In apparent response to something he saw on Fox News, Donald Trump turned to Twitter the other day to complain about the lack of warnings he received about his former White House national security advisor, Michael Flynn.
“It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge,” the president wrote. “It would have been impossible for me to know this but, if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?”
At first blush, it might seem as if Trump had a point. If Flynn was suspected of wrongdoing, why didn’t someone alert the man who was relying on the retired general for national-security advice?
The trouble, of course, is that the president’s whining has it backwards: Trump was cautioned about Flynn, but he failed to take the warnings seriously.
Right off the bat, when Trump wrote, “It now seems…” the president was referring to information that was first made available last year. It’s likely that Trump forgets the basic details of reports that cross his desk, and he relies on conservative media to shape his perspective, but this is an odd thing to acknowledge in a tweet.
But even putting that aside, during the 2016 presidential transition process, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee at the time, alerted Trump’s transition team to possible trouble signs surrounding Flynn. It was one of several alerts the Republican received on the matter.
He was first warned about Mr. Flynn two days after the election, when Mr. Trump met in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama, who cautioned his successor not to give Mr. Flynn a senior post on his national security team. (Mr. Obama had fired Mr. Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency after repeated clashes over his management.)
But even if Mr. Trump did not interpret Mr. Obama’s comments as a warning, Mr. Flynn himself told the transition team’s lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, weeks before inauguration that he was under federal investigation for paid lobbying work he did secretly for Turkey while he was working on the presidential campaign.
Then, six days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told Mr. McGahn, by then the White House counsel, that Mr. Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail because he misled the vice president about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the transition period.
Or put another way, Trump complained on Friday about the lack of warnings about Flynn, which only makes sense if we overlook all the warnings he received about Flynn.
Of course, all of this leads to the question the president has been reluctant to answer: why did Trump do nothing? Why did he leave Flynn in his powerful White House role for weeks, even after learning that he’d been compromised?
The president’s whining via Twitter was intended to position Trump as a victim who was left in the dark. But reality not only points in the opposite direction, it also turns the question around, leading us to wonder about the Republican’s passivity.
As for Flynn, the former White House official is still awaiting sentencing for his crimes. As Rachel noted on Thursday’s show, Flynn’s latest court appearance was a bit of a disaster for him.