Days 71-72—Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Trump, added an interesting wrinkle to the narrative of potential Russian influence on the presidential election. President Trump called for Flynn to seek immunity from the congressional investigation into Russia after it was revealed that his former advisor was seeking immunity from the investigation in exchange for an offer to testify in front of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on potential ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. Trump took to Twitter to defend Flynn and call for his immunity, stating that the investigation “is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media and Dems, of historic proportion!” Meanwhile, there is somewhat grounded speculation that Flynn is seeking immunity because he has incriminating evidence to share about Trump officials or possibly the President himself. Interestingly, Flynn is quoted saying “”When you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime,” back in September in reference to the Clinton email scandal. In reference to the same scandal, Trump stated “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?” while on the campaign trail. Yet, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump believes that Flynn should indeed testify. A congressional official told reporters that investigators would not strike deal with Flynn until they were further in their investigation and had a better understanding of the type of information that Flynn would provide.
The following day, Trump tweeted at NBC News, calling for “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews” to start talking about “the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia Story.” This message comes after FBI Director James Comey stated that he has found no evidence to back the President’s wiretapping claim, while confirming that the Bureau has been actively investigating possible Russian ties to the election since July. Trump keeps pushing his Obama surveillance narrative in spite of the lack of evidence reported by multiple officials.
At a news conference in London, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis suggested that North Korea is the most urgent national security issue that America faces today. The joint press conference was held with Mattis’ British equivalent, Michael Fallon, and focused on foreign policy and security. The two discussed Russia and the Middle East privately. While asked specifically about the Middle East and Iran, Mattis pivoted and confirmed to reporters that in a broader sense, North Korea is the most pressing issue. “This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability,” said Mattis in reference to the country’s recent developments in building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. soil. According to experts and scientists at the Rand Corporation and the Institute for Science and International Security, the North is expected to obtain such missiles in the coming years in spite of numerous sanctions in place against the country. While military action is on the table, Mattis stressed less severe approaches, saying “We are working diplomatically, including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control,” a reference to China and South Korea.
Michael Flynn’s request for immunity is very suspicious to me. As the President himself said, “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?” Trump’s tweets make me think that he is trying to distract the public from the issue at hand. By trying to divert attention from Flynn’s call for immunity to his baseless wiretapping claims, Trump makes it clear that something is awry. The people deserve answers, and I am hoping that whatever Flynn eventually gives prosecutors becomes publicly available.
As for North Korea, the United States needs to thoroughly review all of its policy options first before considering military action. The administration is supposedly doing a thorough review, and I commend it for that. This situation is precarious in that preemptive military action would put countless lives at risk, especially with Seoul (South Korea’s capital) only 121 miles away from Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital). A nuclear strike by the United States on Pyongyang, for example, would be a drastic measure to take given the two Korean cities’ close proximity. Furthermore, I agree that North Korea is the biggest threat to the United States. I hope that America’s allies, China and South Korea, can collectively work in concert to find a more diplomatic solution than military action.