If Donald Trump and his White House cohorts have demonstrated anything over the past 11 months it’s their belief that facts and truth are fungible commodities. If those within the Trump administration don’t like the facts before them, they seek new ones — and cast a new narrative on the American public in hopes of finding one that polls better.
From his claim to have won the electoral vote in “a massive landslide” to his contention that Barack Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower, the president and his staff have proffered one falsehood after another with impunity.
What’s significant about that day is not just that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was indicted, becoming the first White House insider, and the fourth overall, to be charged with a crime linked to interactions with Russia. It’s that he pleaded guilty.
Flynn admitted lying to the FBI when he was interviewed about his interactions with Russian leaders while he was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He told agents that when he talked with Sergey Kislyak about a month before the inauguration that he “did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution,” according to the indictment.
But that was a lie. Investigations by the FBI and others found that Flynn specifically asked Kislyak not to escalate tensions in response to sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed against Russia. Flynn asked the Russian ambassador to either defeat a U.N. vote on the sanctions or at least delay it until Trump took office. Kislyak agreed, as demonstrated by Russia’s rare decision not to take retaliatory steps to the U.S. actions.
But why would Flynn testify falsely about his interactions if, as the White House claims, they were not inherently illegal? An investigation by the New York Times found that when Trump fired Flynn — ostensibly for lying to the vice president — that he was anything but the outlier that the president portrayed him to be. In fact, according to emails acquired and/or confirmed by the Times, Flynn “was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador.”
That Flynn has promised to work with prosecutors in providing information on “any and all matters” gives hope that the truth about what really happened in those nascent days following Trump’s shocking election victory will be known. It even gives hope to better understanding why the Trump campaign was so willing to work with Moscow associates and why it was so eager to develop relations once the election was over.
White House spokesman Ty Cobb contends, “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.” Given the challenges this administration has had in getting its facts straight — alternative ones or otherwise — color us skeptical.
Trump’s struggles with facts were evident once again on Sunday as he lashed at those behind Flynn’s indictment, claiming, without evidence, that the FBI’s reputation for fairness was “in tatters” and that it’s standing was now the “worst in history.”
In his world, one that appears to be rapidly closing in, that may be true.