“Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” the man designated to become US national security adviser wrote to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and got a reply wishing him the same in return.
Four days later, the US slapped sanctions on Russian intelligence services and kicked 35 officials out of the country in retaliation for alleged interference in the election campaign.
Again, Flynn texted the ambassador and the two spoke on the phone. The exact details of that call are now at the centre of a national security scandal that cost Mr Flynn his job.
Overnight, US President Donald Trump blasted “fake news media” on Twitter for “going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred”. He fumed at the leaks coming out of Washington that have damaged his White House and led to the sacking of a trusted adviser just one month into the job.
“This Russian connection nonsense is merely an attempt to cover up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” he tweeted.
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!”
Despite Mr Trump’s outrage, the story is not going away. University College London Professor Iwan Morgan said it raised questions that cut to the heart of an “old-fashioned turf war” between intelligence services, the White House and the role of Russia in the world. Among them is the “really dangerous” one for Mr Trump: What did he know about Mr Flynn’s conversation and when?
“If it comes out he sent some message … [to Russia, and] did that in secret rather than out in the open, that’s problematic,” he said.
“The real threat is that Congress will pick up on this … As the heat builds there will be a drip, drip, drip [of intelligence leaks]. This story is going to run and run unless he goes on national television to lance the boil. He’s got to address the American people, not go on Fox News or tweet it.”
From broadcasting legend Dan Rather:
Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.
When we look back at Watergate, we remember the end of the Nixon Presidency. It came with an avalanche, but for most of the time my fellow reporters and I were chasing down the story as it rumbled along with a low-grade intensity. We never were quite sure how much we would find out about what really happened. In the end, the truth emerged into the light, and President Nixon descended into infamy.
This Russia story started out with an avalanche and where we go from here no one really knows. Each piece of news demands new questions. We are still less than a month into the Trump Presidency, and many are asking that question made famous by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker those many years ago: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” New reporting suggests that Mr. Trump knew for weeks. We can all remember the General Michael Flynn’s speech from the Republican National Convention – “Lock her up!” in regards to Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton had done one tenth of what Mr. Flynn had done, she likely would be in jail. And it isn’t just Mr. Flynn, how far does this go?
The White House has no credibility on this issue. Their spigot of lies – can’t we finally all agree to call them lies – long ago lost them any semblance of credibility. I would also extend that to the Republican Congress, who has excused away the Trump Administration’s assertions for far too long.
We need an independent investigation. Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth. If a scriptwriter had approached Hollywood with what we are witnessing, he or she would probably have been told it was way too far-fetched for even a summer blockbuster. But this is not fiction. It is real and it is serious. Deadly serious. We deserve answers and those who are complicit in this scandal need to feel the full force of justice.
And some Lefty press:
For now, put aside the blundering and bigotry at the borders, the daily diet of lies, the billionaire president’s financial secrets and conflicts of interest, and even the scary signs that the leader of the free world is a mentally unstable man.
Put that all aside for today. Because the Russians interfered in our presidential election, and now we learn that Russian intelligence agents had extensive contacts with Team Trump during the campaign, while they were cheating on his behalf.
We need every shred of information about those contacts – with a special focus on what President Trump knew and when.
For those who see his impeachment as America’s best hope to survive this dangerous moment, it is time to inch up to the edge of your seats and get ready to protest. If Congress doesn’t put together an investigation that is credible and tough, and bipartisan in spirit, then it’s time to get back to the streets in force, and to plan a campaign of civil disobedience.
So far there seems to be more evidence of smoke than fire with a blundering Flynn gone but it certainly bears watching. Any material acceleration will badly shock markets.