Published in partnership with Shadowproof.
After one of the most blatant leak campaigns by national security officials in recent memory, former General Michael Flynn resigned from office as national security advisor Monday evening. The official reason for the resignation was giving “incomplete information” to the vice president and others about a call between himself and the Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in December.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump lost confidence in Flynn related to his memory and honesty, particularly in reference to what Flynn told the vice president. Spicer also said a legal review was performed by the White House Counsel’s Office which found no legal issues with Flynn’s conduct. Spicer said the fundamental issue was trust.
According to The New York Times, the White House reviewed a transcript of the call—retained from a longstanding wire tape of Kislyak—and found it to be “ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.”
So what led President Trump to go with firing? Probably the torrent of stories smashing down on the White House that were part of a clearly coordinated campaign that reached crescendo on Sunday when stories from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico hit within a 30-minute period.
All the stories claimed to be predicated on information from national security officials and other insiders.
A small group of current and former national security officials just leaked Mike Flynn out of a job. Does anyone think they'll stop there?
— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) February 14, 2017
The Washington Post has been the biggest repository of leaks and started the campaign when intelligence officials told David Ignatius (and eventually other Washington Post reporters) that Flynn had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions in a phone call after the election, but before taking office.
This would be a completely benign event by any standard outside the fevered dreams of partisans. Talking to an ambassador about sanctions or any issue of foreign policy is well within an incoming national security advisor’s purview. The Logan Act, a law forbidding non-U.S. officials from engaging in foreign policy, is a dead letter and likely unconstitutional.
If the Logan Act were actually enforced, many U.S. citizens, including members of Congress and former presidents, would face indictment. Only one person has ever been indicted under the act and no one has ever been prosecuted since its enactment in 1799.
Adding to the circumstantial evidence were stories on Monday by The Washington Post framing a conversation between now-fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, intelligence officials James Clapper and John Brennan, and President Donald Trump as a concern about Flynn being compromised by Russia.
The theory of being compromised here is that because Flynn denied he talked about sanctions, the Russians could blackmail him into doing their bidding by exposing that he had talked—in benign terms—about sanctions. If that sounds like strained logic, that’s because it is.
While there is no doubt Flynn’s troubled relationship with Vice President Pence was a factor, it is downright irresponsible to not note that Flynn had many enemies within the deep state, including those in a position to leak information to the press to take him down.
That the Russian call is not a coincidence. Former intelligence officers like John Schindler have claimed (without evidence) that Flynn is a Kremlin agent. The New York Times reported there was an investigation into Flynn’s trip to Russia in 2015 by the Department of Defense.
Some of the leaks almost certainly came from the CIA, which has had a long running feud with Flynn that goes back to the Obama Administration and Flynn’s time as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Flynn was ultimately fired by President Obama, but not before DIA created a now notorious 2012 memo that blamed the CIA for the rise of ISIS.
The memo became a major point of conflict with Flynn, who affirmed it, while former CIA Director Mike Morell attempted to discredit it:
Soon after it was written, the 2012 IIR (Intelligence Information Report) landed on the desks of Congressional Intelligence Committee members, but more importantly would be used to argue policy at the White House—this according to the Defense Department’s chief of military intelligence at the time the memo was produced.
Director of the DIA at the time of the memo’s drafting and former Senior Intelligence Officer for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Michael Flynn, has repeatedly affirmed the report’s accuracy in public statements. But now, for the first time, a CIA perspective has been offered: former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell recently took to Politico to weigh in on controversy surrounding the now declassified 2012 memo, which further warned that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”
As Shadowproof discussed with former CIA officer John Kiriakou recently, there is a raging power struggle going on between the CIA and President Trump. Flynn was certainly one of the CIA’s major targets, but hardly their only one.
What is relevant and noteworthy is that Trump blinked. The deep state leaked information to the press and, instead of shrugging off the charges, he forced Flynn to resign. For a man who came to power using the press as his chief foil, it’s a strange move and, for a press clearly at war with the White House, a now proven method for undermining the presidency.