Loyalty, Donald Style

Loyalty, Donald Style


William B. Turner

All the news stories about the Donald suddenly talk about how his legal team will have to “destroy” Mike Flynn.

This is vastly amusing, to everyone, I suppose, except Donald Trump and Michael Flynn, but who cares about those two?

This is vastly amusing because the Donald seems incapable of loyalty. He is married to his third wife. He reportedly demanded that the first one sign a prenuptial agreement according to which she would return everything he gave her, including the engagement ring, if they got divorced. He did not expect the marriage to last until death did they part.

Trump, as many people have remarked, exhibits all of the qualities of a narcissist – it’s always all about what the Donald wants and needs. He cares not a whit for anyone but himself. He demands complete loyalty from his subordinates, which he thinks he returns, but only on his own terms. He is famously ill informed and mercurial, so exhausting his meager supply of loyalty is not hard, as Reince Preibus, who carried a lot of water for him during the campaign, or Omarosa Manigault, who gave him cover as his token black staff person, discovered to their chagrin.

But Trump has remained oddly loyal to one person, and, irony of ironies, that loyalty may end up costing him dearly.

The sole target of the Donald’s lasting affections has been Michael Flynn. But Flynn’s luck may have finally run out. Careful readers will recall that, in his testimony to the Senate, James Comey, late of the FBI, stated that Trump had asked him for loyalty, and also asked him to end the FBI investigation into Mr. Flynn, who was so troublesome that Barack Obama fired him from his position at the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, revoking his security clearance in the process.

This testimony of Comey’s before the Senate was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate cooperation between Russian governmental agents and the Trump campaign in 2016. In all of this mess, Flynn is the linchpin. He’s the guy who screwed everything up. He visited Russia under the auspices of the state sponsored news source RT in December 2015. But what really caused problems was a telephone call between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States during the transition period, after the election but before Trump took office.

On his way out the door, Obama warned the Donald not to hire Flynn for the position of National Security Adviser, but of course the Donald couldn’t hear that good advice from the black guy, so he did it anyway. Flynn would last twenty four days in his new job before resigning after a day of, um, mixed messages from the White House about the situation. The initial excuse for his resignation was that Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence in describing his conversation with the Russian ambassador. The problem for Flynn was that Obama’s warning to Trump rested on knowledge the FBI already had about that conversation (boyfriend was going to be National Security Adviser and didn’t know that the FBI would have a recording of his phone call with the ambassador from Russia?).

The surmise was that Flynn also lied to the FBI about this conversation. That is a crime by itself. Flynn has now entered a formal plea of guilty to that very crime.

Trump has consistently spoken in support of Flynn since all of this mess erupted, like a zit on the face of the Trump administration. He has said that the press has treated Flynn very unfairly and suggested that he thinks Flynn committed no crime. At the beginning of December, the Donald set tongues wagging when he tweeted that he had to fire Flynn because he lied to Pence and to the FBI, which further entangled the Donald in the whole mess because it lends further credence to the suspicion that he committed obstruction of justice when he asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn – he knew Flynn had committed a crime (except that, in the Donald’s case, given his vast ignorance of the law and legal procedures, he might not have known that lying to the FBI is a crime, but ignorance of the law is no excuse). In that tweet, he also claimed that Flynn did nothing wrong with his actions during the transition, which begs the question – then why did he lie about them?

Now, again, Flynn has entered a plea of guilty to having lied to the FBI. The documents the prosecutors filed with the court as part of the plea agreement indicate that they have chosen, for the time being, to forego prosecuting Flynn for several other crimes, which suggests that the is cooperating with the prosecutors on twelve cylinders.

That’s bad news for the Donald. If anyone can finger Trump for his crimes during the campaign and in the opening days of his presidency, it is Flynn. Mueller has now ventured into the Donald’s business dealings, where Flynn’s knowledge is likely less voluminous and relevant. But crimes during the campaign and early in his presidency are sufficient, and more relevant for purposes of removal through impeachment, especially the possible crime that we started with – obstruction of justice by trying to stop the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.

This is why observers are speculating that the Donald’s lawyers will now have to “destroy” Flynn, meaning that they will have to characterize him as a liar and an unreliable witness, if he turns out to be a key prosecution witness against the Donald. That will likely be relatively easy in the court of public opinion, since the Donald can still count on a rump of core supporters who believe anything he and his minions say. They have been quick to adopt the current, absurd, position that Mueller and his investigation are corrupt.

It will be much more difficult to make that case to anyone who thinks for her/himself and evaluates the available evidence. Yes, Flynn lied to the FBI, but he did so out of self interest, which is also what motivated his decision to plead guilty and to start cooperating with the special prosecutor. To put the point bluntly, it is now in Flynn’s best interest to see his claims against the Donald stick. Whoops.

Then, of course, if the Trump camp thinks Flynn is so unreliable, then why did the Donald persist in defending him so fulsomely for so long? Double whoops.

Isn’t that funny – Trump being done in by someone acting out of naked self interest. The universe does have a sense of humor.