HUNTER SAVERY ’20
On Feb 13, General Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, resigned amid mounting evidence that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about contact with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s contact with the Russians, and subsequent lies, would have been a massive scandal for any other administration. However, in less than two months, the Trump administration has been embroiled in more scandals than many presidencies experience in eight years. The Flynn controversy has been drowned out among an ever growing cacophony of scandal. This is particularly troubling because Flynn’s contact with the Russians is not the first controversy involving a connection between Trump’s staff and the Putin regime. Trump, who seems to be a critic of anyone and everyone, has been noticeably gentle in his treatment of Russian autocrat, Vladimir Putin. What is most unsettling about Flynn’s actions is not necessarily the actions themselves, but that his actions seem to confirm existing worries about the Trump White House.
Former members of Trump’s campaign team have been dogged by rumors of possible ties to Russia. Especially former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. The former campaign manager was the subject of a recent report by Politico that leaked messages suggesting a possible blackmail attempt. Blackmail has come up again and again in the ongoing saga of the connection between Trump and Russia. One of the main concerns about General Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador was the possible use of transcripts from the conversations being used as material for blackmailing the, now former, National Security Advisor. Alleged blackmail was the subject of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier released by Buzzfeed this past January. The private intelligence dossier, written by a former MI6 intelligence agent, outlines unverified reports of contact and possible blackmail of Trump and his associates by Russian intelligence. Adding to the pile of concerns over Russian involvement in American politics is concerns from members of the American intelligence community that Russian hacks may have influenced the outcome of the last presidential election. There is strong evidence that the Kremlin was behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to leaks of private emails from Democratic officials. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that members of the Trump campaign had been in repeated contact with members of Russian intelligence.
Under normal circumstances, it would not be hard for the American public to connect the dots of these scandals. Unfortunately, there is a myriad of Trump scandals, from legitimate affronts to democracy to meaningless Twitter wars, that distract from the Russian connection. The saying goes that “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” and in this case, there is an awful lot of smoke. To date, there may be no irrefutable evidence tying President Trump to Vladimir Putin, but there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that there is something going on with America’s newly minted president, something worth investigating. The very possibility that Russia tried to interfere with the American democratic process, an integral component of our national identity, is deeply troubling. More troubling still, is the general lack of outrage on the part of the American public and total lack of meaningful Congressional action on the issue. Russian interference in elections and shady dealings with government officials is an attack on American national sovereignty.
The White House has been attacking every media outlet that dares to question it with accusations of “fake news”, and by offering “alternative facts” in lieu of the truth. This war on the media has become a news story in and of itself, and has prevented full coverage of the very real question of the nature of Trump’s ties to Russia. Further fanning the flames of the Russian controversy is a new report that the White House asked the FBI to dispel the rumors about Trump’s Russia connection.
General Flynn’s resignation is just one of the latest episodes in a scandal that shows no sign of being resolved. The question Americans need to ask is how much longer can the allegations of Russian influence go without being investigated? Americans need to call on members of Congress to do their jobs and to establish an independent committee to investigate the connection be-tween Russia and Trump, from the campaign to the White House. The president’s duty is to serve the American people, not a foreign human rights abuser. The president is not unquestionable, if his actions look suspicious, then they are worth investigating. Vladimir Putin may be an autocrat, but Donald Trump is not, and cannot be allowed to become one.