The American public is already highly attuned to the White House relationship with Russia. The resignation of Michael Flynn only exacerbates that concern, as leaders from both sides of the aisle call for an investigation.
After a phone call in December with Russian diplomats before Donald Trump took office, Michael Flynn misled the administration as to the content of the discussion, leading Vice President Pence to misguidedly defend Flynn on the national stage. It is for this misleading that Trump asked for and received Flynn’s resignation, rather than because of the content of the call itself.
At face value, it is disconcerting to see a government official forced out for inappropriate conduct. It should leave Americans wondering what will be the short-term and long-term effects of another change in leadership, and how the administration will handle the development of the future relationship with the Russian government.
When asked about the situation, though, Trump didn’t talk about Russia or about the damage done by the disgraced member of his team. Instead, Trump stated that the worst part of the situation were the political leaks that led to the public finding out in the first place. He also stated that Michael Flynn was treated “unfairly” by the public for his dedication to his country.
What is most disturbing is Trump’s unwillingness to discuss the situation with Russia, instead focusing on the “unfairness” against him and his people. Rather than take ownership of the situation and lead the country through it, Trump wanted to blame someone else. Worse still, he wanted to blame someone because his administration got caught doing something wrong. The implication, of course, is that everything would have just kept going along if it weren’t for the “meddling” public finding out what was really going on.
We are less than three decades removed from the end of the Cold War, a period in this country’s history when Russia was a very real and very scary threat to both the values and the safety of our nation. Yet, the Trump administration has failed to properly distance themselves from a Russian government that has demonstrated aggression and human rights violations reminiscent of Stalin.
Most bafflingly, Trump had his scapegoat in Michael Flynn. He could have cut the advisor loose, demonstrated remorse for the situation going bad without his knowledge, and moved right along. Yet, his commitment to blaming anyone and everyone else for the mistakes of his administration has put him in a position where the public can’t help but wonder: what else is going on behind closed doors that Trump and his team are just hoping doesn’t get leaked to the public?
Flynn’s resignation leaves the American people wondering where we are going in our relationship with Russia. The lack of confidence this incident has inspired doesn’t bode well for what is certainly going to be a turbulent and anxious foreign policy experience. And if the administration isn’t going to be forthcoming with the way they are handling things, we need more transparency, not less, to be our answer for success.