Update 2 (update 1 at end of piece): At 10:50pm on February 13, 2017, Michael Flynn submitted his resignation. He served for just 24 days.
There’s the old adage, it’s the coverup, not the crime that always gets you. Now, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is on the hot seat after he lied to Vice President Pence about what he did and did not discuss on the phone with the Russian ambassador.
Two months after General Flynn, Pence and other administration officials repeatedly stated that his conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was nothing more than exchanging holiday greetings and vehement denials that sanctions against Russia were discussed, it was revealed that Flynn and Kislyak had indeed talked about sanctions. It made a liar out of Flynn and made an inadvertent liar out of Vice President Pence.
Many, particularly on the left, are seizing on the belief that Flynn’s conversation is a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating American policy with foreign governments. Such charges against somebody in a political position are nothing new. It has been lobbed at Herbert Hoover, Jesse Jackson, George McGovern and more. Yet, it is important to remember that no person has ever been prosecuted or convicted of a Logan Act violation. In fact, there has been only one single indictment, which was never prosecuted, based on Logan Act violations and that was in 1803. Flynn is unlikely to face even an investigation here.
What has Flynn in trouble is the lie itself. His severe misleading of the administration not only caused the Vice President to look like a fool, but made him an unwitting participant in the coverup. It will have a chilling effect on the national security apparatus, as Secretaries Tillerson, Mattis and Kelly will have less ability to trust Flynn and weaken our national security. The National Security Council needs to be able to trust one another and General Flynn just made it much harder.
How should President Trump respond? Well, if he follows former President Obama’s example, Flynn will be appointed the United States ambassador to the United Nations. However, chances are Trump will not. The President now faces an important and clear-cut choice: he must fire Michael Flynn with cause. Lying to the Vice President is an unforgivable sin in any administration. Letting him go on national television and perpetuate the lie is even worse. Should President Trump not fire Michael Flynn, it sends a dangerous signal to all other administration staffers that it is perfectly acceptable to lie to the President or the Vice President. Past presidents have fired national security aides for lying and not informing their administration about their activities, such as the Iran Contra affair when National Security Advisor John Poindexter resigned and Lt. Colonel Oliver North was fired by President Reagan in 1986.
Now, President Trump must fire his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and establish order in his White House. Failure to do so would not only harm his presidency, but the United States itself.
Update: The Washington Post is reporting that last month, senior Justice Department officials warned the White House that Flynn had misled the administration about his communications with Russian officials. The New York Times is also reporting that the Army is investigating Flynn for allegedly accepting money from the Russian government during a 2015 trip to Moscow. These revelations put Flynn under even more of a cloud. President Trump will be hard-pressed to explain why Flynn can remain in the White House.