Report: Former Obama officials leaked to take down Flynn because he wanted to expose the Iran deal
I get the first part of this story, not so much the second. The bit about Obama alumni targeting Flynn? Highly plausible if not likely. Flynn was a harsh Obama critic ever since O fired him from his position as DIA, and Flynn more than anyone else in the administration seemed prepared to guide Trump towards detente with the same Putin regime that had tried to sink Democrats’ chances during the campaign with the DNC and Podesta hackings. Flynn is also famously an Iran hawk, something which the Obama administration was, er, not. Did Team O have the means and motives to take down a man they despised? You betcha.
The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed…
“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.”…
“It’s actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today,” said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. “They know that the number one target is Iran … [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.”…
“The larger issue that should trouble the American people is the far-reaching power of unknown, unelected apparatchiks in the Intelligence Community deciding for themselves both who serves in government and what is an acceptable policy they will allow the elected representatives of the people to pursue,” said the national security adviser quoted above.
I’m not even sure it qualifies as a “secret” that Obama appointees were trying to take down Flynn. Last night’s WaPo bombshell about the DOJ warning Trump in January about what Flynn said to the Russian ambassador is littered with Obama administration names in the key details. It was Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General who ended up being fired when she wouldn’t enforce Trump’s travel ban, who took the information about the call to the White House. It was James Clapper and John Brennan who reportedly decided that Flynn’s sanctions talk with the ambassador — which was by all accounts ambiguous — was so grave that Trump needed to know, for fear of potential Russian blackmail. It also stands to reason that Obama guys down the chain would be the bureaucrats most invested in protecting the foreign policy status quo of the last eight years from the one guy in the new intelligence hierarchy who most threatened that status quo. Eli Lake called it a “political assassination” in a column earlier today insofar as Flynn’s destruction serves notice to the rest of the administration that they’d best not get too far on the wrong side of the current natsec establishment. And that establishment includes a lot of Obama fans.
The part I don’t quite get is how this supposedly all comes back to the Iran deal. It’s true that some Trumpers have been begging the White House to reveal all the gory details of Obama’s nuclear sellout to the mullahs, and it’s also true that an Iran hawk as ferocious as Flynn was probably the most enthusiastic backer of that idea within the administration. But surely he’s not the only backer. What’s to prevent, say, Steve Bannon or Trump himself from reading the Free Beacon report quoted above and concluding that the only appropriate form of retaliation is to humiliate Team O by leaking the Iran details to the Times tomorrow? For that matter, why would Bannon or Trump even need to read the Free Beacon story to suspect that it was Obama sympathizers who were driving the leaks on Flynn? Surely they suspected that all along. And surely Team O knew that the Trump White House suspected it. By defenestrating Flynn, they’ve risked angering Trump and his deputies — who haven’t spilled any beans about the Iran deal yet — to the point where they’re willing to spill those beans purely as a matter of revenge, which seems completely self-defeating from the standpoint of the leakers. If you’re worried about Flynn releasing secret agreements with Iran, best to hold on to what you know about his call with the Russian ambassador and use it as leverage over him if/when you hear rumblings that he’s about to reveal something about Iran. Taking Flynn out preemptively and risking a leak war with the Trump White House in the process seems apt to backfire, at least in terms of keeping the Iran deal confidential. If on the other hand the goal was to get rid of Flynn for various other reasons — he’s unsteady, his trustworthiness is in question, his intel reforms threaten the bureaucracy — then preemptive action makes more sense.
And still the question remains: Knowing (or suspecting) that Obama staffers had the knives out for Flynn, why did Trump hand them the scalp they wanted? Why didn’t he make Lake’s point, that a flurry of coordinated anonymous leaks aimed at sinking an official’s career is action redolent of a police state, instead of concluding — allegedly with Bannon’s support! — that Flynn had to go? Katie Pavlich noticed that Sean Spicer, when asked today about Flynn being let go, mentioned that it was both the current situation and “a series of other questionable instances” that made Flynn staying on untenable. Do we know about all of those other “questionable instances” or are there things about Flynn that have yet to drop that would explain Trump and Bannon wanting to pull the trapdoor on him now?
In lieu of an exit question, one more new detail courtesy of the Times: Apparently Flynn was interviewed by the FBI last month, shortly after becoming NSA. “If he was not entirely honest with the F.B.I., it could expose Mr. Flynn to a felony charge.” What sort of things might the feds find out about the campaign and the administration if Flynn ended up being charged with something and then quickly granted immunity in exchange for his testimony?