Michael Flynn, national security adviser to President Trump, has resigned over reports he misled the new administration about his exchanges with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, D.C.
Known to have aggravated more than a few intelligence community members during the Obama years and calling Islam “a cancer”, Flynn remained a vocal Trump supporter throughout the campaign. Tapped as national security adviser earlier this year, his resignation comes just a month after beginning his tenure with the Trump administration.
Initially telling officials that he did not discuss sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak before the new president took office, Flynn later admitted he couldn’t remember whether or not sanctions had been discussed during a number of conversations.
This latest development in an already controversial start to Trump’s presidency is but a continuation of a problematic trend with his close advisors and cabinet picks’ proximity to Russian officials and companies.
The president’s new secretary of state and ex-CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, is said to have been leading a U.S.-Russia oil firm in the Bahamas, a known tax haven for large corporations and private accounts. He also received the Russian Order of Friendship for having signed deals with the Russian state-owned company Rosneft and has opposed U.S. sanctions on the country.
Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is said to have worked alongside an ex-KGB official close to Putin when he accepted a board position at the struggling Bank of Cyprus, an alleged haven for dirty Russian money.
It is, of course, impossible to forget Trump’s lauding of his Russian counterpart. In fact, Trump and Putin seem to have a bromance capable of convincing the U.S. president to overlook flagrant human rights abuses and disregard for democracy. Now, while the United States government is “not so innocent”, a point on which I actually agree with Trump, there is absolutely no moral equivalence between the U.S. and the sham of a democracy that is Putin’s Russia.
While improved U.S.-Russia relations will fundamentally benefit the global economy and security, disregarding ethics and normalizing Russian abuses is absolutely not the way to achieve that goal. In a time where discerning Russian and American officials is increasingly difficult, strong investigative journalism will play a key role in keeping Trump and Putin at a safe ethical distance from each other.