Trump Makes Three Catastrophic Picks

Donald Trump’s transition may have started off slowly but it’s coming at us fast now. He’s announced Mike Flynn as his National Security Advisor, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as his Attorney General and Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas as his director of Central Intelligence. All three are mind-bogglingly disastrous choices, so how can you give all of them the attention they deserve?

In these cases, I guess the answer is to be methodical. But, I know it will be hard to get enough attention on them because they’re not only in competition with each other, but there will be a new batch of announcements that need examination, and then another batch, and another.

Let me just give the briefest sketch of my problems with these three appointments.

To put it bluntly, I think Mike Flynn’s relationship to Vladimir Putin needs to be examined very, very closely. But what makes me sick to my stomach is that the position of National Security Advisor does not require Senate confirmation. To begin to understand my concerns about Flynn, you should start by reading a Politico Magazine article by Michael Crowley from their May/June 2016 issue. The short version is that Flynn was fired as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and then wound up eighteen months later sitting two seats from Putin at the 10-year anniversary gala for RT, the Russian’s state-propaganda news network. He then began making (presumably paid) appearances on the network where he took a line that was very pleasing to Putin.

The American intelligence community was not impressed:

Michael Flynn, now a private citizen after a reportedly disgruntled retirement, was not there to gather intelligence. His attendance at the RT gala, before which he also gave a talk on world affairs, appeared to inaugurate a relationship with the network—presumably a paid one, though neither Flynn nor RT answered queries on the subject. Flynn now makes semi-regular appearances on RT as an analyst, in which he often argues that the U.S. and Russia should be working more closely together on issues like fighting ISIL and ending Syria’s civil war. “Russia has its own national security strategy, and we have to respect that,” he said in one recent appearance. “And we have to try to figure out: How do we combine the United States’ national security strategy along with Russia’s national security strategy, despite all the challenges that we face?”

At a moment of semi-hostility between the U.S. and Russia, the presence of such an important figure at Putin’s table startled current and former members of the Obama administration. “It was extremely odd that he showed up in a tuxedo to the Russian government propaganda arm’s party,” one former Pentagon official told me.

It’s not usually to America’s benefit when our intelligence officers—current or former—seek refuge in Moscow,” said one senior Obama administration official.

Those officials were being diplomatic. Perhaps Crowley put it more plainly when he wrote: “Seated next to [RT’s 36-year-old editor-in-chief, Margarita] Simonyan at the dinner and just two seats away from Putin himself was perhaps the most intriguing example of how the Russians have gone about recruiting disaffected members of that establishment…”

In a future post I may detail all the other signs that the Trump campaign is essentially “captured” by the Kremlin, but they obviously include the employment of campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the suspected secret server connection between Trump’s offices and a Kremlin-connected Russian bank, and the penetration of the Democratic National Headquarters, hacking of John Podesta’s email account, and selective divulgence of embarrassing emails by WikiLeaks.

Having Mike Flynn inside the White House at the right hand of the president is a clear national security risk, and it’s not paranoid to say this out loud, and with some volume.

With Sen. Jeff Sessions, I don’t even know where to begin. So, I’ll refer you to something I wrote about him in January 2014.

In 1986 (otherwise known as the year of Iran-Contra), President Ronald Reagan nominated Beauregard the Third to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, it became clear that Sessions suffered from a common conservative fear: namely, mouth-rape.

Like so many of his Republican brethren, Sessions was terrified of having things “rammed down his throat” by the NAACP, ACLU, or some “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” guy who might decide to attack his home with a small arsenal.

When it became clear that Jefferson Beauregard the Third was not only named for the president of the Confederacy and one its more more effective generals, but actually held the same beliefs in common with those two gentlemen, the Judiciary Committee declined to send his nomination to the floor. Alabama Senator Howell Heflin decided that Sessions was simply too racist to serve on the bench in Alabama, and so Reagan had to go back to the drawing board.

But being too racist to serve as district judge is not the same thing as being too racist to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Sessions got his revenge…

…he serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts.

Because, GOP.

The idea that Jeff Sessions might be our Attorney General is as fearsome as it is despicable. But detailing all my concerns will have to wait for another time.

As for Rep. Mike Pompeo, he has some things to recommend him. He finished first in his class at West Point and served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. He used his undergrad degree in Mechanical Engineering to launch a successful aerospace company before moving on to oilfield equipment. But he’s a Tea Party member, a climate science denier, and an extreme anti-choicer who doesn’t support rape/incest exceptions. He thinks Edward Snowden should be executed. He thinks the people at Guantanamo Bay look “well-fed” and are well treated. He’s a Benghazi nutcase and he’s a fanatical opponent of the nuclear agreement with Iran. He’s been denounced by the The Council on American-Islamic Relations for saying Islamophobic things on the House floor. What unites him with Mike Flynn is his outrage about Obama’s firing of Gen. Stanley McCrystal for disloyalty.

This troika of appointments is beyond troubling. Collectively, they are catastrophic.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.