negotiating U.S. policy. But the prospect of a Logan Act prosecution was always highly remote—the bigger story is about the nature of Trump administration contacts with the Russians more generally, and whether Russia interfered with the presidential election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
It’s known that the FBI has been investigating these ties: CNN reported in January that the bureau was looking into Flynn’s calls. The Post reports that this was part of a broader investigation. So, is that investigation still ongoing? What else is it considering, and when might the contents become public? And why was Director Comey, who was so quick to publicize developments in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, reportedly so reluctant to confront the White House about Flynn’s dissembling? The Army is also, according to the Times, investigating whether Flynn received money from the Russian government for a 2015 trip, which could break the law.
How will the rest of the Republican Party respond?
Between the FBI and Army investigations, it’s clear that there are important unanswered questions about Flynn’s dealings. Yet the Trump administration’s line, somewhat implausibly, is that the “real story” is not the president’s top security aide misleading the vice president and the American people, but instead the leaks that have fed the story—the news about Yates’s call to McGahn, the fact that the FBI was investigating Flynn’s calls, the sources who said Flynn was lying. Breitbart has also taken this line.
How will other members of the president’s party react, though? So far, many of them seem unwilling to get anywhere near the story. Representative Jason Chaffetz, who leads the House Oversight Committee, suggested Tuesday that with Flynn’s resignation, the story was coming to an end. On Monday, Representative Devin Nunes, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, staunchly defended Flynn and said there was no need for him to resign. On Tuesday, Nunes said that his committee would not investigate Trump and Flynn’s conversation, citing executive privilege, but said he wanted the FBI to explain the leak of transcripts of Flynn’s calls. On the Senate side, where GOP members have been more eager to investigate Russian interference in the election, Senator Roy Blunt called for a committee to examine Trump’s ties with Russia “exhaustively” and to question Flynn. It might not be wrong that the intelligence community was out to get Flynn, argues Eli Lake, who points to Flynn’s rocky relationship with spies over time. But whether Republicans in Congress are more interested in Flynn’s dubious dealings with Russia or with the question of leaks that pushed him out will say a lot about their priorities, and whether they are willing to stand up to the White House.