Monday, February 20, 2017

TRUMP WHITE HOUSE - The Flynn Debacle

"What Michael Flynn's communication with Russia means for national security" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2017


SUMMARY:  President Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has come under fire for pre-inauguration conversations he had with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.  Judy Woodruff speaks with The New York Times' David Sanger, and Leon Panetta former director of the CIA, about Flynn's actions and what the controversy suggests about the early weeks of the Trump administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It's been less than a month since Donald Trump took office, but already there are numerous reports that the National Security Council, which advises the President on key foreign, military and intelligence issues, is in disarray.

The leader of the NSC, retired Army General Michael Flynn, has come under increasing criticism for his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

We turn now to Leon Panetta.  He served as the director of the CIA and secretary of defense during the Obama administration.  He also served as White House chief of staff for President Clinton.  And David Sanger, he covers national security for The New York Times.

And we welcome both of you back to the program.

David Sanger, I'm going to start with you.

You and your colleagues at The New York Times wrote a pretty remarkable story yesterday about — well, you can't use any words other than disarray, chaos, inside the National Security Council.  Given that, and the events of today, where do things stand?

DAVID SANGER, The New York Times:  Well, I think that everybody in the National Security Council is wondering when they're going to begin to get to what the council is supposed to be doing, which is coordinate among the different agencies of government, bring in intelligence, debate policy.

And several things have gotten in the way of doing that, Judy.  The first is that, as you reported before, General Flynn has been under this cloud and investigation.  And now we hear just a little while ago that President Trump and Vice President Pence are considering his fate, that just an hour after we were told that he's got the President's full confidence.

The second thing that is going on is that the staff itself is a little bit paranoid right now.  They know that Mr. Flynn has talked about starting an insider threat program.  That seems to them to be an invitation for their e-mails to be monitored, their cell phones to be watched.  We don't know that any of that is going to happen, but it gives you a sense of the mood.

And the third thing is that many of the people on the NSC, this body that is supposed to coordinate all this different policy, come from the agencies, and they feel as if they have been frozen out.  And yet there is no one above them who has got a clear job responsibility.

So I would say that, for an operation that is supposed to run like a business, it's not running much like a business.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, there's a lot to tackle there.

But, Secretary Panetta, I want to go first to the fate of Michael Flynn, the general who is the President's national security adviser.  As we have been reporting and as David just said, the President himself issued a statement through his press secretary tonight saying that he's talking to the vice President about what to do.

Is what General Flynn reportedly did, talking to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before President Trump takes office about what to do about Russian sanctions, is that something that is just off — should be, frankly, off-limits for someone in his position, advising the President-to-be?

LEON PANETTA, Former U.S.  Secretary of Defense:  Well, there's a lot for the President and the Vice President to consider here.

I think first and foremost is, one of the principal qualities that you need as national security adviser is trust, the trust of the President.  And that depends on truth and it depends on honesty.  And if, indeed, the National Security Adviser didn't tell the truth to the Vice President, and the Vice President in turn went out to the American people and said that he had no such conversations with the Russian ambassador, I think that's a serious matter, and one for them to think seriously about.

With regards to the substance of what was discussed, you know, it's hard to tell exactly what these conversations were about.  I think it is of concern in terms of judgment for somebody who is not in a position of power to raise the sanctions issue.  I think the sanctions issue in general is a terrible mistake to even imply that we would withdraw from those sanctions.

But I guess more seriously here is the issue of just exactly what was discussed.  And those issues are under investigation, both by the FBI, as well as the Congress.

"How deep will the Senate delve into Flynn investigation?" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2017


SUMMARY:  How far will the Senate go in investigating the events that led to the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, amid wider concerns about Russian interference in the election?  Judy Woodruff gets two reactions from Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee.

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