The flagrant disregard for ethics and laws is catching up with President Donald Trump less than one month into his term of office. Richard Nixon's paranoia did him in. Donald Trump's self righteous self absoption may do the same to him.
The resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is just the beginning, and it happened at this point in time because of superb journalistic reporting by the Washington Post. On February 9, the Post broke the story that revealed Flynn had privately discussed sanctions against Russia with Russia's Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, weeks before President Trump took office. This was contrary to public statements made by Trump officials and the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence. Reports now state that Pence did not find out the truth until February 9, well after his Face the Nation appearance defending Flynn on January 15.
The Post took the story a step further when it reported that acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn not only misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador, but warned them that he was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke key words to the public about what the President knew and when he knew it, but left more questions unanswered. He said President Trump knew "for weeks" that his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, had misled White House officials and Vice President Mike Pence before he was forced to resign.
If the White House knew about Flynn and Russia weeks ago, why did they do nothing until a major newspaper broke the story?
President Trump has made his feeling about the media clear. His first day on the job when speaking at CIA Headquarters he said,
"As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,"
The enemy is not the media, President Trump. The real enemies are repeated false statements, yes lies, made to all of us by the White House, including the President.
On Friday, February 10 the day after the Washington Post story first appeared, the President talked to reporters aboard Air Force One enroute to Florida. When they asked him about the Flynn story he responded,
"I don't know about that. I haven't seen it. What report is that? I haven't seen that. I'll look into that,"
But President Trump did know about it. The truth was withheld.
White House Counsel Don McGahn reportedly told Trump the details in a briefing late last month after he was informed by acting attorney general Sally Yates on Jan. 26. Press Secretary Spicer now says the President and a small group of senior aides were briefed by McGahn about Flynn that same day.
One of the next questions revolves around who were those small group of senior aides.
Donald Trump's relationship with Russia has raised serious questions since the early days of his campaign while we still had a President named Barack Obama. Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russian Ambassador initially became of interest because of their timing centering around our latest sanctions against Russia. Those sanctions were imposed when U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had waged a cyber campaign to help elect Donald Trump. Russia and the White House have not gone away.
Speaking for the White House on the suject of Flynn's departure, Sean Spicer said "the evolving and eroding level of trust" is what led the President to ask for Michael Flynn's resignation. Those same words - evolving and erolding level of trust - could be applied to President Donald Trump and his presidency.
The follow-up question is when will Congress act?