The White House's Decision-making On Michael Flynn Is Troubling

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 4/26/2017, 8:19 a.m.
We learned two important things on Tuesday in relation to the ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to meddle with the ...
White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday, February 13, 2017

By Chris Cillizza

CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) -- We learned two important things on Tuesday in relation to the ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to meddle with the 2016 election:

  1. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is in a LOT of trouble.

  2. The Trump White House declined to provide the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with documents related to Flynn's application for a security clearance to work at the White House.

Both of those things came to light following a classified meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and press briefing held by Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland. That briefing also produced this amazing quote from Chaffetz regarding Flynn: "I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law."

The Flynn stuff is relatively straightforward. He reportedly gave a paid speech to RT-TV in Russia without asking the Pentagon's permission or flagging the State Department. (No elected official has made a charge that Flynn actually broke the law; Flynn has offered to testify before the Intelligence Committee but only with the promise of immunity.) RT is widely regarded as a propaganda arm of the Russian government.

What's far more confusing to me is why the White House doesn't appear to be cooperating with the committee's investigation into Flynn. Wrote CNN's Tom LoBianco and Manu Raju:

"White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short outlined in a letter to the House oversight committee how it would not complete the request from the panel, referring some requests to the Department of Defense, saying the office doesn't have custody of some of the other documents or simply stating 'we are unable to accommodate' others."

The letter says one reason is that "many, if not all, documents relating to" Flynn's contacts with foreign nationals after January 20, 2017 "are likely to contain classified and/or confidential information."

The White House further insisted that it couldn't produce documents it didn't have access to. Flynn, through a lawyer, said that he fully briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency both before and after the trip.

The White House insisted late Tuesday that they are withholding no documents. They say they as well as the Department of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and the FBI received a form letter from the Oversight Committee asking for documents related to his security clearance. They did not possess that information due to the fact that Flynn's clearance ran through DOD and had been approved in 2016. The DOD, White House officials say, turned over that information.

But, this is the White House we're talking about. And an investigation into the possibility that its former national security adviser took a payment from the Russian government -- in addition to misleading everyone up to the vice president about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Are you telling me that given those circumstances that the White House can't get access to Flynn's security clearance application? Donald Trump is the commander in chief! He runs the government!

This is a pattern with the Trump White House. Instead of welcoming these investigations as a chance to clear up questions regarding the attempted Russian efforts to influence the election and his campaign, Trump and his senior staff seem to stonewall at every turn.

Trump regularly decries the alleged Russian ties to his campaign as "fake news," but the best way to prove that there is no "there" there is to fully and totally cooperate with the investigation. And yet, time and again, the Trump team refuses to do just that.