Editorial Trump’s bad example claims a Cabinet member
While many questions about Michael Flynn’s actions remain unanswered, a lesson we hope our mercurial president will take from the scandal turns out to be an embarrassingly simple one: How you conduct yourself as boss often ends up being mirrored by those who work for you.
Perhaps if the president hadn’t told obvious lies in his opening weeks in office, Flynn — the now (already) former national security adviser — might have felt more comfortable being straightforward with the facts and kept himself free of the trouble he now faces.
Instead, Trump offered up a steady stream of refutable falsehoods about the size of his inaugural turnout and voter fraud. Against that backdrop, Flynn lied to his own vice president, chief of staff and spokesman, Sean Spicer. In so doing, Team Trump allowed the lie to be communicated to the American people.
Meanwhile, Americans must hope that the nation’s security is in good hands. Who could blame them if they worry?
And how in the world are the rest of the members of Team Trump supposed to know whom to believe, and when?
According to New York Times reporters, during the time that Trump was shrugging off allegations from the nation’s top intelligence officials that Russia meddled with our election system — in an effort to help bring about a Trump victory — Flynn talked with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Intelligence agents discovered that Flynn talked to the ambassador around the time President Barack Obama sent home a passel of Russian diplomats and announced sanctions against certain Russian interests.
Obama’s decision drew a surprisingly non-hostile response from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he would not answer in kind. Trump rushed to Twitter to praise the Russian president.
Obama administration officials worried a deal had been cut, in violation of a little used federal law, and what one would hope would be common sense regarding a known enemy.
Agents found that while no deal was struck, Flynn discussed the sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Given the opportunity to clear things up following a Washington Post column about the call, published on Jan. 12, Flynn, apparently unaware of what the agents had on him, told Vice President Mike Pence, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Spicer he hadn’t talked sanctions with Kislyak.
On Jan. 26, Justice Department officials informed White House counsel that agents had proof Flynn talked sanctions with Kislyak. The president was notified immediately but kept the matter quiet for more than two weeks. In fact, it appears Trump was hoping the matter would blow over and Flynn would remain in his Cabinet.
Flynn kept asserting, up until the day he was forced to resign, that he didn’t do what agents have proof of him doing.
Perhaps, after a full investigation into the repeated connections between Team Trump and Team Putin, we will find that Flynn’s cover-up is worse than his actions.
But the whole mess underscores why we have joined those seeking a full review of Russian interference with our electoral process.
And it further highlights our concerns that Lying Trump can’t be trusted. With this latest sad development, we begin to see in dramatic detail how Trump’s reliance on chaos and falsehood hurts his own efforts, while also corroding our values and standing in the world.