Ethics Observations On The Michael Flynn Resignation


We woke up this morning to this…

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Flynn, who served in the job for less than a month, said he had given “incomplete information” regarding a telephone call he had with the ambassador in late December about American sanctions against Russia, weeks before President Trump’s inauguration. Mr. Flynn previously had denied that he had any substantive conversations with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, and Mr. Pence repeated that claim in television interviews as recently as this month.

But on Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Good because it was evident from the beginning that this was a questionable appointment by Trump. Flynn is a hoax news addict and a well-established loose cannon.  Good also because  his removal was fast.

2. Naturally, the news media spin, since the idea is always to make the President look as bad as possible,  is that this is a record for short tenure. The previous administration stuck with demonstrably incompetent, corrupt or untrustworthy officials for months, years and in the case of Eric Holder, more than a full term after they had shown that they were liabilities. There is no honor in giving power to someone who is unqualified and unworthy like Flynn, but it vastly compounds the breach of duty to hesitate to fire them as soon as their disqualifications are known. In this respect, at least, the President’s CEO habits, and his fondness for saying, “You’re fired,” served him, and the American people, well.

3. Next up: learn to deal with such unpleasant situations without making them worse with lies, obfuscation and transparent deception. Kellyanne Conway yesterday said that Flynn had the President’s “full confidence,” an obvious lie from the second the words left her mouth. (Conway would be a good candidate for the next hook. Or Reince Priebus. Or Sean Spicer. Or Steve Miller. Or Rudy Giuliani….) Then Trump denied that he was aware of Flynn’s deceptions, even as contrary news reports were flashing. This is just incompetent, and there is no excuse for it. Admittedly, this President has no reputation for truth to shatter, but these Jumbos (“Elephant? What elephant? “) make a leader look stupid or contemptuous of the intelligence of the public.

4. When I heard that the Fifth Column Justice Department under the justly fired Sally Yates had warned the Trump administration that Flynn might be blackmailed by the Russians, I assumed that the FBI learned that Putin had photos of Flynn in a Vegas hotel with a scantily dressed okapi or something. No, it was just the conversation with the Russian ambassador. Really? Was Obama risking blackmail in 2012 when he told outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev  that Vladimir Putin should give him more “space” and that “[a]fter my election I have more flexibility”?  That was at least as troubling an exchange; it was caught on a hot mic, so the question was moot. As with her grandstanding opposition to the immigration Executive Order, I see partisan sabotage in Yates’ warning. Is it plausible that the General would be so terrified of this revelation that he would sell out his country?  Ridiculous.

40 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Michael Flynn Resignation

  1. “I can’t recall.” As soon as any public official utters those words I know they are being evasive or just plain lying. The last time that was uttered – and uttered incessantly – was the Clinton email scandal. Now it is Michael Flynn – a national security advisor. Flynn had been all over the map attempting to deflect, defend, and justify his Russian conversations. His last bastion of the cover-up was “I can’t recall.”

    Flynn avoided being totally buried by finally doing the right thing – resigning. You have a president with a long history of being philosophically inconsistent and resorting to outright lies. This should not be the modus operandi of the others within the administration.

    • I think the real grand-daddy of “I can’t recall” fame was none other than Ronnie Reagan…..and I find it really interesting that Jack’s list of rogues above most likely to crash & burn, subsequently, omits the influential and truly dangerous character Bannon. Lastly, learning of Steve Miller’s Duke pedigree makes me want to delete said item from my Facebook profile. First Nixon….now Miller yeeeeeesh..

      • Bannon is, from what I have seen, doing what he was apparently appointed to do. That wasn’t a list of people I wouldn’t have appointed, it’s a group of people whose bumbling performance so far has caused the President more trouble than satisfaction, and that I’m pretty sure he would agree. The news media and Democrats complain about who Bannon is, which is not germane to the post.

  2. Flynn’s screw-up was significant, but also, it raises this question:
    Why was the Justice Department listening in on the Trump transition team? Who gave that order?

    There are credible reports of a fifth column among “civil servants” who seek to sabotage Trump and are using secure apps to do so.

    As the IRS scandal shows, the Left will excuse almost anything in their pursuit of political power. The victims of the abuse of power are, IMO, increasingly seen as racist/misogynist/homphobic/Islamophobic/bigoted people who have it coming.

    What else is waiting in the wings?

    • We need to drain the swamp… and civil servants are the worst scum floating there. Find, charge, and prosecute! When a few heads line the pikes outside the White House, the other will get the message that this ain’t your daddy’s Republican Administration… (hell, it ain’t Republican at all)

    • “Why was the Justice Department listening in on the Trump transition team?”
      They weren’t. They were listening to the Russians and whoops Mr. Flynn walked into the web… with full transcripts.

      Also, Jack you mention this was fast? The WH was briefed about this almost a month ago and until the media got a hold of it and pressed the issue. The WH seemed to be okay with what Flynn did because it served their purpose and agenda.
      The comparison to Eric Holder and Flynn is apples and oranges. Tolerated Incompetence vs. lying and potential Logan Act violation.

      • Good points, Scott. The Obama and Holder comparisons are false equivalencies, meant to create the impression that what’s going on in the Trump administration is nothing new, and lefties who say it is are simply hysterical hypocrites. It isn’t true, though.

  3. This is a pretty skewed summary of a legitimate scandal. Here we have yet more evidence of the Trump administration’s incompetence and corruption, and the response from Ethics Alarms is to . . . praise the President, blame the media, and take yet another pot-shot at the Obama administration? I wouldn’t have expected it, given how forcefully you inveighed against Trump during the campaign, but the m.o. of this blog now that Trump is POTUS seems to be: a) acknowledge Trump missteps in as few words as possible; b) rapidly pivot to hysterical reaction from lefties; c) cite previous Obama missteps for dubious context. What’s infuriating about this is your apparent unwillingness to tackle Trump’s unethicality, his lies, his woefully unpreparedness head-on, without looping in liberals somehow. I have no doubt that you will always be able to find some ill-informed, false, or disingenuous reaction from the left or the media to anything unscrupulous Trump manages to do. And you will be correct in saying such reactions are ill-informed, false, and disingenuous. But what does it say about the focus of Ethics Alarms that it gives equal weight, at least in terms of word-count, to the President’s political and journalistic foes as it does to his recklessness – the recklessness of the leader of the free world? To me, it suggests that, while you disapprove of the President’s ethics, your greater passion lies in pointing out left-wing media bias and liberal hypocrisy. And that might be a bias.

    • oh, boy! Another drive by commenter… Never bother to see what the blog is about, never read the rules, just spout off on Jack…

      Popcorn? Check
      Lawn chair? Check
      Ear plugs? Check

      Now waiting for the fireworks to start…

      • Warren has made several comments here over the past few weeks, slickwilly. I don’t see this as a drive-by at all, and I think he raises several important points.

        • Except, that they have been raised before, and have been answered by Jack. Anyone who has been paying attention knows the answers to those questions.

            • To me, it suggests that, while you disapprove of the President’s ethics, your greater passion lies in pointing out left-wing media bias and liberal hypocrisy. And that might be a bias.

              Who am I gonna believe, Chris? You or my lying eyes?

              • Note that I said “might be.” I have no illusions about my own liberal biases, and this blog has been invaluable in educating me about some of the worst hypocrisies of the previous administration and the media in general. I can’t get inside Jack’s head, so I’m only responding to what I’ve read here. Jack has always been almost uniquely impartial on this blog, which is a very hard thing to do in our country’s climate right now. I have learned a lot from Ethics Alarms, and hope to continue to do so! In my comment above, I was suggesting the *possibility* that the emphasis of some of the post-inauguration articles might be skewed, or at least oddly weighted. I’m prepared to get hit from all angles on this.

              • slickwilly, you need to either get better eyes, or learn the difference between saying someone “might” have a bias and “accusing” them of bias.

                  • Chris,

                    The tactics you take in debate are why normal people hate the Left in general. You don’t play fair, and you use slimy tactics that are below the decorum of this blog.

                    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, you likely don’t know any other way to communicate (California educator and such) but here in ‘fly-over’ country your tactics are despised and a big reason Trump was elected.

                    I guess I have to thank you, and those like you, for keeping Hillary from office. Now we have to deal with Trump (sigh)

    • This is a persistent ethical blind spot, and not just with you, my friend. My opinion of Trump’s character in the past has no relevance to my assessment of his conduct in this matter. 1. Quickly firing the appointee involves: Competent, responsible, ethical. 2. Obfuscating and denying the facts: stupid, dishonest and incompetent. That is hardly unequivocal praise. It is 100% consistent with the leadership ethics principles discussed here from the start.

      2. Your comment seem to be cribbed from this article, which fattymoon challenged me to rebut as a fair description of EA. I already knocked that canard out of the park, but to save you time, here was my first response:

      Hell no. The first group is repulsive, and I said so from the start. The second group, at least the ones named, are opportunists. David Brooks is conservative only in comparison to the rest of the Times. And he has been a hysteric regarding Trump. Frum has as much credibility as most hired guns.

      I am not any more pro-Trump than I was during the campaign. I am pro-process, pro-fairness, pro-democracy, pro-integrity, and pro-Presidency. I am, in turn, anti-mainstream media press, anti-fearmongering, anti ignorance, anti-fake news, anti-speech suppression, anti-Clinton worshiping, anti-group grievance politics, anti-favoritism for law-breakers no matter what their excuse is, anti-totalitarianism (which is where the Left is headed), antiboycott, anti-riot, anti-punching Nazis in the face, anti-double standard, anti-media letting one party’s President get away with rank incompetence and civil rights violations, and suddenly getting serious when the other party gains power.

      This article is a partisan hit job claiming that to object to unfair, incompetent attacks on Trump by the biased news media makes one a Trump SUPPORTER. That’s intrinsically dishonest, and I’m surprised you would fall for it.

      and this:

      “The article slimes a legitimate criticism as some kind of sinister deception.

      “Step number one: Accuse Trump’s opponents of hyperbole. Democrats, declared John Fund on February 5, are in a “rush to portray Donald Trump as some kind of ‘fascist in chief.’” Liberals, argued Jonathan Tobin on February 6, believe “Trump’s intemperate language about a judge is an unprecedented step down the slippery slope to dictatorship.” Liberal Jews, claimed Nechama Soloveichik that same day, “are falling over one another to label President Trump the latest incarnation of Jew-haters from Pharaoh to Haman to Hitler.”

      But this IS hyperbole, and Trump is NOT a fascist; in fact, the accusation is moronic. So calling te media on ignorant fearmongering is support of its target? Ridiculous.

      “Step number two: Briefly acknowledge Trump’s flaws while insisting they’re being massively exaggerated. On December 16, David Harsanyi declared that, “While I’m no fan of Trump, Democrats have been demanding that I panic over every Cabinet pick, every statement, and every event. It’s not normal.” Etc.

      Harsanyi’s right, it’s not normal. It is out of control confirmation bias. Schumer’s absurd attacks on Gorsuch is the same. I would make teh same defense of Hillary or Attila the Hun. The author of this hit piece basically says, “They must be supporters because its obvious that everything Trump does is HORRIBLE!” Hysteria.

      “The articles cited above make these questions appear secondary. Sure, Trump may have botched something, they acknowledge hurriedly, before turning to what really matters: The left’s overwrought response. In this way, National Review minimizes Trump’s misdeeds without appearing to defend them.”

      Come on. Hysterical hyper-partisans wildly exaggerate the import of actual conduct, and the gotcha is that calling them on the exaggeration minimizes the the misdeed? It is overwrought; it’s worse than overwrought. It is the exaggeration that appears to minimize the actual conduct.

      3. Obama’s absolute incompetence in management was not a “misstep.” It was parent to the whole disaster his administration was, and refusing to fire incompetent subordinates was a major element of it, and maybe the major element. Holder was the worst example. The comparison between Flynn and Holder is valid in the respect I intended it: Flynn was an awful choice, screwed up, and is gone in less than a month. Holder was an awful choice (but he was black, so it didn’t matter), screwed up repeatedly, assisted in cover-ups and intentionally courted racial divisions, and kept his job. Looking at management ethics, which President was more responsible in the end?

      4. “But what does it say about the focus of Ethics Alarms that it gives equal weight, at least in terms of word-count, to the President’s political and journalistic foes as it does to his recklessness – the recklessness of the leader of the free world?”

      Word count???? I’m supposed to count words, now? Institutionally and existentially, the complete failure of the news media to do its job a greater a problem as any one Presidency can be, and the problems are linked. In addition to Trump’s deficits going into the job, which are problem enough, there are institutions that are attempting to undermine him and his office. I will always view that as at least co-equal in importance, because it is entirely an ethics issue. Progressives want to call all policies they disagree with unethical. That is false, and my topics will never reflect that bias, nor the bias that other policies are ethical.

      • Word count???? I’m supposed to count words, now?

        No, no; that was such a clumsy proxy for emphasis that I withdraw it, and with apologies. And you’re clearly right that your post is hardly unequivocal praise. It just struck me as frustrating (my own bias, I suppose) to see it included with the criticism about Holder. Not because you are wrong about Holder, necessarily, or Obama’s wrongheadedness in retaining him. But because, to me, it seems to miss a larger and possibly more important point: that incompetence is *endemic* in Trump’s administration; that Flynn would still be on staff if this had not been exposed; that, although Flynn was terminated unlike Holder, Trump has already appointed far more staff members of dubious ethics and character and competence like Perry, Carson, Bannon, and others. Thanks for jumping on me, though. As usual, your response was edifying.

      • 1. Quickly firing the appointee involves: Competent, responsible, ethical.

        He was not “quickly” fired. According to Sean Spicer, Trump knew about Flynn’s contact with Russia and his deception about same since January:

        I’m also not even sure why you believe Trump fired him; that claim (also from Spicer) contradicts earlier reports. From the same Atlantic article:

        Take the claim that Trump pulled the trigger on firing Flynn. It stands to reason that the White House would want to make the president look firm, decisive, and in command. But that undercuts reporting from The New York Times and Politico, both of which said that Trump adviser Steve Bannon had pushed Flynn to resign, and from The Washington Post, which said Trump was willing to let Flynn linger to see if the scandal would blow over. As soon as Spicer made the claim, reporters who’d been up late on Monday covering the story cried foul, noting that senior administration officials had told them last night that Flynn made the decision on his own.

        You already said Trump lied about other aspects of this story. Why should we believe his administration isn’t lying about this part?

  4. Jack:

    Really? Was Obama risking blackmail in 2012 when he told outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that Vladimir Putin should give him more “space” and that “[a]fter my election I have more flexibility”?

    No, because Obama, unlike Flynn, was not breaking the law when he said that.

    That was at least as troubling an exchange; it was caught on a hot mic, so the question was moot.

    How was it “at least as troubling?” It is the job of the president to negotiate with foreign powers; Obama was president at the time. What Flynn did was illegal. How can you possibly put them on the same footing? Are you sure this isn’t an indication of bias?

    • “No, because Obama, unlike Flynn, was not breaking the law when he said that.”

      BZZZZZ! Wrong answer. Blackmail does not require illegal action to disclose, just conduct by the victim that he is willing to submit to demands in order to avoid disclosure. Therefor I must conclude the you agree that the only difference is that Flynn is not President, and that Obama had an open mic, making the issue moot.

      • Blackmail does not require illegal action to disclose, just conduct by the victim that he is willing to submit to demands in order to avoid disclosure.

        Then you need to explain why Obama’s statement to Putin matches that description in any way. Why would Obama find his comment damning enough to be blackmailed over? I certainly don’t.

        Anyway, you said the Obama comment was “at least as troubling,” not just that it was at least as blackmail-able, and that’s the part I was responding to.

        I also think you’re missing the forest for the trees here.

        This is third Trump adviser to resign over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with Russia.

        This week, we also found out that parts of the infamous dossier compiled by Christopher Steele have been corroborated (though none directly implicated Trump).

        When are you going to start smelling smoke here?

    • Smart money’s on Robert Harward, but it is Trump so it might go to David Petraeus in a fit of pique. Wonder if he’d remember Petraeus would need clemency to eliminate his probation so he could travel freely.

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