The Flynn Fiasco: Flynn Doesn’t Understand That Ethics Thingee, And That’s Reason to Fire Him All By Itself


From The Daily Caller:

In the final hours before his resignation, now-former White House National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn said he “crossed no lines” in his discussion with Russia’s ambassador, but ultimately he was most concerned about the steady stream of leaks to reporters based on classified information.

“In some of these cases, you’re talking about stuff that’s taken off of a classified system and given to a reporter. That’s a crime,” Flynn told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group during a telephone interview from his White House office on Monday.

“You call them leaks. It’s a criminal act. This is a crime. It’s not just a wink and a nod,” Flynn said.

Signature significance: any time an official under fire claims that he”crossed no lines,” he or she is asserting The Compliance Dodge, Rationalization #6 on the list:

5. The Compliance Dodge.

Simply put, compliance with rules, including laws, isn’t the same as ethics. Compliance depends on an individual’s desire to avoid punishment. Ethical conduct arises from an individual’s genuine desire to do the right thing. The most unethical person in the world will comply if the punishment is stiff enough. But if he can do something unethical without breaking the rules, watch out!

No set of rules will apply in all situations, and one who is determined to look for loopholes in a set of laws, or rules, or in an ethics code, so that he or she can do something self-serving, dishonest, or dastardly, is likely to find a way…

In an earlier version of #6, this was called the Al Gore Dodge, in honor of then Vice-President Gore, who had been caught engaging in some of the slimy Clinton administration fundraising machinations, and  justified his conduct by arguing that “no controlling legal authority” prohibited what he did, which was to raise campaign funds  from his office in the White House. Flynn lied to the  current Vice-President and attempted to cover-up his conversation with the Russian ambassador. The FBI was spying on him at the time, which raises other issues. But even if the FBI’s surveillance was a part of a rogue operation by Sally Yates to take over the government and make Barack Obama King, it doesn’t change what Flynn did, or make his conduct any more acceptable.

This is, essentially, the “How dare you read my e-mail!” response when you catch your teenager preparing to join ISIS.  It is also the Democratic Party’s argument that the fact that it was Russian hacks and Wikileaks leaks that revealed that the Clinton Foundation was selling access and influence, that reporters were colluding with the Hillary campaign, that Obama lied when he said he didn’t know about the private server, and that Donna Brazile helped Hillary cheat in a debate somehow excuses the fact that the Clinton Foundation was selling access and influence, that reporters were colluding with the Hillary campaign, that Obama lied when he said he didn’t know about the private server, and that Donna Brazile helped Hillary cheat in a debate.

Yup, no doubt about it, leaks are illegal, unethical and indefensible, but when the information illegally leaked shows that you have acted in a wrongful and untrustworthy manner, you don’t get to claim that the leakers are the problem. No, unethical leaks proved that you are the problem. Flynn’s complaints show that he is untrustworthy and ethically inert, and his many defenders in the conservative media are proving themselves similarly handicapped.


19 thoughts on “The Flynn Fiasco: Flynn Doesn’t Understand That Ethics Thingee, And That’s Reason to Fire Him All By Itself

  1. There is one signficant difference, in the wikileaks leaks we saw the transcripted documents.. Here we have mere assertions that are public. Right now we have the opposition calling for impeachment based on anonomous FBI source claims of ongoing wrong doing by Trump campaign staff.

    Show the evidence or shut up. Don’t hide behind the claim to need to keep methods secret. They lost that right to confidentiality when they passed content to WAPO and the NYT.

    If Trump is satisfied that Flynn was less than honest to him or Pence then he violated the most basic requirement for that position , fidelity. For that he needs to go.

    I do want to require all the data leaked to br made public. We dont want to create a Congressional Star Chamber for the benefit of all those hell bent on bringing our republic down.

  2. I reread this post and the only unethical act was saying he never discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador which led VP Pence making assertions to that fact. That is the fireable offense.

    Nothing has been reported that he violated any laws or rules. Thats not a dodge if it’s fact. We have Maxine Waters calling for impeachment.

    Jack. What ethical issues do you see with respect to who ordered the wiretaps on Trump staff and why. Where is the probable cause? The previous administration was caught several times monitoring private persons communications.

    The ethical lapses in Congress, intelligence agencies makes Flynn’s ethics breach pale in comparison.

    • It’s also my understanding also that nothing unethical occurred from Flynn’s angle until he lied to Pence.

      I think that single element is key when interpreting exactly what the hysterics on the Left are trying to make of all of this.

      If you hear any detractors say literally anything other than “he lied so he needs to be fired”, right now, barring further substantiated revelations, it’s safe to assume those other assertions are hyped up standard fare for the modern left.

      To be clear:

      I’m not saying Flynn was an appropriate selection or shouldn’t have been fired for any other reason. He very well probably should have been fired or never should have been selected for any number of reasons. But in this episode, it seems had he actually just been forthwith, all we’d see is another hyperactive melt down of the Left.

      Additionally, this isn’t to be read as making excuses for the lying.

      • “[I]ntelligence officials are withholding sensitive information from the president…Sounds like a mutiny.”

        As if they have never operated like that, for (or against) any previous president. Gee, that goes a long way toward explaining why certain presidents would not necessarily wake up panting every morning to sit for intel briefings. There are factions in the intel community, each struggling for more power and influence than the other. I am shocked – SHOCKED.

        Presidents with a minimum of competence can get things rolling faster than the intel community can spy them out and sabotage them. It’s a great game, that who’s-in-control-now competition. It can’t be won by people who refuse to play it, or who play it incompetently. With the failures of this was-country’s intelligence in recent times, if I were President I wouldn’t trust a damned thing any one of them told me – or “leaked.”

  3. In his interview with the Daily Caller, Flynn said much more than just, “I crossed no lines.” He said, (1) that his conversations with the Russian ambassador were appropriate and (2) that he never made any effort to cover them up. If these statements are true, then he didn’t do anything unethical at all.

    There’s nothing in Flynn’s description of his conversation that makes them sound anything other than entirely appropriate. He said that when the subject of sanctions (which had just been announced that day) came up, he said, in essence, “We’re aware of them. We’ll be reviewing them later.” To ordinary minds, that does not constitute “discussing sanctions”; rather it is a refusal to discuss sanctions. Thus, Flynn could have told the vice president in complete candor that he had not discussed sanctions. Flynn implies in his interview (and I have seen it stated unambiguously elsewhere in a leak by one of his supporters) that this was a brief and forgettable aside in the context of a longish conversation about other subjects, and he expressed regret that he did not in fact recall this brief exchange when he spoke to Pence.

    Like almost everybody else, I don’t have any way at all of knowing what the facts really are, but I also don’t have any reason to reject Flynn’s description in favor of the accounts of anonymous leakers. Moreover, the leaks that I’ve read say only that he “discussed sanctions.” They never actually describe anything inappropriate that he supposedly said about the subject. Of course, maybe Flynn is lying, but if he’s telling the truth, then your attack on his ethics seems to be founded on mistaken assumptions about the facts.

    As for the claims that it was inappropriate for Flynn to have any conversations at all with the Russian ambassador, those attacks are nonsense, unless Trump or somebody with authority from Trump had instructed Flynn not to talk to the man (which I have not seen asserted anywhere). All of the endless chatter about the Logan Act, which is clearly unconstitutional, is evil, vicious partisanship intended to fan the baseless “impeach Trump” frenzy. In the more than two centuries since the Logan Act was passed, nobody has been prosecuted under it, and nobody ever will be. It has never been used for anything except as a rhetorical club to beat political opponents who express disagreement with the then-incumbent president’s (in this case, Obama’s) foreign policy.

      • That’s not correct. Pence didn’t say that Flynn never had any conversations at all. He said that the conversations were not about the sanctions. Pence’s exact words on TV was, “What I can confirm, having spoken to him about it is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States expelled the diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.” beginning at 0:57.

        I notice that Flynn’s description is actually also consistent with what the leakers are reported to have said. They characterize his remarks as, “A clear signal to the Russian ambassador, ‘Don’t overreact to these sanctions the Obama team is announcing. We’re going to have time to revisit this later.'” The weasel words, “a clear signal,” suggest that he didn’t actually say those words but that a willing mind could view his noncommittal response as a positive sign for the Russians. (Same clip, at 0:31)

        • To repeat, I have no idea, of course, what Flynn actually said to the ambassador or to Pence. I’m just pointing out that:

          (1) Flynn’s description of what happened is not on its face implausible, and

          (2) it could actually be consistent with what Pence said (i.e., Flynn didn’t remember his noncommittal response and, in any case, didn’t consider it to be a “discussion about sanctions”) and with what the leakers said (i.e., they characterized his noncommittal response as a “signal”), although

          (3) his description might be a lie.

          Your ethics discussion is completely correct if he is lying, but ought to acknowledge the possibility that he’s telling the truth and there is an innocent explanation for his actions.

        • Pence might have been wiser to say, “We don’t know exactly what was said, because the intelligence agencies have not yet seen fit to share with us the transcripts that they have leaked to the press.”

        • Right, sorry for the sloppiness here. The point is that if Pence got the impression that Flynn didn’t talk about what he did talk about, he was indeed deceived, and the claim that the deception was accidental doesn’t pass the giggle test.

          The news media is justifying the “opposition party” description with its crazed reaction to a pretty minor story.

  4. By the way, if the Logan Act is so vital, shouldn’t we be hearing calls for prosecution of a lot of Democrats these days? The Act prohibits private citizens from having “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Isn’t that exactly the sort of correspondence and intercourse that supporters of unrestricted immigration are currently having with the government of Mexico and its officers and agents?

    • Because the Left selects who to prosecute based on ideals. Note that a Republican not reporting a nanny on taxes must resign, while a Democrat gets to pay the money as if they payed at the time, many times without penalties.

  5. “Yup, no doubt about it, leaks are illegal, unethical and indefensible, but when the information illegally leaked shows that you have acted in a wrongful and untrustworthy manner, you don’t get to claim that the leakers are the problem. No, unethical leaks proved that you are the problem.”

    Reminds me of one of my favorite C S Lewis quotes.

    “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.”

  6. I’m completely with Greg. Flynn may have lied, but I’m not convinced that he told an intentional untruth, or that it was unethical. Without all the details, there’s no way to know. I AM, however, convinced that there are a great many who would eagerly leap to characterize it as a lie, especially the press. In any case, it was an embarrassment to Pence, so that’s why he had to go.

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