If Democrats and Republicans agree on very little these days, at least they are in accord on this: President Donald Trump is a raging narcissist. And that makes just about everyone curious as to why he was so darned concerned about Michael Flynn.
Norman Eisen and Eric Bookbinder write in the New York Times:
“Perhaps the most important of the outstanding questions concern President Trump’s motives. Why did the president want the Flynn case dropped? Was it simply to do a favor for a friend? Or was it because that friend had information that would be damaging to the president – such as about his potential ties to Russia? What evidence is there of such ties, including in the statements of the president and his sons, or the president’s tax returns? The uglier the motive, the stronger the obstruction case.”
Trump was concerned enough about Flynn that he waited 18 days to fire him after then-acting attorney general Sally Yates told the administration he was compromised and therefore a national security danger. He was concerned enough that the day after Flynn got canned, he leaned on the FBI director to let him go. He was concerned enough publicly to call him a good man. “This man [Flynn] has served for many years, he’s a general, he’s a – in my opinion – a very good person,” he told NBC News. Trump was concerned enough to tell Flynn to hold out for immunity. He tweeted: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
I am hard-pressed to think of another person, even a relative, he has so strenuously and consistently defended in public – well, other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is all the more odd because Trump does have the pardon power. It’s not like Flynn would ever have to face jail time – or even a conviction on his record – if Trump wanted to spare him through the pardon power.
It therefore is hard to escape the conclusion that Trump was desperate to spare Flynn not from conviction, but from trial and threat of conviction. That is the reaction of someone terribly concerned about what a potential criminal defendant might have to say.
What did Flynn know or what had Flynn done that should have so deeply concerned Trump? We might find out if the intelligence community has the contents of, not just the fact of, calls between Flynn and Russians. We might find out if we knew more about Flynn’s and Trump’s finances, which the special prosecutor can certainly subpoena. We might find out if Jared Kushner tells investigators (including Senate staff with whom he is to meet this month) about the meeting he and Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in December to establish a line of communication – that is, a secret back channel that would be concealed from the American intelligence community. (The Washington Post reported: “Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials.”)
In sum, Flynn connects the collusion case to the obstruction case. Figure out what Flynn was saying to whom and why he was having so many contacts with the Russians, and we may nail down precisely why Trump was leaning on Comey. I cannot think of anyone better than Robert S. Mueller III to figure it out.