There is a theme that recurs in Russian folktales that seems appropriate to keep in mind. It involves a horse drawn sleigh moving through a forested road when it is beset by wolves. The driver whips the horses but the wolves keep gaining. So the driver’s assistant starts throwing passengers off the sleigh to lighten it and distract the wolves. A couple of things happened over the past few days that leads one to believe that the Trump administration may be on the verge of tossing a passenger off their sleigh to be savaged by a howling pack of Democrats because they think that will make the pain go away.
First up, the National Enquirer
The National Enquirer–which has close ties to Trump world–is now turning on Mike Flynn. pic.twitter.com/N2vZBN5lDF
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) March 24, 2017
No one needs a weatherman to know which way this wind is blowing. The CEO of the media company that owns National Enquirer, the unfortunately named David Pecker, and Trump are long time friends. During the 2016 campaign, the National Enquirer acted, for all intents and purposes, as an adjunct to the Trump campaign. The relationship was so obvious that it gave rise to the famous Twitter hashtag #TrumpLovesPecker. (see here | here | here | here) Fingering Flynn as a Russian agent is not exactly helpful to the Trump administration right now unless there is an obsidian dagger being sharpened as we speak.
Next is the Wall Street Journal:
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.
Mr. Woolsey said the idea was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The discussion, he said, didn’t include actual tactics for removing Mr. Gulen from his U.S. home. If specific plans had been discussed, Mr. Woolsey said, he would have spoken up and questioned their legality.
It goes on to describe an operation that sounds a lot like “extraordinary rendition.” Flynn’s people say it didn’t happen. Woolsey says it never got beyond the “what if” stage and so one doesn’t know if it was intended as a joke or if it was a “can you help me out here” comment tossed out to see what kind of response it elicited. Flynn, after all, probably knew the Turks from his time serving as the chief intel guy in that region.
And one has to keep in mind that there is quite possibly some score settling going on. Woolsey was an early Trump endorser and ally. He was a member of Trump’s transition team up until January 5 when he abruptly resigned:
People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the incoming White House national security adviser. They said that Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted. Woolsey was taken aback by this week’s reports that Trump is considering revamping the country’s intelligence framework, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
And yes, the WSJ does helpfully remind us that Flynn’s company had to file a belated FARA notice.
On March 2, weeks after Mr. Flynn’s departure from the Trump administration, the Flynn Intel Group, his consulting firm, filed with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the government of Turkey. Mr. Trump was unaware Mr. Flynn had been consulting on behalf of the Turkish government when he named him national security adviser, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this month.
This is not surprising behavior on the part of Trump but it is unwise. As I pointed out several times during the campaign but most recently here, it appears that about 100% of Trump’s relationships — personal or business — are transactional. Your friendship being contingent upon you a) making him look good by having you in his circle and b) not making him the subject of criticism by being in his circle. Flynn has broken through both thresholds of friendship like Chuck Yeager going through the sound barrier.
But if Trump thinks throwing Flynn under the bus is going to be helpful, he’s sadly mistaken. Not only will Flynn be encouraged to start telling stories out of school to change the media narrative, not to mention evening scores, the people going after Flynn are going to continue going after Trump. The tiny bit of blood Trump is throwing in their direction is only whetting their appetites for more.