Michael Flynn should be very, very scared right now. POLITICO reports that Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) just flipped her stance on the congressional investigation into so-called President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor’s potentially treasonous communications with Russia.
Ms. Collins’ reversal represents a fatal crack in Republican opposition to a full-blown congressional investigation into why former national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn had communicated with the Russian government before Trump’s inauguration.
With majority support, the Senate Intelligence Committee can subpoena Flynn, forcing him to face questions before the Senate.
Senator Collins also opened the door for issuing a subpoena to the Treasury Department for President Trump’s tax returns. “I don’t know whether we will need to do that. If it’s necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect that we would” said Collins.
Truth-seeking Democrats and Republican allies still have an uphill battle. The Trump Administration has plenty of tools at its disposal to prevent putting a former White House staffer on the witness stand, according to a CNN analysis. The courts established precedent during the 1972 Watergate affair that protects presidential communications from the public, although it’s not clear exactly if those protections would extend to Flynn.
If the administration refuses to resolve the issue with congress, the U.S. Supreme Court could end up deciding whether congressional oversight trumps executive confidentiality privilege.
So-called President Donald Trump’s White House has offered nothing more than mush in response to questions about Flynn’s untimely departure. There was even confusion over whether or not Flynn resigned or was fired — Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he resigned after misleading Vice President Mike Pence over the communique, while Trump claimed to have used his signature “you’re fired” move on Mr. Flynn.
Reporters have repeatedly asked whether Trump was aware of the communications. Mr. Trump and his staff have not delivered a definitive answer, raising speculation that the communications may have reached all the way to the top of the White House. The president’s case is not helped by the plethora of other documented connections between White House staff and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration. Here are just a few, to rehash:
Trump lied about his business interest in Russia. ABC investigated and found that Trump’s business empire enjoyed numerous Russian ties and dealings amounting to “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
There have been corroborations of elements in a British intelligence dossier that found that Russian intelligence agencies had footage of Trump engaging in “perverted” sex acts with Russian prostitutes and were holding the tapes as blackmail.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO, has a history of lobbying the Russian government on energy-related business. He has publicly denounced economic sanctions imposed after Russian forces invaded the Ukraine in 2014.
Mr. Trump and his administration of professional loyalist liars will likely kick and scream all the way to court benches if it means casting doubt over his already robust Russia connections, but Wednesday’s GOP defection indicates momentum is building in the opposite direction.