What you heard:
National Security Advisor Flynn resigned after it surfaced that he’d engaged in illegal* talks with Russia and then lied about it.
What it is:
The National Security Advisor is a senior aide to the President – not a member of the Cabinet, though – and is appointed, rather than confirmed, to the post. They’re responsible for coordinating the recommendations/concerns of various departments (State, Defense, Intelligence) and giving final policy advice to the President where matters of national security are concerned.
Michael Flynn held this position for a little over three weeks. Before that, he served for a few years as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after 30+ years in the Army. He, like your other Trump administration munchkins, also holds some batty-old-uncle opinions – remember him leading the anti-Hillary “lock her up” chant at the Republican National Convention last summer? Pot, meet kettle.
The illegal* talks in question were about US sanctions on Russia (including those put in place in December by the Obama administration after evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election). As private citizens, Americans are not legally authorized to get involved with foreign disputes – but that’s what Flynn did when he spoke to the Russian Ambassador a month before Inauguration. *Still some dispute about illegal v. legal nature of these chats. Mostly because people and officials don’t usually go around undermining their government to this extent.
Ah, Russia. Land of our favorite memes and the US government’s favorite frenemy. Also home to Vladimir Putin, autocratic leader who rose to power in 1999 and has really never left. During his tenure, he’s cracked down on the press, signed some harsh anti-gay laws, enriched himself and his friends to the tune of billions, and killed those who spoke against him.
Okay, back to Flynn. This last part – lying about the aforementioned coffee dates with the Russian Ambassador – is simple but important later. When reports started to surface in January that Flynn had improper contact with Russia, Flynn told VP Pence that sanctions didn’t come up; Pence then publicly stated the same and now looks like an idiot.
What it means:
Okay, remember thirty seconds ago when I told you Flynn got in trouble for lying to Pence about the sanctions discussions? This is important because some reports from the White House have come out saying Trump knew about Flynn’s improper contact weeks ago, but didn’t care until they were made public. The reports also said that Flynn was asked to resign (or was dismissed, we don’t really know, because the Administration is a shitshow that can’t get on message) because Trump didn’t like that he lied to Pence about the conversations. It’s all indicative of an Administration that has little regard for law or precedent behind closed doors and is more concerned about public perception than actually leading a nation.
Also means that this Administration is probably covering up a few more Russia-related doozies, because please – you’re asking me to believe that Flynn, a lifelong military guy, acted on behalf of his government without orders from his Commander in Chief to do so? I’ve seen A Few Good Men. I know how these things work.
What could happen:
Clearly what’s on the docket right now for the Administration and most Congressional Republicans is defense, defense, defense. They’re saying everything from “Flynn did nothing wrong” to “we’re going to persecute leakers” – this from the party that ACTIVELY SOLICITED RUSSIAN HACKING during the election. You can’t make this shit up.
However, this is just another in a long line of Trump campaign/administration ties to Russia, and it appears as though the FBI is digging a little deeper. There are currently three FBI probes at work: two around email hacks (of the DNC & HRC campaign chair/risotto chef John Podesta) and one on the more nebulous “leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts”.
The increasing reports around collusion with Russia also deepen the questions around why Trump seems to love Putin so much and is so eager to be besties with the Kremlin. Admittedly, the following is just wild speculation, but let a girl have her President’s Day fun. Personally, I think all of these new bits of evidence surfacing lend credence to the suspicion of deep Trump ties to Russia, most famously highlighted in the Trump-Russia dossier (turning out to not be as crazy as we thought – read more here), which alleges that the Kremlin has damaging material on Trump (personal and financial) and is using Trump as a patsy to get their agenda accomplished in the US. We as a nation have installed PLENTY of leaders in banana republics, we should know how this works. Why else would the Kremlin suddenly be so interested in electing a specific person to the Presidency, unless it was someone they could control and not just a well meaning idiot (looking at you, GW)? I’ll let it go at that, since I do recognize I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I do think that in this case, smoke means even just a little bit of fire.