The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson Live (Feb. 14)

Eugene Robinson
Feb 14, 2017

Chat with Post columnist Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news today at 1 p.m.

Read Eugene's latest: In Congress, Republicans are quiet and meek as mice

Uh-oh. There's mighty big trouble in Trumpland today, as you might have heard. Gen. Michael Flynn is out as National Security Adviser after admitting that he lied, I mean "gave incomplete information," to VP Pence and others about his little chats with the Russian ambassador. This affair has now turned into a full-fledged dumpster fire because now there is no way Congress and the FBI can avoid asking most inconvenient questions about the Trump campaign's dealings with the Russian government. The context, you recall, is that Russia hacked our election, or tried its best. What did the president and his campaign know, and when did they know it? A seasoned, experienced White House would be tested by having to respond to such questions. Tell me how this motley crew, some days pulling in five or six different directions, is going to deal with its first crisis. Let's get started.

Where does the Flynn controversy go from here? What are the questions you want answers to the most?

First, there are the questions about Flynn himself: Did he assure the Russian envoy that president-elect Trump would ease the Obama administration's sanctions? What else did they chat about? This would possibly be a violation of a 1799 law, although it has never been used in a prosecution, apparently. The larger question is about Trump and others in his campaign, and what they knew about the help they were getting from Vladimir Putin.

How long is it going to be before Chaffetz, etc. realize they have to hold hearings on Flynn and so forth? What did the president know and when did he know it? And how about that national security faux pas in Florida last week?

It won't be long. Republican senators are proclaiming the need for an investigation, and I don't see how Chaffetz will be able to resist. And yes, that farce at Mar-a-Lago in which some dining patio was used as the Situation Room was jaw-dropping. This is no way to run a country.

Is it possible to go to a federal judge and get a independent investigation into how deep Russia's connection to the trump campaign. The GOP will never investigate. Thank You for taking my question.

The FBI is investigating, and I don't see how Congress can look the other way. The administration is not exactly on a roll, so members of the House and Senate looking toward their own reelection will at least begin to hedge their bets.

Wow. Just wow. Any conceivable chance that Flynn went freelance with these calls, or will it go back to Trump? It's like suggesting Christie didn't know about the bridge closure.

Let's work backwards. How could President Trump not have been told that the acting attorney general was warning that the national security adviser was vulnerable to Russian blackmail? Yet he didn't immediately move to oust Flynn. Why not? Why, for that matter, has he been so consistently warm to Putin's thuggish regime? What are his business connections? Go all the way back to Paul Manafort and his Russo-Ukrainian pals. We need some answers.

Should there be a call from Congress / FBI / Dept. of State to revoke his passport? I would have to think that he is a flight risk ... pending charges that could include treason? (I know, a bit hyperbolic but this could unravel quickly -- thank you)

If you were in a contest to write the Worst Screenplay Ever, you'd have him defect to Mother Russia and share a flat with Edward Snowden. I kind of doubt that will happen, though.

I live in Greenville, SC. Is there any hope that my representatives in Congress will seek a full investigation and be prepared to act on their oversight powers if "inconvenient" answers are discovered?

I think many GOP House members will try to reassure themselves that "Trump voters don't care" about any of this. But the politically savvy House Republicans can't at this point have much confidence in the administration's ability to make this go away. Drip, drip, drip is the deadliest sound in Washington. For Republican senators, who have to run statewide, I see little choice but to support vigorous investigation.

Feel like I'm missing something here.......did Flynn not realize that his phone conversations would likely be overheard by US agencies? If so, that's absolutely amazing for a person who was supposed to have a least a rudimentary knowledge of US intelligence from his previous govt experience

Good question. I've seen reports to the effect that the Russian ambassador's communications are routinely monitored by the FBI, which would make perfect sense to me -- I'm sure that the American ambassador's calls are monitored by the FSB. If this is true, why wouldn't Flynn know? And if he did, then why would he lie about what was said?

Doesn't this also potentially involve the "dossier" and the accusations of Trump frolicking in Moskva?

Potentially. Why knows? The dossier contained all kinds of wild allegations. I've read that some bits of it have been confirmed, but not the salacious bits -- just that a few of the contacts alleged to have occurred indeed did occur. We'll see.

It is inconceivable that Russia would have backed down on retaliation for Pres Obama ejecting Russian embassy personnel unless they had absolute faith in Flynn's assurance that Trump would ease or lift sanctions. The only way to have such level of certainty would be to 1) have such deep ties with Flynn that they trust him implicitly and b) believed that he was in fact speaking for Trump. So, what next?

It certainly does appear that the Russians had faith in Flynn's word and believed he was speaking for the president-elect. I'd like to begin by learning exactly what he said.

How can an individual support the investigations by you and others?

Subscribe to a newspaper. This one, preferably, but really any newspaper of your choice. Support quality journalism.

Do you think the fracas at Chaffetz' contentious town hall is a sign of things to come? Even with their standard "astro turf" excuses that seemed like an abnormal scene for Utah.

Rep. Chaffetz was far from the only Republican who's been getting an earful from constituents at home. If Republicans chalk it all up to "paid protesters" or some such, they will be making the same grave error that Democrats made during the rise of the tea party in 2010.

If there are transcripts (which I assume to be true) of Flynn's pre-administration talks with any Russian officials, how long until they leak?

Drip, drip, drip... probably won't be long.

what is a lawful way for the American people to see Donald Trump's tax returns?

There is none. No law forces him to release them. If they ever were entered as evidence in a court case, I imagine they would become part of the official record, and thus public if not sealed.

Mr.Robinson: Isn't the story behind the story the White House's inability to manage this crisis? Are the lies already told enough to bring them down? Can this be compared to Iran-Contra, and, if so, can you comment on the different approaches to how the crisis was managed?

That's the other big story. It's not too early to say that this White House is a portrait of disarray. Every president needs a right-hand-man or -woman to impose order and make the West Wing function on the president's behalf. But President Trump doesn't have one such aide, he has five or six -- Priebus, Bannon, Conway, Kushner, Miller, even Pence. If you've got six quarterbacks, you've got no quarterback. The lack of a Communications Director is glaring -- witness Miller's shameful performance on the Sunday shows, then Conway saying Flynn had the president's full support, then Spicer saying not really, then the resignation... Yet experienced professionals reportedly have been turning down the Communications job, and who can blame them? Whom would you report to? If Bannon says up and Kushner says down, what would you do? 

Trump attempts to deflect attention towards "leaks" as the main issue a la Flynn Who do you think will be in the crosshairs of his witch hunt? Surely not the CIA?

Trump going after leaks is rich, given the fire hose flow of whispers and anonymous accusations from his inner circle. He should start very close to home.

Why wouldnt DTrump leave to discuss NKorea istead of talking about it in front of him? Also why are they walking around with the nuclear brief case t a party?

Excellent questions. I don't think anyone has good answers.

Will POTUS, et al be able to "control the narrative" via Fox and other friendly media outlets and maintain the seemingly staunch Trump base? Based on the inability of negative events and revelations to impact voters in the campaign, should we expect the latest news to affect perceptions?

That would be difficult with an experienced, professional team at the White House. I don't see how it can be done with the people who surround President Trump now.

Can Manafort be called to testify?

He can.

Do you think this will at all temper Trump's actions going forward and make him increase transparency; scale back some of his crazier plans; or otherwise try to be a more palatable POTUS?

At this point, I don't think there's any percentage in waiting for President Trump to begin acting in a "presidential" manner. What you see, I believe, is what you get. But I don't rule out the possibility that he might fire some people and surround himself with a more focused and disciplined group of key advisers.

How do we know that Mar-A-Largo is a place where the President is able to hold meetings with staff etc in a secure setting? It's kind of scary to see him sitting at a table alongside non-staff talking about sensitive issues. I wonder if the Secret Service checks for bugs every weekend he goes there.

I hope so. I really do.

I almost feel sorry for him...no one can defend this administration.

Not even Melissa McCarthy.

Is Conway the next to go?

I don't know. She often seems to be out of the loop -- no more so than yesterday, when she said Flynn had the president's full confidence. Hard to tell what good she's doing for Trump at this point.

Sean Spicer is taking a hard line that there was no legal violations regarding Flynn's conversations with the Russian Ambassador. This according to the WH Counsel. Is it your understanding he would be subject to the Logan Act given the timing, prior to Trump being sworn?

I believe he would be, but my understanding is that no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan act. But you don't need a Revolutionary-era law to understand how completely beyond the pale his actions were.

With all the gloom and doom generated by the Trump administration follies, why has the stock market gone up since the election? Enjoyed your appearance on "Meet the Press."

The business world sees a new era of deregulation and anticipates making a lot of money.

Chaffetz just said the Flynn matter is "taking care of itself."

Unbelievable. We'll see how long that lasts.

...at just HOW incompetent the Trump team is? I was Team Hillz all the way, but even I'm shocked (daily) at how bad it is. But then I wonder, how bad will it get?

I don't think it can get much worse.

She's trying to spin the Flynn shenanigans on the Today show, and Lauer says, "That makes no sense." A lovely summation.

It was a great moment. There are such things as truth and logic. Even in the era of President Trump.

 

That's it for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks for participating, and I'll see you again next week.

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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