Politics, News

Here’s what you need to know about the scandal rocking the White House

In December, US intelligence agencies issued a report that found Russia not only hacked into US political parties during the 2016 election, but leaked information strategically to help the Trump campaign which had made it clear that a Trump administration would be friendlier to Russia.

Michael Flynn was Trump’s National Security Advisor for three weeks and three days before resigning amidst allegations that he communicated inappropriately with Russian officials in the run-up to the inauguration, and then lied about it.

This is a huge story, so let’s break it down.

Who is Michael Flynn?

Flynn served in the US Army for 33 years before being appointed by the Obama administration to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was pushed out of job in 2014 by his colleagues and superiors because of his chaotic management style and constant clashes with his superiors.  In a The New York Times article from November, it was reported that while leading the DIA his penchant for unsubstantiated facts was widely known and his subordinates coined the term “Flynn facts”.  Such “Flynn facts” facts include describing extremist Islamist terrorism as ““A world war against a messianic mass movement of evil people” in his book and tweeting that Hillary Clinton and the DNC were involved a child porn ring run out of the DC pizzeria.  After his forced retirement he started a consultancy firm. It was in that role that he frequently appeared on Russia Today, the state-sponsored propagandist news channel that Russia runs in the US.  He was paid to give a talk at a gala held in the honor of RT in Moscow during which he spoke about the dangers of Iran and world politics.

Trump tapped him to be National Security Advisor on November 18th, 2017.  In December 2016 the met with the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, a far-right nationalist party founded by disgruntled former Nazis in Austria.

Photo: Bild

What is he accused of?

In December, US intelligence agencies issued a report that found Russia not only hacked into US political parties during the 2016 election, but leaked information strategically to help the Trump campaign which had made it clear that a Trump administration would be friendlier to Russia.  President Obama responded to the revelations with sanctions on three intelligence organizations, expelling 35 diplomats suspected of spying and shutting down two Russian intelligence “bases” in Maryland and New York. The Obama administration previously imposed devastating economic sanctions on Russia. Given President Trump’s open desire for a cozy relationship with the Kremlin, it looks like Trump would benefit from lifting or relaxing them.

So, here’s the kicker:

It was revealed Michael Flynn called the Russian Ambassador to the US on the same day the latest sanctions were announced. Not good news for the Trump administration. The FBI has been investigating his calls for evidence of Flynn interfering with US foreign policy which Flynn himself has denied. Last Thursday, The Washington Post reported that according to US officials, Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Flynn had discussed the sanctions and had discussed the possibility of Trump rolling them back.

If true, this amounts to Flynn blatantly undermining the sitting president of the United States.

President Trump has denied this and Vice President Pence spoke to the media reiterating Flynn’s innocence. As of Thursday, Michael Flynn claims he cannot remember what he and the Russian Ambassador talked about and “couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”  That certainly makes it look like Michael Flynn lied to VP Pence as well as the FBI.

Flynn resigned on Monday.

Photo: AP

What’s next?

It is clear that Flynn’s relationship with the Russian government at the end of the Obama presidency need to be investigated. Here’s who could do that.

Congress has the right investigate the Executive Branch and more importantly, it has the right to subpoena information for those investigations. That means that the House Oversight Committee could demand that information be handed over and if they are denied, the person refusing to cooperate can be held in contempt of congress.

The House Oversight Committee: Not yet planning to investigate. 

Right now, the House Oversight Committee is controlled by Republicans and those Republicans, including Jason Chaffetz have remained silent. The Democratic members of the oversight committee have called for Chaffetz to investigate or to allow members of the committee to vote on oversight steps.

 “It is difficult to imagine a more serious list of allegations for our Committee to investigate…They demand a robust, immediate, and bipartisan investigation rather than partisan stonewalling and the transparent excuses for inaction. If you are not willing to take action, then we ask that you allow us to do our job by scheduling a vote on proposals from other Members of the Committee about the investigative steps we should take on this matter.”

Senate Intelligence Committee: Already investigating Russia, will investigate Flynn. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Paul Manafort’s ties to Russia and the Russian influence in the election and they have confirmed that they will investigate Michael Flynn.

House Intelligence Committee: Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) wants to investigate. 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Chairman Bob Croker (R-TN) said Flynn should testify but has not yet commented on an investigation.

Photo: AFP

What you can do:

Call your congressional representatives and voice your support of an investigation. Not sure who represents you in Congress? Find out here. 

This is extra important if your rep is on the Oversight Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Here is a helpful script that you can use to make calls.