Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor to U.S. President Donald J. Trump, attends a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 10 February 2017.
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA

Michael Flynn resigns as the White House’s Russia scandal intensifies

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/13/17, 11:44 PM ET

Maddow: Scandal around Flynn doesn't end with him leaving

Rachel Maddow talks with Brian Williams about the breaking news that Donald Trump National Security Adviser Gen. Mike Flynn has resigned.
Rachel Maddow talks with Brian Williams about the breaking news that Donald Trump National Security Adviser Gen. Mike Flynn has resigned.
Yesterday afternoon, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on MSNBC and assured the public that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn enjoys Donald Trump’s “full confidence.” That turned out to be far from true.

Just a few hours later, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department informed the Trump White House last month that Flynn not only gave false information to his colleagues about his talks with Vladimir Putin’s government, but also that the national security adviser “was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.” That information went to Donald McGahn, the president’s White House counsel, but “it is unclear what [McGhan] did with the information.”

Soon after, the New York Times reported that Flynn was also being investigated for money he may have received “from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015.”

The result was unavoidable.
Michael Flynn abruptly quit as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Monday night, hours after it emerged that the Justice Department informed the White House that it believed he could be subject to blackmail.

The resignation also came after previous disclosures that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Pence repeated the misinformation in television appearances.
In terms of the nation’s interests, Flynn’s departure, after just three weeks on the job, is an encouraging development. He was, by almost any measure, a ridiculous choice for National Security Advisor, not only because of his controversial connections to foreign governments, but also because Flynn has been a bombastic, right-wing conspiracy theorist in recent years. The NSA has to deal with the most sensitive information available, and the idea that Flynn was chiefly responsible for guiding the president’s thinking on security matters was, to put it mildly, unsettling.

But the key area of interest right now is the increasingly dramatic scandal surrounding the White House. It’s likely that Republican partisans and Trump’s allies will argue that Flynn’s resignation effectively brings the matter to an end.

That’s backwards. Flynn’s resignation doesn’t resolve the underlying scandal; it takes the controversy to the next level.

The questions in need of answers are starting to pile up in a hurry. We don’t know, for example, whether these dramatic events will lead to criminal charges against Flynn or anyone else in the Trump administration.

We don’t know what happened in the West Wing last month, if anything, after the Justice Department advised the White House directly that Flynn had lied about his communications with a Russian official. Was Team Trump prepared to let all of this slide until the facts started coming out in the media?

We don’t know if anyone encouraged Flynn to lie or offered to help him cover up his alleged misconduct.

We don’t know who at the White House knew about Flynn’s potentially illegal contacts with a foreign government, and what they did after finding out.

We don’t know the extent of Flynn’s pre-election communications with Russia. Did Trump and his aides know they weren’t telling the truth when they said the communications never occurred?

We don’t know what the president knew and when he knew it.

Postscript: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked late yesterday whether Trump knew of Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “There is no way,” Spicer said. “Absolutely not.”

The trouble, of course, is that Spicer’s credibility is already in tatters – his previous claims about Flynn’s talks with Russia have already been discredited – making it very difficult to believe the press secretary’s latest denials.