Michael Flynn might be the first of President Trump’s inner circle to go down, but he certainly won’t be the last. The latest developments concerning Robert Mueller’s investigation on Russian intervention in the 2016 American elections should worry the president. On December 1st, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about meeting with Russia’s Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, when Donald Trump was still the president elect. The meeting occurred before Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor. As a private citizen, it was illegal for him to conduct foreign policy without authorization from the government in charge.
In the past few months, there have been some minor developments in the investigation. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his former business partner, were accused of tax fraud over work with Ukraine. George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former campaign advisor, pleaded guilty to providing the FBI with false statements about his interactions with certain Russians. In March, Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general, denied knowledge of meetings with Russians and when the truth was exposed, he recused himself from the investigation.
In other words, minor players – all connected back to the president – have been involved in suspicious, if not illegal, activities with Russian individuals and somehow the president has always managed to distance himself from their misfortune. However, Flynn’s plea deal poses a real threat to the Trump administration and to the President himself. Flynn has the power to expose the president’s inner circle, starting with his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who supposedly pushed Flynn to ask the Russians to rest easy on President Obama’s sanctions in December 2016.
Flynn’s testimony is the beginning of the end for President Trump and his administration. We can expect the other culprits to follow Flynn’s trajectory when evidence of their misconduct is discovered. The Trump administration will not make it easy for Mueller to become acquainted with all the events that occurred before the president’s election. However, it might not be so difficult for Mueller to discern what the president’s role in this scandal was.
The president’s vulnerability lies in his meeting with James Comey, the former FBI director, last February. Comey testified in front of Congress and affirmed that Trump wanted him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn’s role. In simpler terms, if the president knew that Flynn had committed a crime – lying to the FBI – and demanded Comey to stop the investigation, then the president could be accused of obstruction of justice, an impeachable offence. The president is volatile, his use of Twitter is unprofessional and his lack of eloquence will likely lead to self-incrimination.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of this investigation. Robert Mueller’s reputation and work ethic is intact and one can count on these qualities for a fair and transparent investigation. That said, Donald Trump will probably pass the blame – to a democratic witch hunt and fake news – and refuse to admit any faults or knowledge of illegal activities. If his involvement in Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election is substantiated, it is vital for the government to hold the president accountable. The president should neither be pardoned nor should he be given a platform on which he claims to be the victim of his administration’s actions.