We are not even a month into the Trump administration and there is already the smoke of scandal hanging in the air. The proverbial ship of the White House is experiencing more leaks than most people in living memory can recall for any other president and while Trump might be blaming the intelligence agencies for illegally leaking information, there are plenty of leaks coming from his own staff. The leaks eventually culminated in Michael Flynn’s resignation over his discussion with Russian officials in December apparently discussing sanctions from the Obama era. Flynn had previously denied the claim, even telling the Vice President that he had not done so.
While the story from the White House is that Flynn was forced to resign over his dishonesty to the Pence, it’s clear that this resignation is also an attempt to stem the bleeding from the looming spectre of the Russian influence that the administration has never been able to fully overcome. But the suspicion has continued, more leaks are surfacing with claims that the Trump campaign staff were in contact with Russian officials and the fact that Trump knew of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions even though he denied it today.
In a normal world the agencies and institutions that check the president’s power would check for a fire when they see this much smoke. A thorough, open investigation would be taken place to put the full Russian spectre to bed. That would be a normal world, we don’t live there; instead the GOP is looking for the details in the smoke. There is literally more concern for the leaks than the information coming out of them and how they implicate Trump and his team.
Trump has led this call of course, wanting to distract from the multitude of problems that are plaguing his administration. He’s generalized the whole issue of leaks down to the fact that they are illegal which is not entirely true. Leaks coming from the White House about its current disheveled state are not illegal if they do not release actual classified documents, although they may be annoying.
The intel leaking from the intelligence agencies is where Trump and Congress can work together to plug the holes in it, but that’s not the issue at hand. A majority of high ranking GOP see leaks concerning possible connections between Trump and a foreign power and their concern is more about where the leaks are coming from than the actual substance.
It makes sense for the GOP to do this, they have a lot of legislation that they have been promising to constituents for most of the Obama years and Trump, for now, seems to have an aligned interest with them. But we are nearly a third of the way through the first hundred days, the apex of presidential political capital and we still have not seen solid legislative proposals, only a few dozen executive orders.
The GOP needs to realize that Congress is on a collision course with Trump. There are inherent checks and balances but Trump is different than most of his predecessors, clearly willing to employ dirty tactics to get what he wants and the dysfunction within the GOP Congress is probably not ready to deal with it.