It is time for Congress to call for a special counsel to investigate the White House and determine whether the President or other senior officials knew that General Michael Flynn was discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador at the time he did so, what those discussions were, and whether they undermined those sanctions.
As a Clinton White House veteran, it pains me to suggest this, but I see no other way. We certainly cannot trust the president’s own Department of Justice to fully investigate the president regarding a possible violation of the Logan Act.
All U.S. attorneys general have the authority to appoint someone to conduct investigations, vesting investigative and prosecutorial powers in them. Wholly apart from the independent counsel law that expired in 1999, U.S. attorneys general have used this authority precisely at times like these when greater independence is necessary. Most recently, President Bush’s Department of Justice exercised this ability in 2003, when Attorney General Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation into the leaking of a CIA officer’s identity and Deputy Attorney General Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special counsel.
That we need a special counsel now is clear from three key facts. First, General Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office and lied about it. If, as some say, this could not possibly be a violation of the Logan Act — prohibiting private citizens from interfering with U.S. foreign policy — why lie about it? If General Flynn’s discussions were typical transition work, why deceive the country and the Vice President?
Second, in General Flynn’s resignation letter he stated that he gave “incomplete information” to the Vice President and others, but General Flynn notably omitted giving incomplete information to President Trump. Perhaps that is because he never discussed the issue with President Trump. It is at least as likely, however, that he did — that President Trump knew about the full content of General Flynn’s discussions and did so at the time General Flynn made them. Can we trust President Trump’s own Department of Justice to investigate him?
I asked Sessions during nomination to appoint Special Counsel to investigate Flynn fiasco—necessary for impartial objective inquiry— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 14, 2017
Third, President Trump has already misled the country about his knowledge of General Flynn’s discussions with the Russian ambassador. When first asked about the original news report revealing Flynn’s discussion’s, the president said he didn’t know about it. Yet, the Department of Justice had briefed the White House weeks earlier, even providing transcripts. Indeed, at his Tuesday media briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged that President Trump learned in late January that General Flynn had lied to the vice president, but stated that the president did not know about General Flynn’s discussions about sanctions at the time they happened.
There is no reason why we should accept the White House’s word on this given its record of spreading false information. It also does not align with the rest of the White House’s story. If President Trump had not already known about General Flynn’s lies, why didn’t lying to the Vice President and other White House officials immediately qualify for termination?
Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Lawmakers seek 'assurances' Olympic uniforms not linked to forced labor Watch Live: Schumer, Senate Democrats hold press conference MORE (@SenJeffMerkley) February 15, 2017
President Obama went eight years without even the whiff of an appearance of a legal violation or scandal. President Trump has been in office less than two months, and we already have the specter of his complicity in a violation of federal law. If Congress wants the American people to get the facts, it should demand that Attorney General Sessions appoint a special counsel.
It is what the country needs to have faith in any investigation into General Flynn’s conduct.
Adam Goldberg is co-founder of the strategic communications firm Trident DMG, and the law firm Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC. He formerly served in the White House as Special Associate Counsel to President Clinton.
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