By Kristen Harris
On Feb. 13, Michael Flynn resigned as national security advisor after a mere 24 days as part of the Trump administration.
The New York Times reported that Flynn’s resignation followed the revelation that he had misled White House officials about a December phonecall with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. In his resignation letter, Flynn admitted to briefing the then-vice president-elect, among others, with “incomplete information” regarding the situation.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Kelly McHugh further explained the events leading up to Flynn’s resignation. She said that the call occurred at the same time that the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia for its hacking activities, which led to suspicions that Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador about lifting President Obama’s sanctions.
Associate Professor of Political Science R. Bruce Anderson put Flynn’s precarious position in the White House into an even clearer perspective.
“Flynn was never a favorite of the intelligence community,” he said.
Anderson further explained that Flynn had been unceremoniously fired from his prior position at the Defense Intelligence Agency due to his “incompetence and bad managerial assessments.”
“Since then, he’d taken to swallowing whole a number of sketchy propositions about foreign intentions without much vetting,” Anderson said.
McHugh cited Flynn’s extensive military experience as a probable reason for his original appointment. However, she also noted that he was also an early and enthusiastic supporter for Trump’s presidential campaign, earning himself a consideration to fill the slot of running mate.
“As Trump’s cabinet appointments so far show, he values people who are personally loyal to him,” she said.
Anderson pointed out that Flynn’s appointment did not hold much merit in the eyes of many Trump supporters. Because he had been appointed to his detrimental DIA position by Democrat President Obama, Flynn was mistrusted by those on the left as well.
“It was likely a political appointment, but not one that gained much ground for the administration,” Anderson said, “though it rewarded loyalty, which is high on President Trump’s list.”
McHugh speculated that Flynn depended on his close relationship with Trump as a way out of the situation caused by his secret phone call with the Russian ambassador.
“Flynn likely thought he could survive the scandal with the backing of the President, and stay in his position,” she said.
She also made note that, in his resignation letter, though Flynn apologized for withholding information from the Vice President, he did not apologize for making the phone call itself.
For many Twitter users and Facebook updaters, this brought up the question of who was really at fault in such a situation. Anderson acknowledged the rumors that the President does not read many memos and limits voices outside of his close circle of personal advisors.
“Until he sorts out how to prioritize communications, I would have to say that the staff may not be at fault,” Anderson said.
McHugh, however, explained that Trump’s advisorial approach was simply different from those of past Presidents.
“Some presidents like to consult a large group of officials when making decisions, and encourage active debate and discussion of all options,” she said. “So far, it appears that Trump prefers a different advisory style, relying on a small group of people he trusts, including his son-in-law and some of his top political advisors.”
McHugh said that several of Trump’s top contenders for National Security Advisor, including Vice Admiral Bob Hayward and Retired General David Petraeus, declined the offer to replace Flynn or asked to be removed from consideration.
On Feb. 20, Vox reported that Trump appointed active-duty Army general H.R. McMaster as the new national security advisor.