From Consortium News
Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn speaks at the Defense Intelligence Agency change of directorship at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, July 24, 2012.
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The neocon-dominated U.S. foreign policy establishment won an important victory in forcing the resignation of President Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over a flimsy complaint that he had talked to the Russian ambassador during the transition.
The Washington Post, the neoconservatives' media flagship, led the assault on Flynn, an unorthodox thinker who shared the neocons' hostility toward Iran but broke with them in seeing no strategic reason to transform Russia into an implacable enemy.
After Flynn's resignation on Monday evening, the Post gloated over its success in achieving the first major crack in Trump's resistance to Official Washington's establishment. The Post cited Flynn's "potentially illegal contacts" with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a reference to the Logan Act, a 1799 never-enforced law that forbids private citizens from negotiating with a country in dispute with the U.S. government.
Though no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, it has been cited in recent decades as an excuse to attack American citizens who disagree with U.S. government policies while traveling abroad and having contacts with foreign leaders.
Often those accusations are aimed at Americans seeking to peacefully resolve disputes when a U.S. president is eager to escalate a conflict, such as President Ronald Reagan's denunciations of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for visiting Cuba and House Speaker Jim Wright for exploring ways to end the Contra war in Nicaragua.
In other words, the Logan Act is usually exploited in a McCarthyistic fashion to bait or discredit peace advocates, similarly to how it has now been used to destroy Flynn for daring to look for ways to reduce the dangerous tensions between Washington and Moscow.
But the media-driven attacks on Flynn are particularly curious since he was the National Security Adviser-designate of an incoming administration at the time of the calls and -- as such -- he would be expected to make contacts with important foreign officials to begin laying the groundwork for relations with the new president.
Whether U.S. sanctions against Russia were mentioned or not, the notion that an elected president or his designees -- during a transition -- can have no meaningful contact with diplomats whom they may need to deal with in a matter of weeks represents a particularly contentious interpretation of a law that has never been tested in a court of law and may well represent an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and dissent.
An Expanding Hysteria
Indeed, referencing the Logan Act appears to be an excuse to continue -- and expand -- Official Washington's hysteria over Russia, which has become the useful villain to blame for every U.S. foreign policy debacle and even Hillary Clinton's disastrous presidential run.
Donald Trump and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. August 31, 2016.
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Flynn's more egregious offense in this case may have been to mislead Vice President Mike Pence on exactly what was discussed, but Trump's White House has not seemed previously overly concerned with the precise accuracy of its statements.
Indeed, Trump and his team have tangled themselves up for weeks by promoting "alternative facts" -- that Donald Trump's inaugural crowd was bigger than Barack Obama's and that Trump would have won the popular vote if not for three million to five million illegal votes. Though these absurd claims pertain more to Trump's ego than to anything important, he and his representatives have continued fighting these fights on Twitter and TV appearances and show no signs of stopping.
So, the ouster of Flynn for failing to provide a complete readout on some telephone conversations in December stands out as even more significant in the context of the deluge of falsehoods that have poured forth from Trump's White House.