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Donald Trump’s explanation for why he fired Michael Flynn makes no sense

The void at the heart of the scandal.

Donald Trump Campaigns In Colorado Ahead Of Final Presidential Debate Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Donald Trump still doesn’t seem to know exactly why he fired his national security adviser.

At his press conference, President Trump was asked essentially a two-part question about Flynn. First: “Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador?” And second: “Would you have fired him if this information hadn’t leaked out?”

Trump’s answer was very odd:

No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. He was doing his job and his counterparts, so it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would’ve directed him because that’s his job. And it came out that way, and, in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night saying he was doing his job, and I agreed with him. And since then, I’ve watched many other people say that. I didn’t direct him, but I would’ve directed him if he didn’t do it.

So according to Trump:

  • Trump did not direct Flynn to call Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and talk about sanctions, so there is no wrongdoing on Trump’s part.
  • But there was also nothing wrong with Flynn’s decision to call Kislyak and talk about sanctions, so there is no wrongdoing on Flynn’s part.
  • Flynn got fired not due to underlying misconduct, but because he told Vice President Pence he hadn’t discussed sanctions with Kislyak.

There are a bunch of different puzzling aspects to this.

First among them is the timing. Flynn wasn’t fired when Trump was told that Flynn had lied to Pence. Nor was Flynn fired when Pence found out that Flynn had lied to Pence. Rather, Flynn was fired a few hours after the Washington Post told the public that Trump had been told weeks earlier that Flynn had lied to Pence.

The second is the question of why Flynn would have misled Pence about this if there was nothing wrong with what he did. Normally people don’t lie to their colleagues for no reason.

Last but by no means least: If, as Trump says, he would have directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak, why was it that the administration spent weeks insisting that there had been no such discussion? Trump’s position seems to be that his team believed Flynn had been doing the wrong thing (not talking to Kislyak about sanctions) but then it turned out that in fact Flynn had done the right thing (talking to Kislyak about sanctions), but the revelation that Flynn had done the right thing caused him to be fired because Flynn had falsely told them he’d done the wrong thing.

That’s crazy. Especially in an administration that is not exactly known for placing a high premium on strict factual accuracy, that can’t possibly be the reason Flynn was cashiered.


Watch: Things it's hard to believe the president said

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