Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Democrats Demand: What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?

■ Michael T. Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser prompts calls to redouble investigations of Russia contacts.
■ President Trump names Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr., a retired Vietnam War veteran, as interim security adviser.
■ White House press secretary Sean Spicer briefs the press at 1 p.m.
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Michael T. Flynn, center, in December with Donald J. Trump, then the president-elect, and Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Democrats demand that Flynn’s resignation spur on broader Russia investigation

Democrats hold no levers of power in Washington, but they have pulled out their megaphones to demand that Mr. Flynn’s resignation open the first chapter — not the last — of investigations into contacts between Trump aides and Moscow — during and after Mr. Trump’s campaign for president.
“Nothing about this resignation, or resignations that could occur in the future, precludes the Senate Intelligence Committee from continuing to investigate Gen. Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is clear that our task is more urgent than ever.”
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In a joint statement, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said, “We in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks. We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security.”
They continued:
“While Congressional Republicans have turned a blind eye to their constitutional duty to conduct oversight on these issues, we Democrats believe that this new disclosure warrants a full classified briefing by all relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice and the F.B.I., as soon as possible and certainly before Thursday, Feb. 16. We are communicating this request to the Department of Justice and F.B.I. this evening.”
The Democratic National Committee reiterated the party’s call for an independent, bipartisan panel styled after the 9/11 Commission to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
Representative Eric Swalwell of California, the lead Democrat on the C.I.A. subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee, was blunt: “For the sake of our nation’s future, our intelligence and law enforcement community must determine whether Donald Trump’s loyalties lie with us or with the Russians.”

John McCain hits Trump’s “intentions toward” Putin

Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was the first elected Republican to hit hard on the turmoil in President Trump’s White House, and the continuing questions about Russian influence.
“General Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus,” said Mr. McCain, who has emerged as one of the few Republican antagonists that Mr. Trump has not silenced.
“General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections,” he continued.

Trump tries his best to deflect attention from Flynn

A day after Facebook posts came to light showing deliberations over North Korea in the public dining hall of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump is up in arms about loose national security controls.

Illegal leaks are of course a growing concern for Mr. Trump, since they portray him as running a White House that from the outside at least appears to be spinning out of control. For Mr. Trump, however, the imperative is to focus attention on anything but Russia.

Republicans largely silent

As scandal swirled around President Trump’s new White House, Republicans in Congress beyond Mr. McCain were almost silent on the resignation of Mr. Flynn and its implications.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of California, a Trump loyalist, released one of the few statements from the Republican side of the aisle, and it offered no criticism:
“Michael Flynn served in the U.S. military for more than three decades. Washington, D.C., can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America’s gratitude and respect for dedicating so much of his life to strengthening our national security. I thank him for his many years of distinguished service.”
Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was no more forthcoming. “Mike Flynn served his country with distinction,” he said in a statement. “The President needs a National Security Advisor whom he can trust and I defer to him to decide who best fills that role.”
One exception, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, who threw his not very heavy weight behind a bipartisan commission.


Amid turmoil, military leaders grow worried

General Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, told a military conference on Tuesday that the upheavals in Washington are rippling through the American military.
“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil,” he said. “I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.”
General Thomas insisted Special Operations Forces are “staying focused” despite all the controversy in Washington.
Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

And you can speak up too

Have feedback for the White House on Mr. Flynn or really any other matter? No need to hold your tongue.
Almost two months after the Obama administration temporarily closed it, Mr. Trump’s staff resuscitated the White House comment line on Monday, and volunteers will now take comments for the president on a routine basis.
The line’s closure, during a time of dramatic change in the government, spawned consternation among those already wary about the new administration and its commitment to public accountability. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman for the White House, said the closure had been merely a matter of staffing the office that maintains the line.
Give it a call at 202-456-1111.

Conway: Flynn listened to “leader calls” as recently as Monday

Although the White House was warned a month ago that Mr. Flynn had been untruthful about the nature of his contacts with Moscow, he was allowed into security briefings as recently as Monday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on the “Today” show on Tuesday.

The Justice Department had warned the White House weeks ago that Mr. Flynn’s dissembling put him at risk of blackmail from Russian intelligence, but he was kept by the president’s side.
“That’s one characterization,” Ms. Conway said when confronted with those circumstances.

The Kremlin washes its hands of Flynn

Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States are not in question, nor is his trip to Moscow to fete the Russian propaganda network RT — sitting next to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — but Moscow said Tuesday that his resignation was a domestic matter unconnected to the Kremlin.


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