Whenever the Trump-Russia scandal ensnares another member of Team Trump, the president’s team has a standard tactic it relies on instinctively: pretend not to know the guy in trouble.
Paul Manafort was dismissed as a guy Donald Trump barely knew for a few months. Carter Page wasn’t even that. George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a guy who picked up coffee for important people. Trump World even put distance between the campaign and Cambridge Analytica – the data firm Trump paid millions to last year.
And so, when Michael Flynn became a problematic figure in the Russia scandal, the White House tried to dismiss him as someone who was little more than “a volunteer of the campaign.” As TPM reported, the president’s legal team picked up that ball and ran with it this morning.
After hours of radio silence following the news that former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, White House lawyer Ty Cobb finally issued a statement downplaying Flynn’s role in the White House and calling him “a former Obama administration official.”
Cobb also described Flynn as someone who worked with the president for just “25 days.”
Let’s make this plain: there’s no such thing as a low-level White House National Security Advisor.
Donald Trump considered Michael Flynn as his running mate. Trump repeatedly and publicly praised Flynn last year. Trump put Flynn in a position to guide the White House’s policy on matters related to national security.
Trying to characterize Flynn as a peripheral figure, far from the president’s orbit, may be the first play in the Trump World playbook, but in this case, it’s plainly ridiculous.
Postscript: CNN reported this morning, “One source close to the president attempted to mitigate the severity of the charge against Flynn by pointing out that everyone lies in Washington.”
This might actually be even worse than pretending Trump and Flynn weren’t close.