Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn -- the former Army general, fake news aficionado and now apparently misleader of the vice president – is looking as gone as a wild goose in one of those winters we used to have before climate change came along.
On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, uber-prepared Trump adviser and Steve Bannon lieutenant Stephen Miller (who has the look and feel of a young Roy Cohn) declined to speak for the president when moderator Chuck Todd asked about the boss’s continued confidence in General Flynn.
“That's the question that I think you should ask the president, the question you should ask Reince [Priebus], the chief of staff. I'm here today as a policy advisor. And my focus was on answering the policy questions that you have. General Flynn has served his country admirably. He is a three-star general. He [was] head of the defense intelligence agency. And I look forward to having more discussions about this in the future,” Miller said.
“So the White House did not give you anything to say other than that on General Flynn?” Todd asked.
“They did not give me anything to say,” Miller replied.
“So you cannot say whether or not the president still has confidence in his national security advisor?” Todd persisted.
“Asked and answered, Chuck,” said Miller. “It's not for me to tell you what's in the president's mind. That's a question for the president -- that's a question for a chief of staff. Asked and answered, Chuck.”
“Let me ask you this, if you were caught misleading the vice president of the United States, would that be considered a fire-able offense in the Trump White House?” Todd asked.
“It's not for me to answer hypotheticals. It wouldn't be responsible. It's a sensitive matter. General Flynn has served his country admirably. He served his country with distinction. And I look forward to having a conversation with you once you've had a chance to talk with the appropriate people in the White House who are dealing with this matter,” Miller replied.
In short, Miller had no problem speaking for the commander-in-chief on any topic raised by Todd – except for the latest Flynn conundrum.
The general is taking incoming fire for allegedly discussing President Obama’s sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office – and then misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about his discussions.
On the CBS program Face the Nation on Jan. 15, moderator John Dickerson asked Pence if talks between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak led Moscow to moderate its reaction to the sanctions imposed by Obama over meddling in the U.S. election.
Pence said he had talked with Flynn about the conversation with Kislyak and they “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
Now it certainly looks like Pence was misled.
A Washington Post story on Friday said: “Current and former U.S. officials said that in [Flynn’s] conversation with Kislyak in late December, Flynn urged Moscow to show restraint in its response to punitive sanctions being imposed on Russia by the Obama administration, signaling that the Trump administration would revisit the issue when it took office.”
In other words, the designated National Security Adviser to the next president of the United States was advising one of America’s chief adversaries how to react to punitive measures imposed by the sitting president in retaliation for said adversary trying to disrupt the nation’s free and honest elections.
On Friday, an aide to Flynn said the general had "no recollection of discussing sanctions" but "couldn't be certain that the topic never came up," according to CNN.
Miller was right about one thing: General Flynn’s bona fides as a dedicated and decorated officer are unquestionable. In fact, his performance in the war theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan as an analyst of military intelligence was by all accounts superior.
As a player in the national political theater, though, he has been appalling.
Flynn’s behavior during the campaign – leading chants of “lock her up” and spreading bogus news stories -- was unseemly for a person of his intellect, but almost unimaginable for a former three-star general steeped in the unspoken rules of behavior attached to his rank.
Flynn might want to revisit the military Code of Conduct. Yes, it applies to those in uniform, and Flynn has hung his in a closet. And yes, it is about what is expected of a soldier under arms, not of a civilian or a warrior who has put down his sword.
But the words of the code’s Article VI should still have some resonance. They read: “I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.”
One of those principles is truth.