Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Ban

Whether you call it the Muslim Ban or the Travel Ban, I cannot help but think of Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer whenever the issue of Trump's poorly conceived executive order blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. It is intriguing the way that Trump's candidacy and now his presidency has ended up revealing so much of the guts of the political game in the United States, that it threatens to rend the whole thing asunder. What I mean by this is that politics is a game that is designed to keep anyone from fundamentally changing or challenging anything. A narrow range of ideological options are offered, neither of which would change much about the structure of society or the distribution of power. As long as everyone plays their roles, you could argue that revolution in both positive or negative sense is avoided. But Trump's refusal to be a typical politician or leader or even just a serious, mature person is leading to a crisis where the guts, the bones, the meat of the US, which for any system is never particularly tough or durable, keeps being revealed through his behavior. That is why so many people are against him and the minority of people in the US who helped give him power. All presidents have power, but Trump doesn't invoke his power the way most others do, whereby they warp it or wrap it up, so that the sovereign remnants of it are not revealed. Trump plays no such games and as such he appear to operate without the pretense of power belonging anywhere else except in his hands and with those who support or like him. When I first read through Agamben's work in graduate school, it was with my dissertation about Guam and the role it plays in the production of America's sovereignty in mind. But now I may return to his books with Trump in mind.


Appeals court unanimously rejects Trump on travel ban

A San Francisco-based appeals court on Thursday delivered a stinging rebuke of President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees, rejecting the administration’s request to resume the travel ban and setting up a potential showdown in the Supreme Court.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a nationwide restraining order against Trump’s temporary travel ban may continue while a federal judge considers a lawsuit over the policy, and it forcefully asserted the judiciary’s independent authority to act as a check on executive power.
"We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay," the court said.

The three-judge panel hearing the case included Judges William C. Canby Jr., a Jimmy Carter appointee; Richard R. Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee; and Michelle T. Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee.The decision is narrowly focused on the question of whether the ban should be blocked while the courts consider its lawfulness — but the three-judge panel nevertheless issued a scathing takedown of almost all of the government’s arguments.

Trump immediately fired back on the ruling, tweeting: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

In the short term, the ruling means that refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries can continue to enter the U.S. under normal vetting procedures. The case is expected to be quickly appealed to the Supreme Court, which remains short-handed. A 4-4 deadlock would leave the 9th Circuit’s ruling in place.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who had sued over the ban, said that the 9th Circuit decision “effectively granted everything we sought.”

The strongly worded decision comes amid continuing controversy over Trump’s attacks on the federal judge who issued the initial restraining order, James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee. The president earlier in the week referred to Robart as a “so-called judge," calling his ruling “ridiculous.”
The appeals court ruled that not only was the government unable to demonstrate that leaving the restraining order in place would cause irreparable injury, it was not able to convince the court that its appeal was even likely to be successful — a critical standard that it must meet at this early stage in the process.

Perhaps most centrally, the court dinged the administration for failing to provide evidence that an alien from any of the countries named in Trump’s order had carried out a terrorist attack in the United States.

Justice Department lawyer August Flentje had argued in a hearing Tuesday that blocking the order “overrides the President’s national-security judgment about the level of risk” — in other words, that Trump’s determination that there was a sufficient danger to justify the ban should have been adequate evidence for the court to allow it to proceed.

But the 9th Circuit, writing as a unified court, was unconvinced, saying that the argument “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

"Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree," they wrote.

"In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President's policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action."

The controversial order, levied late last month, banned travelers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days and almost immediately sparked legal challenges, including this one on behalf of the states of Minnesota and Washington. The order also suspended the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, with an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria.

The states argued that the ban was motivated by religious discrimination, violated due process rights and endangered U.S. national security, rather than enhanced it.

The Trump administration was unable to convince the court that the ban did not violate due process rights — such as providing notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel.
The government had argued that due process rights were not violated because the White House counsel, several days after the ban was implemented, issued guidance stating that the order did not apply to green card holders — and that other individuals were not citizens and therefore had no due process rights.

The court, whose decision does not strictly rule on the constitutionality of the order itself, rejected both arguments, raising red flags for its arguments in legal battles to come.

The protections provided by the Fifth Amendment are not limited to citizens, the court insisted — before going on to chide the administration for its “shifting interpretations” of the order.

“We cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings,” they wrote.

The panel reserved judgment on whether the ban constitutes religious discrimination, but argued that the states had raised “serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions.”

While Democrats praised the ruling as a victory for religious liberty, conservatives immediately leapt on the ruling as a sign of a politicized judiciary.

“No foreigner has a constitutional right to enter the United States and courts ought not second-guess sensitive national-security decisions of the president,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a statement that called the 9th Circuit “the most notoriously left-wing court in America.”

Trump spoke briefly to reporters, calling the ruling “a political decision," according to NBC News.
He said he hadn’t conferred yet with his new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, but predicted the administration would ultimately prevail.
"No this is just a decision that came down but we're gonna win the case,” he told the network.


 New Trump travel ban order nearing completion
by Ariane de Vogue and Tal Kopan

Washington (CNN)The Trump administration is planning to roll out as early as this week a revised executive order on immigration that the President says will "protect our people" while at the same time pass muster with courts that halted an earlier version.

Sources said the new order will clarify a point that caused confusion the first time around: The executive order will not impact green card holders. 
"The President is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. Acknowledging the rushed rollout of the previous order that caused chaos in airports across the country and widespread demonstrations, Kelly said that officials are working on a "phase in" period for parts of the order to take effect.

The new order is also expected to address concerns of the 9th Circuit federal appeals court, which blocked the original order, that travelers' due process rights were not being respected by giving detailed notice of restrictions for those with current or pending visas. Kelly said the goal was "to make sure that there's no one, in a sense, caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports, which happened on the first release" of the order.
Trump's original order, issued a week into his presidency, barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries -- Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen -- from entering the US for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and refugees from Syria indefinitely.
"The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision," Trump said during his White House news conference Thursday, referring to the courts' blocking of its implementation.
Asked for comment on the possible order, White House spokesman Michael Short said, "The only thing that matters is what the President signs. When we have something final to announce on that front we will let you know."

Scope of new order

A source familiar with the process said that the new order was still being drafted over the weekend. The source said that it was also likely to address religious discrimination issues by modifying or removing one section of the original order. That section, 5 (b), said that the Secretary of Homeland Security, "is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality."

One sticking point remained whether existing non-immigrant visas would be revoked. A source familiar with the discussions said the Justice Department preferred to not revoke existing non-immigrant visas, while the White House and Department of Homeland Security were considering doing so.
"[I]f they're on an airplane and inbound, they will be allowed to enter the country," Kelly said. "And this, again, is just a pause until we look at a number of countries -- seven in particular -- and look at their vetting processes, how reliable they are -- and I will tell you right now they're not very reliable."
Another area of concern for critics remains special immigrant visas, a class of visas given to Afghans and Iraqis who helped the US military in the wars there, including interpreters.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CNN's "New Day" on Monday that he fears that the new order would ban even those individuals from entering if they're not green card holders.

"I hope they're not on the new executive order, but it sounds like they may be," Kinzinger said.
Still up in the air, over the weekend, was a different section that suspended the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees. According to the source, there are opposing views on whether to exclude or modify the provision.

Lawsuits expected

Challengers to the original executive order are anxiously awaiting the new one.
Immigration attorney David Leopold argued that the very fact that a new order is being drafted "is a clear admission by the Trump administration that the President directly violated immigration law and the Constitution when he ordered a sweeping ban on Muslims and Syrian refugees in late January."

Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the ACLU who is challenging the order in New York courts, said he expects the new order will exempt green card holders, but warned that he expected other aspects of the new order to present legal problems. "If the only real change is to exempt green card holders, than the legal challenges will continue full force," he said.
"This debate is critical both legally and policy-wise," said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former Obama administration Justice official. "Obviously, it is important not to run afoul of existing court orders precluding cancellation of visas. But even more importantly, it sends a disconcerting signal to all potential foreign visitors when the US cancels visas for entire groups on short notice rather than canceling visas due to the actions of individual visa holders."

Consulting Congress?

One of lawmakers' major concerns with the initial rollout of the order was that they were not consulted. When Kelly testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee, he faced repeated requests for assurances that members of Congress would be considered when drafting further executive orders.
"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had," Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday's "State of the Union" last month. "As the result, in the implementation, we've seen some problems."
But despite a pledge from the White House to consult legislators in crafting policies, multiple Hill sources said they remained out of the loop on the order as of Monday morning.


 I Was a Muslim in Trump's White House
by Rumana Ahmed
Feb. 23, 2017
The Atlantic

In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens.

I lasted eight days.

When Trump issued a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all Syrian refugees, I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat.

The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.

I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.

He looked at me and said nothing.

It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”

My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1978 and strove to create opportunities for their children born in the states. My mother worked as a cashier, later starting her own daycare business. My father spent late nights working at Bank of America, and was eventually promoted to assistant vice president at one of its headquarters. Living the American dream, we’d have family barbecues, trips to Disney World, impromptu soccer or football games, and community service projects. My father began pursuing his Ph.D., but in 1995 he was killed in a car accident.
I was 12 when I started wearing a hijab. It was encouraged in my family, but it was always my choice. It was a matter of faith, identity, and resilience for me. After 9/11, everything would change. On top of my shock, horror, and heartbreak, I had to deal with the fear some kids suddenly felt towards me. I was glared at, cursed at, and spat at in public and in school. People called me a “terrorist” and told me, “go back to your country.”

My father taught me a Bengali proverb inspired by Islamic scripture: “When a man kicks you down, get back up, extend your hand, and call him brother.” Peace, patience, persistence, respect, forgiveness, and dignity. These were the values I’ve carried through my life and my career.

I never intended to work in government. I was among those who assumed the government was inherently corrupt and ineffective. Working in the Obama White House proved me wrong. You can’t know or understand what you haven’t been a part of.

Still, inspired by President Obama, I joined the White House in 2011, after graduating from the George Washington University. I had interned there during my junior year, reading letters and taking calls from constituents at the Office of Presidential Correspondence. It felt surreal––here I was, a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.

In 2012, I moved to the West Wing to join the Office of Public Engagement, where I worked with various communities, including American Muslims, on domestic issues such as health care. In early 2014, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes offered me a position on the National Security Council (NSC). For two and a half years I worked down the hall from the Situation Room, advising President Obama’s engagements with American Muslims, and working on issues ranging from advancing relations with Cuba and Laos to promoting global entrepreneurship among women and youth.

A harsher world began to reemerge in 2015. In February, three young American Muslim students were killed in their Chapel Hill home by an Islamophobe. Both the media and administration were slow to address the attack, as if the dead had to be vetted before they could be mourned. It was emotionally devastating. But when a statement was finally released condemning the attack and mourning their loss, Rhodes took me aside to to tell me how grateful he was to have me there and wished there were more American Muslims working throughout government.  America’s government and decision-making should reflect its people.

Later that month, the evangelist Franklin Graham declared that the government had “been infiltrated by Muslims.” One of my colleagues sought me out with a smile on his face and said, “If only he knew they were in the halls of the West Wing and briefed the president of the United States multiple times!” I thought: Damn right I’m here, exactly where I belong, a proud American dedicated to protecting and serving my country.

Graham’s hateful provocations weren’t new. Over the Obama years, right-wing websites spread  an abundance of absurd conspiracy theories and lies, targeting some American Muslim organizations and individuals––even those of us serving in government. They called us “terrorists,” Sharia-law whisperers, or Muslim Brotherhood operatives. Little did I realize that some of these conspiracy theorists would someday end up in the White House.

Over the course of the campaign, even when I was able to storm through the bad days, I realized the rhetoric was taking a toll on American communities. When Trump first called for a Muslim ban, reports of hate crimes against Muslims spiked. The trend of anti-Muslim hate crimes is ongoing, as mosques are set on fire and individuals attacked––six were killed at a mosque in Canada by a self-identified Trump supporter.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, I watched with disbelief, apprehension, and anxiety, as Trump’s style of campaigning instigated fear and emboldened xenophobes, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes. While cognizant of the possibility of Trump winning, I hoped a majority of the electorate would never condone such a hateful and divisive worldview.

During the campaign last February, Obama visited a Baltimore mosque and reminded the public that “we’re one American family, and when any part of our family starts to feel separate … It’s a challenge to our values.” His words would go unheeded by his successor.

The climate in 2016 felt like it did just after 9/11. What made it worse was that this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power. Fifth-grade students at a local Sunday school where I volunteered shared stories of being bullied by classmates and teachers, feeling like they didn’t belong here anymore, and asked if they might get kicked out of this country if Trump won. I was almost hit by a car by a white man laughing as he drove by in a Costco parking lot, and on another occasion was followed out of the metro by a man screaming profanities: “Fuck you! Fuck Islam! Trump will send you back!”  

Then, on election night, I was left in shock.

The morning after the election, we lined up in the West Colonnade as Obama stood in the Rose Garden and called for national unity and a smooth transition. Trump seemed the antithesis of everything we stood for. I felt lost. I could not fully grasp the idea that he would soon be sitting where Obama sat.

I debated whether I should leave my job. Since I was not a political appointee, but a direct hire of the NSC, I had the option to stay. The incoming and now departed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said things like “fear of Muslims is rational.” Some colleagues and community leaders encouraged me to stay, while others expressed concern for my safety. Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump's NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot.

The weeks leading up to the inauguration prepared me and my colleagues for what we thought would come, but not for what actually came. On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion.

The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing. As one staffer serving since the Reagan administration said, “This place has been turned upside down. It’s chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism––legally questionable executive orders, accusations of the press being “fake,” peddling countless lies as “alternative facts,” and assertions by White House surrogates that the president’s national security authority would “not be questioned.”
The entire presidential support structure of nonpartisan national security and legal experts within the White House complex and across federal agencies was being undermined. Decision-making authority was now centralized to a few in the West Wing. Frustration and mistrust developed as some staff felt out of the loop on issues within their purview. There was no structure or clear guidance. Hallways were eerily quiet as key positions and offices responsible for national security or engagement with Americans were left unfilled.

I might have lasted a little longer. Then came January 30. The executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries caused chaos, without making America any safer. Discrimination that has existed for years at airports was now legitimized, sparking mass protests, while the president railed against the courts for halting his ban. Not only was this discrimination and un-American, the administration’s actions defending the ban threatened the nation’s security and its system of checks and balances.

Alt-right writers, now on the White House staff, have claimed that Islam and the West are at war with each other. Disturbingly, ISIS also makes such claims to justify their attacks, which for the most part target Muslims. The Administration’s plans to revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Muslims and use terms like “radical Islamic terror,” legitimize ISIS propaganda and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism to go unchecked.

Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.

People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true––American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of  justice and equality.

American history is not without stumbles, which have proven that the nation is only made more prosperous and resilient through struggle, compassion and inclusiveness. It’s why my parents came here. It’s why I told my former 5th grade students, who wondered if they still belonged here, that this country would not be great without them.


 Legal battle over travel ban pits Trump's powers against his own words
February 8, 2017
By Mica Rosenberg | NEW YORK
A U.S. appeals court is weighing arguments for and against President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban, but its decision this week may not yet answer the underlying legal questions being raised in the fast-moving case.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is expected to rule only on the narrow question of whether a lower court's emergency halt to an executive order by Trump was justified. Trump signed the order on Jan. 27 barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and halted all refugee entries for four months.

The appeals court has several options. It could kick the case back to lower court judge James Robart in Seattle, saying it is premature for them to make a ruling before he has had a chance to consider all the evidence. Robart stopped Trump's order just a week after he issued it and before all the arguments had been developed on both sides.

Or the panel of three appellate judges could side with the government and find halting the order was harmful to national security, reinstating it while the case continues.

Their decision is "one step in what will be a long, historic case," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University Law School who specializes in immigration. Ultimately, the case is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, legal experts said.

The case is the first serious test of executive authority since Trump became president on Jan. 20, and legal experts said there were three main issues at play for the judiciary.

The broad questions in the case are whether the states have the right to challenge federal immigration laws, how much power the court has to question the president's national security decisions, and if the order discriminates against Muslims.

Washington state filed the original lawsuit, claiming it was hurt by the ban when students and faculty from state-run universities and corporate employees were stranded overseas.

Trump administration lawyer August Flentje argued at an appeals court hearing on Tuesday that the states lack "standing" to sue the federal government over immigration law, but his arguments were questioned by the judges.


If the court decides the states are allowed to bring the case, the next major question is about the limits of the president's power.

"Historically courts have been exceedingly deferential to governmental actions in the immigration area," said Jonathan Adler, a Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor. Though, he added, "the way they carried it out understandably makes some people, and perhaps some courts, uneasy with applying the traditional rules."

Trump issued the order late on a Friday and caused chaos at airports as officials struggled to quickly change procedures.

At Tuesday's hearing, Judge Richard Clifton, an appointee of Republican president George W. Bush and Judge William Canby, an appointee of Democratic president Jimmy Carter, pushed the government to explain what would happen if Trump simply decided to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. "Would anybody be able to challenge that?" Canby asked.

Flentje emphasized that the order did not ban Muslims. He said the president made a determination about immigration policy based on a legitimate assessment of risk.

The government has said its order is grounded in a law passed by congress that allows the president to suspend the entry of "any class of aliens" that he deems "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States."

When asked by the third judge - Michelle Friedland, appointed by Democrat Barack Obama - if that meant the president's decisions are "unreviewable" Flentje, after a pause, answered "yes." When pressed, Flentje acknowledged, however, that constitutional concerns had been raised about the order.


One of the main concerns is allegations by the states, civil rights groups, some lawmakers and citizens that the order discriminates in violation of the constitution's First Amendment, which prohibits favoring one religion over another.

The judges will have to decide whether to look exclusively at the actual text of the president's order, which does not mention any particular religion, or consider outside comments by Trump and his team to discern their intent.

Washington state's attorney Noah Purcell told the hearing that even though the lawsuit is at an early stage, the amount of evidence that Trump intended to discriminate against Muslims is "remarkable." It cited Trump's campaign promises of a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

In a tweet on Monday night, Trump said "the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real" urging the courts to act quickly.

Government lawyer Flentje countered Purcell by saying there was danger in second guessing Trump's decision-making about U.S. security "based on some newspaper articles."

Clifton asked about statements on Fox News by Trump adviser Rudolph Giuliani, former New York mayor and former prosecutor, that Trump had asked him to figure out how to make a Muslim ban legal.

"Do you deny that in fact the statements attributed to then candidate Trump and to his political advisers and most recently Mr. Giuliani?" Clifton asked. "Either those types of statements were made or not," said Clifton. "If they were made it is potential evidence."

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)


Friday, February 24, 2017

Setbisio Para i Publiko #34: Mannginge'

It's almost Mes Chamoru once again!

For my free weekly Chamorro classes today I brought a record player and a wide range of Chamorro LPs from my collection. We listened to a few songs, discussing the lyrics. One of the requests from the students was this song below "Mannginge'" from Jesse Bais. It is one commonly heard at parties, in stores, and also used by teachers for performances with their Chamorro classes.

The practice of mannginge', or the sniffing and sometimes kissing of the hand of an elder is the subject of different community debates. First there are the debates over whether or not it is dying or still persists. Although it may not be something practiced in all Chamorro families today, it is definitely not dead, and if anything I find more and more families practicing it because of the belief that it is dead. Second there are the debates over who you should or should not pay respect to in this way. This is something that I struggle with as well. Should this gesture only be for those much older than you in advanced age? Or can it be for someone who respect and want to honor even if they aren't at a regal age yet? One problem I face is that I sometime forget my actual age and end up sniffing the hands of people who are not that much older than me, but I simply want to give respect. And finally there is the debate over the origin of this practice, is it derived from Spanish rituals for paying respect to someone or something older? The lyrics of the song claim that it comes via the priests teaching Chamorros to pay respect to them and to God, but this is questionable. The practice has plenty of similarities to other Austronesian, Pacific and Southeast Asian rituals as well.

Guampedia has a short article on the practice, which could use some updating and elaboration.


by Jesse S. Bais

Ñot, Ñora
Mungga mana’falingu i respeton i saina
Dios de ayude ihu, Dios de ayude iha
Mungga mana’falingu i respeton i saina

Este kostumbre mannginge’
I tutuhon-ña ginen i Españot
Manmafa’nå’gue hit as Påle’
Para ta sångan Ñora yan Ñot

Parehu ha’ este na respetu
Ya ta respetu si Yu’us
Chiku i kannai-ña pues hit mandimu
Ma bendisi hit todus

Mannginge’, este kostumbren Chamorro
Mungga mana’falingu respeton i saina

Famagu’on Chamorro
Ekungok este na kånta
Todu i tiempo
Respetu i saina
Mantiene i kostumbren i familia

Go’te i kannai i amko’
Mungga mamahlao, fannginge’
Maolek este na tiningo’
Na’magof na siniente Parehu ha’ este na respetu
Ya ta respetu si Yu’us
Chiku i kannai-ña pues hit mandimu
Ma bendisi hit todus

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Broken Promises to the Territories

It is intriguing how quickly things that were once seized upon as exciting and drenched in exciting new possibilities can be forgotten or disavowed. Part of the way this happens in terms of Guam is tied to our colonial position and how we interpret minute gestures that might be faint to others, as being clear indications of our colonizer caring about us and wanting to finally recognize us and take care of us. A perfect example of this came last year when Donald Trump was running for President of the United States. His campaign was barely coherent and very narrowly focused, and the territories of the US, with the exception of Puerto Rico barely factored into his rhetoric. At the time of the Republican primary Trump sent a letter to the people of Guam which wouldn't even count as pandering, since it was so lazily written it could have been sent to any number on constituencies. Hillary Clinton's pandering letter by comparison during the Democratic primary showed a least a modicum of effort. But several one promise that caught the ears and eyes of local leaders was to create a territorial/commonwealth advisory committee that would have a direct line of communication to the president and be situated in the White House. Local leaders, especially those of the Republican persuasion quickly latched onto this claiming it a big victory, evidence that Trump might be different. Even though everything about Trump's campaign indicated that he cared little for the plight of those who are demonstrably disenfranchised or forgotten and instead was built primarily on stoking feelings of white anger over their loss of various forms of privilege in the US, these leaders still someone tried to argue that Trump truly cared about those of us in the territories.

Several months later, Trump is in the White House and nothing has happened and it looks like nothing will happen on this front. I'll leave it to former Senator Rory Respicio to provide you more updates from his Guam Daily Post column a few weeks ago.


Trumps' Promises to the Territories
by Rory Respicio
The Guam Daily Post
February 8, 2017

President Donald Trump made campaign promises to the territories pledging that “No more will those who reside in the territories or commonwealths be ignored.” In that same op-ed piece, which was published in our local media last March, he made several very specific promises.

Since the election, however, Trump has clearly ignored the territories and started to break many of the same promises he made back in March. One could argue that he has four years to make good on his campaign promises. Still, he is already making global changes which are alarming and contrary to his commitment to the territories on matters regarding immigration, labor and how territorial matters will be handled in a Trump White House.

Empty promises

So now is as good a time as any to start keeping track to see if any of his promises are kept. The most striking promise Trump made in writing last March was his pledge that “As part of my administration, I will appoint a Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee, or TCAC, consisting of representatives from American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The TCAC will be integrated into my presidential transition team, and be tasked with performing a holistic review of all federal regulations affecting the territories and commonwealths.”

Republicans in the territories were very taken with Trump’s promise and were ecstatic when this commitment was enshrined in the platform of the national Republican Party. However, you may have noticed, Trump’s presidential transition has come and gone without any mention of a “Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee.” The latest word from Washington is that this is officially an empty promise and as such will not happen. Instead, what this so-called TCAC was supposed to do will be folded into the responsibility of the White House staffer who historically has handled Puerto Rico issues. It remains to be seen whether this will materialize or not.

Trump also made this promise to the people of the territories: "We will negotiate trade arrangements with their input, enact labor policies that help – not hurt – their unique economies and we will initiate immigration protocols that will build their communities, not tear them apart.” Indeed, that is a vague statement, but Trump framed it in his written pitch as a commitment that would meet the needs of people in the territories. So far on the immigration front, the only thing Trump has done is to grandly announce construction of his wall that he continues to claim Mexico will pay for when they repeatedly have said they will not, and to push a ban on Muslims that the courts have ruled is unconstitutional.

Labor restrictions

In further examining Trump’s executive action, or inaction on labor and immigration policies, one of the most serious concerns of communities throughout Micronesia is the tightening of restrictions on the import of skilled labor from countries like the Philippines. Regional leaders that I met with a few weeks ago at the inauguration of Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. consider these restrictions a threat to economic growth in our region. And for us living here in Guam, we believe that this will slow down the planned military buildup, hurt our local economy and further reduce jobs.
It’s not at all clear if Trump’s idea of appropriate “immigration protocols” would lead to progress on this concern, but so far there is no indication that it will. As I have mentioned in a previous column, Trump’s attitude on immigration may give Gov. Eddie Calvo an opportunity to move federal agencies to be responsive, and do its job when it comes to the deportation of habitual foreign criminals.

Impression of indifference

Trump’s recordsince his election and his inauguration as presidentgives the impression of indifference to promises he made to the people of the territories. Even though the jury is still out on how Guam or the territories will fare in our nation’s capital, our efforts must focus toward a strong "One Guam" approach, so that the people of Guam will be able to advance a fair and just agenda through the Trump administration and in the new Congress.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hayi si Michael Flynn?

For those of you in Guam who might not know much of former General Michael Flynn, who recently resigned at National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, here are some article to get you up to speed.


Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
by Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo
New York Times
February 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, they said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.

The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.

The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.

Mr. Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the officials’ accounts in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”

He added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
Several of Mr. Trump’s associates, like Mr. Manafort, have done business in Russia. And it is not unusual for American businessmen to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly, in countries like Russia and Ukraine, where the spy services are deeply embedded in society. Law enforcement officials did not say to what extent the contacts might have been about business.

The officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.

A report from American intelligence agencies that was made public in January concluded that the Russian government had intervened in the election in part to help Mr. Trump, but did not address whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in the effort.

The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In those calls, which led to Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December.

But the cases are part of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ routine electronic surveillance of the communications of foreign officials.

The F.B.I. declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment Tuesday night, but earlier in the day, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, stood by Mr. Trump’s previous comments that nobody from his campaign had contact with Russian officials before the election.

“There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period,” Mr. Spicer said in response to a question.

Two days after the election in November, Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister, said “there were contacts” during the campaign between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s team.
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Mr. Ryabkov told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The Trump transition team denied Mr. Ryabkov’s statement. “This is not accurate,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said at the time.

The National Security Agency, which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services, initially captured the calls between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance. After that, the F.B.I. asked the N.S.A. to collect as much information as possible about the Russian operatives on the phone calls, and to search through troves of previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed.

The F.B.I. has closely examined at least three other people close to Mr. Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative; and Mr. Flynn.

All of the men have strongly denied that they had any improper contacts with Russian officials.
As part of the inquiry, the F.B.I. is also trying to assess the credibility of the information contained in a dossier that was given to the bureau last year by a former British intelligence operative. The dossier contained a raft of allegations of a broad conspiracy between Mr. Trump, his associates and the Russian government. It also included unsubstantiated claims that the Russians had embarrassing videos that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump.

The F.B.I. has spent several months investigating the leads in the dossier, but has yet to confirm any of its most explosive claims.

Senior F.B.I. officials believe that the former British intelligence officer who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele, has a credible track record, and he briefed investigators last year about how he obtained the information. One American law enforcement official said that F.B.I. agents had made contact with some of Mr. Steele’s sources.

The agency’s investigation of Mr. Manafort began last spring as an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. It has focused on why he was in such close contact with Russian and Ukrainian intelligence officials.

The bureau did not have enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a wiretap of Mr. Manafort’s communications, but it had the N.S.A. scrutinize the communications of Ukrainian officials he had met.

The F.B.I. investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Those investigations, by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are examining not only the Russian hacking but also any contacts that Mr. Trump’s team had with Russian officials during the campaign.

On Tuesday, top Republican lawmakers said that Mr. Flynn should be one focus of the investigation, and that he should be called to testify before Congress. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said the news about Mr. Flynn underscored “how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when.”

Mr. Warner said Mr. Flynn’s resignation would not stop the committee “from continuing to investigate General Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.”

Correction: February 14, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people (in addition to Paul Manafort) whom the F.B.I. has examined. It is at least three, not at least four.

Correction: February 19, 2017
An earlier version of a photo caption with this article gave an incorrect middle initial for Paul Manafort. It is J., not D.

Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.


White House Struggles to keep its story straight on Michael Flynn
by Steve Benen

On Monday afternoon, the White House was dismissive of the controversy surrounding then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, insisting that Donald Trump still has “full confidence” in Flynn. A few hours later, Trump World reversed course, saying the president was actually “evaluating the situation” surrounding the controversial NSA.

On Tuesday afternoon, following Flynn’s resignation, the White House line changed again, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters that the president forced Flynn out because Trump could no longer trust his National Security Advisor.

Yesterday, Trump publicly addressed the Flynn scandal for the first time this week, and changed the White House’s position once more. From a brief press conference:
“Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media – as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly. I think, in addition to that, from intelligence – papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal actions, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time – before me. But now it’s really going on, and people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

“I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally – I stress that – illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.”
So, the president believes the man he fired was “treated so badly”? And that the conspiracy isn’t related to Russia, but rather, to Hillary Clinton fans?

It’s not a good sign that the White House can’t keep its story straight, but it’s equally unsettling that Trump believes “what’s happened to” Flynn is “very, very unfair” – despite the fact that Trump was responsible for what’s happened to Flynn.

The implication seems to be that the media left the president no choice. Pesky news organizations presented facts to the public, which in turn created a controversy that forced Trump’s hand. It’s reminiscent of the recent White House argument that it’s the media’s fault that the president calls his Muslim ban a “ban.”

But as a political matter, it’s also counterproductive. Tuesday’s White House line – Trump could no longer trust Flynn – at least had the benefit of coherence. Given the revelations surrounding Flynn, it stood to reason Trump World would want to put some distance between the president and the NSA.

But watching Trump contradict that line yesterday helps make the dynamic that much more bizarre. Instead of keeping Flynn at arm’s length, the president now seems eager to defend his scandal-plagued former aide and blame news organizations for his own decision to fire someone he ostensibly doesn’t trust.

Ordinarily when there’s a scandal involving a high-ranking official, the White House has a decision to make: defend the official or fire him/her. Leave it to Team Trump to pursue both paths simultaneously.

The West Wing is filled with people who’ve had time to get their story straight. They’re failing miserably. 
Michael Flynn's Russia problem just became an FBI problem
by Aaron Blake
The Washington Post
Update: In a significant development, the Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee is now expressing a willingness to expand the committee's Russia investigation to include Flynn. The chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) previously suggested the controversy was manufactured and had high praise for Flynn. He also suggested the probe would be more likely to focus on how information about Flynn was leaked, rather than looking at Flynn himself.

"The committee is not preemptively excluding any topics or individuals from our inquiry, and we expect that the investigation will lead us to interview current and former U.S. officials," Nunes said.

Michael Flynn misled Vice President Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and that got him fired by President Trump.

Now we find out Flynn also denied discussing those sanctions to the FBI, and it could get much worse for both him and the Trump administration.
The Post is reporting:
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said.
The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy, as lying to FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department. Some officials said bringing a case could prove difficult in part because Flynn may attempt to parse the definition of sanctions.
A spokesman for Flynn said he had no response. The FBI declined to comment.
This is big, if not totally unexpected. Flynn’s Jan. 24 interview with the FBI came weeks before he denied discussing sanctions with the ambassador in an interview with The Washington Post. And if he denied it to The Post, it stood to reason, he may have denied it to investigators.

Flynn has since changed his tune, of course. When The Post reported that the intercepted communications showed the two had discussed sanctions, his spokesperson backed off his previous denials and said he didn’t remember discussing them. He has since told a conservative publication that he and the ambassador discussed the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, which were part of the sanctions, but not the sanctions more broadly. Hence, apparently, the misunderstanding.

The Trump administration is still denying that Flynn’s discussions of sanctions were improper in the first place. Some have suggested they perhaps violated the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized citizens from handling particular matters of diplomacy. If there was a coverup, this was what was being covered up.

But as is often the case, the coverup here would be worse than the crime — or the alleged crime. The fact is that the Logan Act is an arcane, seldom-invoked law, and it’s not clear Flynn's discussion of sanctions would run afoul of it. Trump even said Thursday that he would have advised Flynn to discuss sanctions if the two of them had discussed the calls with the ambassador beforehand. Nonetheless, he said they hadn’t.

In one way, Flynn’s denial to the FBI backs up his later contentions that he simply didn’t remember talking about sanctions or that his own personal definition of sanctions didn’t include the expulsions. He said the same thing to both the FBI, under the penalty of perjury, and then initially to The Washington Post (before softening his stance).
But it also opens this up to all kinds of questions — specifically, how he could have missed the fact that the expulsions were part of the sanctions, and why he wouldn’t be absolutely certain about what he talked about with the FBI, given the stakes involved. You would expect someone in Flynn’s position to do their homework beforehand and only deny things of which they were certain. Yet Flynn hadn’t nailed down his story even weeks later.

So it also throws more fuel on the fire when it comes to the burgeoning scandal. If Flynn had admitted discussing sanctions to the FBI but denied it to everyone else, he would have clearly been a liar, but at least not one with legal problems. The fact that a possible prosecution of Flynn — not for violating the Logan Act, but possibly for lying to the FBI — is now on the table makes this a story that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Part of the reason Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation was undoubtedly in hopes of putting this issue behind the White House. That’s no longer going to be the case. Republicans who have been shunning the need for a full-fledged investigation into the matter will now find that posture much more difficult to hold.

It’s also worth emphasizing that the interview with the FBI came Jan. 24 — four days after Trump’s inauguration and when Flynn was an official, high-ranking White House adviser.

That means this is any full-fledged scandal here is tied to the White House, and not just Trump’s transition effort or his campaign. Of course, any way you slice it, this is just looking worse and worse for the Trump team — not to mention Flynn.
Michael Flynn, General Chaos
by Nicholas Schmidle
The New Yorker
February 27, 2017
Two days before the Inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States, Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former intelligence officer, sat down in a Washington restaurant. On the tablecloth, he placed a leather-bound folder and two phones, which flashed with text messages and incoming calls. A gaunt, stern-looking man with hooded eyes and a Roman nose, Flynn is sharp in both manner and language. He had been one of Trump’s earliest supporters, a vociferous booster on television, on Twitter, and, most memorably, from the stage of the Republican National Convention. Strident views and a penchant for conspiracy theories often embroiled him in controversy—in a hacked e-mail from last summer, former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him “right-wing nutty”—but Trump rewarded Flynn’s loyalty by making him his national-security adviser. Now, after months of unrelenting scrutiny, Flynn seemed to believe that he could find a measure of obscurity in the West Wing, steps away from Trump and the Oval Office. “I want to go back to having an out-of-sight role,” he told me.

That ambition proved illusory. Three weeks into his job, the Washington Post revealed that Flynn, while he was still a private citizen and Barack Obama was still President, had discussed American sanctions against Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador in Washington. The conversations were possibly illegal. Flynn and Kislyak’s communications, by phone and text, occurred on the same day the Obama Administration announced the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Flynn had previously denied talking about sanctions with the Ambassador. At the restaurant, he said that he didn’t think there was anything untoward about the call: “I’ve had a relationship with him since my days at the D.I.A.”—the Defense Intelligence Agency, which Flynn directed from 2012 to 2014. But, in a classic Washington spectacle of action followed by coverup followed by collapse, Flynn soon started backpedalling, saying, through a spokesman, that he “couldn’t be certain that the topic [of sanctions] never came up.”

He compounded his predicament by making the same denial to Vice-President Mike Pence, who repeated it on television. Flynn later apologized to Pence. But by then his transgressions had been made public. In a White House characterized by chaos and conflict—a Byzantine court led by a reality-television star, family members, and a circle of ideologues and loyalists—Flynn was finished.
The episode created countless concerns, about the President’s truthfulness, competence, temperament, and associations. How much did Trump know and when did he know it?

John McCain, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the fiasco was a “troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national-security apparatus” and raised “further questions” about the Trump Administration’s intentions regarding Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

In one of several recent conversations, Flynn told me, “We have to figure out how to work with Russia instead of making it an enemy. We have so many problems that we were handed on a plate from this President”—meaning Obama. He lifted a bread plate and waved it. He characterized the negative attention on him as part of a larger conspiracy against Trump. “I’m a target to get at Trump to delegitimize the election,” he said. The press had him “damn near all wrong.” Reporters were just chasing after wild theories, while neglecting to consider his career as a decorated Army officer. “You don’t just sprinkle magic dust on someone, and, poof, they become a three-star general,” he said.
But, even before Flynn’s rapid fall, his closest military colleagues had been struggling to make sense of what had happened to the talented and grounded general they once knew. “Mike is inarguably one of the finest leaders the Army has ever produced,” James (Spider) Marks, a retired major general, told me. And yet, watching the first night of the Republican National Convention, last July, Marks was taken aback when his old friend appeared onscreen.

“Wake up, America!” Flynn said, his jaw set and his hands gripping the sides of the lectern. The United States was in peril: “Our very existence is threatened.” The moment demanded a President with “guts,” he declared, not a “weak, spineless” one who “believes she is above the law.”
In the early two-thousands, Marks was Flynn’s commanding officer at the Army’s intelligence academy, in Fort Huachuca, Arizona; one of his daughters went to school with one of Flynn’s sons. Marks regarded Flynn as “smart, humble, and funny.” What he saw on TV was something else: “That’s a vitriolic side of Mike that I never knew.”

When, twenty minutes into the speech, Flynn mentioned Hillary Clinton, the Convention audience responded with chants of “Lock her up!” Flynn nodded, leading the chant: “That’s right—lock her up.” He went on, “Damn right. . . . And you know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because, if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth—a tenth—of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

Marks’s thirty-five-year-old daughter, who was watching with him, turned to her father and said, “Dad, General Flynn is scaring me.”

Trump, in his inaugural address, presented a dire image of the country—a nation suffering from poverty and blight, overextended abroad, and neglectful of its own citizens. He pledged to end the “carnage” by putting “America first”—echoing the isolationist creed of the nineteen-thirties.

The beginning of Trump’s Presidency remained true to his campaign: even when it came to the highly sensitive issues of national security, Trump and his aides acted with ideological ferocity and a heedless sense of procedure that alarmed many inside the government. The Trump Administration’s early days have invited comparison to the most unnerving political moments in memory, particularly Richard Nixon’s behavior during the Watergate scandal.

On January 27th, a week after taking office, Trump issued an executive order suspending all refugee admissions and temporarily banning entry to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. His chief political strategist, Stephen Bannon, reportedly oversaw the crafting of the order, along with Stephen Miller, the White House’s senior policy adviser. (Miller disputes this.) Flynn raised some concerns about how the order might affect relationships with allies, but those were ignored. James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received little notice of the order.

The next day, Trump signed another executive order, reorganizing the National Security Council. He promoted Bannon, a former investment banker and chairman of the far-right Web site Breitbart News, to a permanent seat on the “principals committee.” Elevating a political adviser to national-security policymaking marked a radical departure from the practice of recent Administrations.

By this point, the Justice Department had informed Trump officials of concerns about Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador and his public accounting of them. The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama Administration, told the White House that she worried Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail by Russian agents, the Washington Post reported. Yet Flynn remained an important player in national-security matters. “He was always in the room, and on every call,” one Administration official told me.

Each morning, Flynn attended Trump’s intelligence briefing—the President’s Daily Brief. Bannon joined occasionally, as did Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A., and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff. Flynn conferred with senior intelligence officials on how to best tailor the briefing for Trump. Presidents are particular about how they receive information, Michael Morell, a former acting C.I.A. director, who prepared and delivered the President’s Daily Brief to several Presidents, told me. George H. W. Bush preferred text on a half page, in a single column, limited to four or five pages; the briefer read fifteen to twenty pages aloud to George W. Bush, who preferred more material and liked to discuss it with the briefer; Barack Obama studied the material alone, over breakfast. Trump’s briefings were being shaped to address macroeconomics, trade, and “alliances,” Flynn told me, in a telephone conversation earlier this month. “The P.D.B. is not always about just your enemies.”

Congress created the National Security Council in 1947, in the hope of establishing a more orderly process for coördinating foreign and defense policy. Six years later, Dwight Eisenhower decided that the council needed a chief and named the first national-security adviser—a former soldier and banker, Robert Cutler. The position evolved into one of enormous importance. McGeorge Bundy, who served under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, regarded himself as a “traffic cop”—controlling access to the President. Under Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger dramatically expanded the role, often meeting directly with the Soviet Ambassador, and bypassing the State Department.

The temptations of power nearly overwhelmed Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, when national-security staffers were discovered to be running covert actions involving Iran and Central America. The scandal prompted some to call for the national-security adviser to become a Senate-confirmed position. Heading off these demands, George H. W. Bush chose a retired general, Brent Scowcroft, who had held the job under Gerald Ford, to return to the role, confident that Scowcroft would respect the lines between intelligence work, military operations, and policymaking. “He will be an honest broker,” Bush said.

Since then, according to Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s second-term national-security adviser, the “honest broker” has become the model for Republican and Democratic Administrations alike. That meant overseeing a process that is “fair and transparent, where each member of the council can get his views to the President,” Hadley said. In late November, Hadley met with Flynn, who was seeking advice, at Trump Tower. Hadley left the meeting optimistic that Flynn meant to act as a facilitator in the traditional way.

But Flynn’s challenge—and now, potentially, his successor’s—was unique, as Bannon had seemingly moved to set up a kind of “parallel, shadow” national-security staff for his own purposes, one council staffer told me. Bannon, who had no direct experience in policymaking, seized a central role on issues dear to Trump. For example, during the campaign Trump had railed against NATO members for not paying their full freight, which unnerved diplomats and politicians throughout Europe. On February 5th, according to the staffer, Bannon sent questions to the N.S.C. staff, requesting a breakdown of contributions to NATO from individual members since 1949. Many of the rank-and-file staffers were alarmed, not just because the questions seemed designed to impugn NATO’s legitimacy but because they represented a breach of protocol by tasking N.S.C. staffers with political duties. “Those were Flynn’s people, not political operatives,” the staffer said.

Flynn came into the White House wanting to streamline the bureaucracy of the N.S.C., which is staffed mostly by career civil servants from the State Department, the Pentagon, and intelligence agencies, believing that it moved too ponderously under Obama. But Flynn, in a contest for power with Bannon, soon seemed to realize that the traditional setup could help him build influence in the White House. “It was dawning on him that the process privileged him,” the N.S.C. staffer said. Others in the White House treated the customary protocols as impediments. “We are moving big and we are moving fast,” Bannon said, according to the Times.

Before Flynn’s troubles mounted, I asked him whether it was appropriate for Bannon to have a permanent seat on the N.S.C. He paused. “Well, I mean, that decision’s been made,” he said. Besides, didn’t other political advisers enjoy similar access? He brought up Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama. Jarrett did not have a seat on the National Security Council, I said. “She didn’t? How about, like, Axelrod? He was Clinton, right?” (David Axelrod, who was Obama’s chief strategist, sometimes sat in on N.S.C. meetings but did not participate in policymaking discussions.) Look, Flynn said, “the President shapes the team that he needs to be able to do the job that he has to do. So that’s kind of where we are on that one.”

Flynn grew up in a large Irish-American household, in Middletown, Rhode Island. He was one of nine children. His father was a soldier, a veteran of the Second World War and Korea, who retired as a sergeant first class in the Army; his mother, a high-school valedictorian, worked at a secretarial school and was heavily involved in Democratic politics, before going back to school to get undergraduate and law degrees. A headstrong teen-ager, Flynn skateboarded in drained swimming pools and surfed through hurricanes and winter storms. “Mike was a charger,” Sid Abruzzi, a surf-shop owner in nearby Newport, who knew Flynn as a teen-ager, said.

In 1981, after graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Flynn joined the Army. He qualified as an intelligence officer, and got orders to join the 82nd Airborne Division, a paratrooper unit in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1983, Flynn deployed to Grenada, as part of the American invasion force. He set up a listening post on a cliffside to intercept Cuban radio transmissions. One day, spotting two American soldiers being swept out to sea, Flynn leaped off the cliff—“about a forty-foot jump into the swirling waters,” he recalls, in his book, “The Field of Fight”—and rescued the men.

He won a rapid series of promotions. In 1994, he helped plan operations in support of the American invasion of Haiti. After that, he rotated to Fort Polk, Louisiana, the site of an Army base for urban-combat and special-operations training. In 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the Joint Special Operations Command, an élite counterterrorism unit composed of operators from the Delta Force, Rangers, SEAL Team Six, and others. Its culture is unusual in the military: rank is respected but not revered; sergeants challenge colonels, and colonels challenge generals. Flynn, then a colonel, in charge of the command’s intelligence collection and analysis, had ambitions for expanding the reach of special operations. He considered the command’s operators expert killers—“the best spear fishermen in the world.” But, in order to quell the insurgency spreading in Iraq, they would have to become “net fishermen,” taking down terrorist networks, he said, in a 2015 interview.

Flynn encouraged his men to think more like detectives as they hunted Al Qaeda militants; he brought F.B.I. agents in to instruct operators in how to collect and preserve evidence. A former Ranger recalled storming a house, flex-cuffing the tenants, then staying for several hours, risking exposure, while he and his teammates searched behind walls and under mattresses for a single thumb drive—which they found, eventually, in a pipe beneath the kitchen sink. Intelligence operatives would gather information by hacking militants’ computers, intercepting their phone calls, and surveilling them with drones. “We were able to mass so much information against individuals we captured that at some point they realized it was no use lying to us anymore,” Flynn says, in “Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies, and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War,” by James Kitfield.

On the afternoon of April 8, 2006, American soldiers helicoptered into Yusufiyah, a town outside Baghdad. They raided a suspected Al Qaeda safe house and detained twelve middle-aged men, who were taken to Balad Air Base, the site of the command’s Iraq headquarters, for questioning. Flynn observed some of the interviews. Over weeks of interrogation, the prisoners repeatedly denied knowing anything about Al Qaeda or its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Finally, two interrogators confronted one of the prisoners about a trip to Amman, Jordan, just before the devastating hotel bombings the previous year. The prisoner started talking, and divulged the identity of Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser and where to find him. Drones tracked the adviser for weeks. One day, the man came out of his house and got into a silver sedan. After two vehicle switches, he pulled into a compound in Hibhib, thirty miles north of Baghdad. A few minutes after the adviser arrived, another man emerged briefly from the house. He matched the description of Zarqawi.

As Flynn and his boss, General Stanley McChrystal, JSOC’s commander, watched on a video feed, an F-16 dropped two bombs on the house. A Delta Force squad quickly arrived at the scene and seized Zarqawi, who died soon afterward. Back at Balad, Flynn and McChrystal inspected the corpse, laid out on a tarp, confirming that it was Zarqawi.

In 2008, Flynn got a new assignment, at the Pentagon, as the senior intelligence officer reporting to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was an awkward fit. Flynn, now a major general, was unfamiliar with ordinary Pentagon decorum and sometimes struggled to summon the diplomacy required for the job. Intelligence officers are often irascible figures. “We are trained to be contrarians,” Marks, the retired major general, who was the senior intelligence officer during the invasion of Iraq, said. “I’m the only guy in the room who gets paid to tell you that you’re not as handsome or as smart as you think you are. I’m the one who looks the boss in the eye and says, ‘Your plan is all fucked up.’ ”

In November, 2008, Obama won the Presidency, having pledged to draw down troops in Iraq and shift military resources back to Afghanistan. He chose McChrystal to lead American forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal asked his friend Flynn to become his director of intelligence. Their collaboration in Iraq had severely crippled Al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, though, the terrain was less familiar, and their mission quite different, with a much greater emphasis on winning “hearts and minds.” Still, Flynn was thrilled to be heading to the battlefield again. According to a friend, when she asked Flynn whether he’d regret missing an almost certain promotion in Washington, he replied, “Are you kidding me? I get to go back to the shit with Stan.”

He landed in Afghanistan in June, 2009. His office was a windowless converted shipping container, and during long days he took briefings and pored over classified assessments. Flynn often ate his meals in the chow hall and chatted with subordinates. “I have no recollection of any other general officers doing that,” Toni Gidwani, an intelligence analyst who worked with Flynn in Afghanistan, told me. Flynn was intense, but he was also funny and “called bullshit when he saw it,” according to Vikram Singh, who is now at the Center for American Progress, and at the time was advising Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Flynn’s directives, however, could at times be difficult to follow. His talent for absorbing information could race ahead of his analytical abilities. “He is not a linear thinker,” an intelligence analyst who served on multiple assignments with Flynn said. Stephen Biddle, a defense-policy fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recounted late-night meetings in Flynn’s container: “His ideas and assessments kept moving around.” Max Boot, a civilian adviser in Afghanistan at the time, told me that Flynn got “jerked around by the data”—he would contend that the Taliban were nearly defeated and then, with no less conviction, argue that the militant group was stronger than ever.

Part of the challenge was the shortage of reliable intelligence in Afghanistan. Flynn considered some of the C.I.A.’s activities counterproductive. When Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai and a suspected drug trafficker, was revealed as a longtime C.I.A. asset, Flynn voiced his displeasure with the agency, telling the Times, “If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves.”

Flynn dispatched a Marine Corps first lieutenant to travel around the country interviewing marines, soldiers, and civilian partners about their intelligence needs. The lieutenant, Matthew Pottinger, had been a Beijing correspondent for the Wall Street Journal before enlisting as an intelligence officer in the Marines. Throughout the autumn of 2009, Pottinger crisscrossed the country. What he heard was dispiriting. An operations officer told him that his knowledge of what was happening in villages was “no more than fingernail deep.” The Americans were ignorant of local power brokers, religious practices, and economics. Pottinger, Flynn, and a senior official from the Defense Intelligence Agency compiled their observations, along with recommendations for changes, into a damning report.

In late December, Flynn e-mailed the report to dozens of colleagues at the Pentagon, the White House, and the C.I.A. The response was underwhelming; most didn’t even bother to reply. Pottinger suggested finding a publisher outside the government, and Flynn agreed. On January 4, 2010, the Center for a New American Security, a progressive think tank, released “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan.” Reviews outside the military were laudatory, but senior Pentagon and C.I.A. officials were angered by Flynn’s decision to go public. “I was very concerned about an intelligence officer openly criticizing our intelligence community,” former C.I.A. director Leon Panetta told me. Flynn and Pottinger understood that they might be fired.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a judgment of the report that saved them. He called it “exactly the type of candid, critical self-assessment” that the military needed. “Fixing Intel” consolidated Flynn’s exalted status in the intelligence community. In 2012, Defense News ranked him seventeenth on its “100 Most Influential” list, heralding the report as something that “might have ended his career” but which, instead, “accelerated it.”

Three months after “Fixing Intel” was published, McChrystal and some members of his staff flew to Paris to strengthen support for the war among French officials. Flynn stayed behind in Afghanistan. A Rolling Stone reporter who had been spending time with McChrystal joined him on the trip and heard him and his staff speaking derisively about the political leadership in Washington, and witnessed them getting drunk one night at an Irish pub.

In mid-June, 2010, the magazine piece, “The Runaway General,” appeared. McChrystal was quoted calling Vice-President Joe Biden “shortsighted” for his opposition to the surge in Afghanistan; one aide mocked Biden as “Bite Me”; and another aide dismissed Jim Jones, Obama’s first national-security adviser, as a “clown.” Obama fired McChrystal the day after publication. Flynn chafed at the decision. “It’s hard to see someone you know have to go through that,” a close associate of Flynn’s told me. “You don’t heal from that overnight.”

Flynn prepared to leave Afghanistan, as McChrystal’s successor, David Petraeus, brought in his own staff. Before Flynn departed, he stopped by the Joint Intelligence Operations Center to say goodbye. Speaking to dozens of analysts, Flynn delivered a forty-five-minute lesson, covering some of the bloodiest engagements in American history: the Battle of Antietam, in 1862, when twenty-three thousand people were killed or wounded in a single day; Operation Torch, in 1942, when several hundred soldiers died establishing beachheads in North Africa as part of the Allied invasion. “His point was that no one in Washington can ever appreciate what is happening on the battlefield, and that there aren’t as many Americans dying now as before,” the intelligence analyst who worked with Flynn said. “But it was confusing, and these would be the same kind of discussions you’d have with him about the nature of the insurgency—you’d leave his office and spend an hour trying to figure out what he was trying to say.”

Back in Washington, Flynn was assigned to the office of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Flynn’s success in Iraq and Afghanistan made him popular in foreign-policy circles. In April, 2011, he attended a luncheon at the Army and Navy Club, a members-only hotel and restaurant two blocks from the White House. About two dozen guests sat in a private room, around a long table. Iran was a major focus of the conversation, according to one of the event’s hosts, Mary Beth Long, a former C.I.A. case officer and a senior Pentagon official during the George W. Bush Administration.
The attendees included a neoconservative historian named Michael Ledeen, who was then a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. Ledeen had been obsessed with Iran for decades. In the mid-eighties, as a consultant to Reagan’s National Security Council, he played a central role in the Iran-Contra affair—introducing Oliver North, Reagan’s counterterrorism adviser, to Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer. Ledeen’s hope had been to stir up dissent inside Iran through Ghorbanifar’s network of influential contacts, according to the Presidential commission that investigated the affair. (Ledeen disputes this.) Instead, Ghorbanifar wound up as the middleman in the sale of weapons to Iran, in exchange for Tehran’s assistance in freeing American hostages held by Iranian-backed Islamists in Lebanon. But Ledeen’s zeal for regime change in Iran remained undiminished. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he called for American forces to press on, into Iran. “As Ronald Reagan once said, ‘America is too great a country to settle for small dreams,’ ” he wrote, in 2002. Iraq was a distraction; Iran was “the real war.”

Flynn, too, increasingly viewed Iran as a great menace. In Iraq, he had seen scores of young Americans killed by sophisticated armor-piercing explosives, supplied to Shiite militias by the Quds Force, an élite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Flynn and Ledeen became close friends; in their shared view of the world, Ledeen supplied an intellectual and historical perspective, Flynn a tactical one. “I’ve spent my professional life studying evil,” Ledeen told me. Flynn said, in a recent speech, “I’ve sat down with really, really evil people”—he cited Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Russians, Chinese generals—“and all I want to do is punch the guy in the nose.”

A month after the luncheon, a team of Navy SEALs raided a compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden. Flynn was critical of the limitations placed on intelligence work after the raid. Analysts had spent several weeks going through the hard drives and phones seized in the raid looking for “targeting data”—clues on the whereabouts of other terrorists—and leads on imminent threats. But Flynn and others advocated going deeper, with the hope of learning more about Al Qaeda’s finances and backers and organizational structure. A team returned to the materials and uncovered documents that seemed to point to a closer relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran than was previously understood. In one memorandum, a lieutenant asks bin Laden for permission to send an associate planning attacks in Europe into Iran for “around three months” to “train the brothers.” Flynn saw such references as evidence of Iran’s duplicity, in supporting Shiite and Sunni extremists alike. It seemed validation of Ledeen’s views on Iran. (Others in the intelligence community, including Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time of the raid, were dubious about a close relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran.)

James Mattis, the Marine general in charge of U.S. Central Command, whose responsibilities included the Middle East and Central Asia, had been pushing for more aggressive action against Iran. In the summer of 2011, Mattis, who is now the Secretary of Defense, wanted to launch a rocket assault on an Iranian power plant in retaliation for the killing of six American soldiers by Iranian rockets in Baghdad. But the Obama Administration was hoping to get out of the Middle East, not risk starting another war there. Flynn felt that the Administration was being naïve, and that no one seemed to care about what he insisted was the collusion between Al Qaeda and Iran. “He was incensed,” an analyst who worked with Flynn at the time said. “He saw this as truth suppression.”

In April, 2012, Obama nominated Flynn to be the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Within the intelligence community, the agency was considered a backwater. “It’s the bastard child,” Mary Beth Long, the former C.I.A. officer, said. The agency, whose headquarters are in southwest Washington, produced reports on topics like Middle Eastern weapons deals, changes of command in China, and troop movements on the Korean peninsula—essential work for assessing foreign military capabilities but hardly exciting.

To invigorate the D.I.A., Flynn wanted to break down the barriers between collectors and analysts; enhance the stable of clandestine case officers who operated overseas, like their C.I.A. counterparts; and reorganize the agency on the basis of geography. The goal was to transform the D.I.A. into a more agile organization.

Flynn’s ideas were informed by his experience in helping to overhaul JSOC. But it was unclear whether they would work at the D.I.A., with seventeen thousand employees. “JSOC has a small, tight-knit group of folks making real-time tactical decisions that must be executed tonight,” a senior military intelligence official told me. “A big organization like the D.I.A. just can’t respond that quickly.”

Peter Shelby, a retired marine and former D.I.A. official, told me he assumed that Flynn would be methodical in his approach: spend a few months at headquarters; learn how the organization worked; cultivate respected agency veterans; and then introduce changes. Instead, Shelby said, “Flynn came in and threw a bomb to explode the whole place, and then just let the dust settle.”

Employees started to complain. Many sought reassignment with other agencies. “Morale was in the toilet,” Shelby said. “To higher-level observers, Flynn looked like this bold leader, willing to make changes in the face of opposition. But, the further down you went, the more negative impact there was, because it was complete chaos.”

Moreover, Flynn could be sloppy with numbers and details—misstatements that his staffers derided as “Flynn facts.” His habit of chasing hunches also exasperated some staff members. In September, 2012, after the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate and annex in Benghazi, Flynn urged an investigation into an Iran connection; his insistence that Iran was involved “stunned” subordinates, according to the Times. (Flynn denies that he asked for a probe.) An intelligence analyst who worked with Flynn during this period told me that his iconoclasm sometimes went too far. “By nature, Flynn takes a contrarian approach to even the most simple analytic issues,” the analyst said. “After Benghazi, I remember him using the phrase ‘black swan’ a lot. What’s a ‘black swan’? He was looking for the random event that nobody could predict. Look, you certainly have to keep your eye on the ball for that, but there’s a reason why it’s a black swan. You shouldn’t dedicate a ton of time to that.”

In 2013, Flynn arranged a trip to Moscow to speak to a group of officers from the G.R.U., Russia’s intelligence agency, about leadership development. His decision to go was a controversial one. Flynn believed that there were opportunities to find common ground with Russia. But Steven Hall, the C.I.A.’s chief of Russia operations at the time, was skeptical. “He wanted to build a relationship with his counterparts in the G.R.U., which seemed, at best, quaint and naïve,” Hall told me. “Every time we have tried to have some sort of meaningful coöperation with the Russians, it’s almost always been manipulated and turned back against us.”

Several months after Flynn returned from his Moscow trip, he hoped to reciprocate by inviting several senior G.R.U. officers to the United States. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, cautioned him against it. Russia had recently annexed Crimea, and Russian special-forces operatives were fomenting a violent clash between rebels and Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine.

By then, Flynn had become a target of scorn for many inside the department. His deputy, David Shedd, became one of his harshest critics, and did little to hide his disdain. “I was walking by the front office once and heard David Shedd say, ‘I’m going to save the agency from the director,’ ” Simone Ledeen, who works in counter-threat finance at a multinational bank, said. Ledeen had worked for Flynn in Afghanistan, at the office for the director of national intelligence, and in the D.I.A., doing threat-assessment research. (She is also Michael Ledeen’s daughter.)

Normally, a D.I.A. director serves for three or more years, but, in late 2013, Clapper and Michael Vickers, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, were concerned about the tumult inside the agency and told Flynn that his tenure would last just two years. Flynn unsuccessfully tried to extend his term when his successor’s nomination was delayed. Shedd later became the acting director.
On August 7, 2014, at a ceremony in the atrium of the D.I.A.’s headquarters, Flynn retired from the military, after thirty-three years. His wife and two sons attended, as did Michael Ledeen. The senior military intelligence official, who was present, told me that Flynn was obviously bitter: “He was loading up, and he was not going to go quietly.”

Flynn, who was fifty-five, began fashioning a post-military life. He started his own business, the Flynn Intel Group, which offered clients a range of private intelligence and security services. He did some freelance consulting and also worked with SBD Advisors, a strategic consulting firm whose roster included the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen; former chief of the Special Operations Command Admiral Eric Olson; and other retired military officers. In January, 2015, Flynn signed with Leading Authorities, a speakers’ bureau, which promoted his expertise in leadership, cybersecurity, and terrorism.

Flynn began developing a public profile as a decorated former general with experience in fighting Islamic extremism. A month later, he made an appearance on “Charlie Rose.” He spoke at length about the threat posed by the Islamic State, which had been executing hostages and rapidly acquiring territory in northern Iraq and Syria. But America faced bigger foes than isis, he said. “Iran has killed more Americans than Al Qaeda has through state sponsors, through its terrorist network, called Hezbollah.”

This was a puzzling assertion. “Hezbollah has killed more Americans than Al Qaeda?” Rose asked.
Flynn began a count, starting with Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed two hundred and eighty-three people. He cited other instances, but his math made little sense, and the numbers fell far short of the nearly three thousand killed by Al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11.

Rose moved on, but a friend who had accompanied Flynn to the studio pulled him aside after the taping and questioned his Iran claim. One of Rose’s producers offered to fact-check the segment, but he waved off the suggestion. Another friend who’d come to the taping suggested contacting an expert from the intelligence community. That wouldn’t be necessary, Flynn said—he would just call Michael Ledeen.

Flynn and Ledeen’s relationship soon became a professional collaboration. Flynn asked Ledeen to help him write a book. Flynn wanted to position himself as a sage counsellor for the upcoming Presidential campaign. Ledeen had written more than a dozen books, including five on Iran. They were often polemical works, with titles such as “The War Against the Terror Masters” and “The Iranian Time Bomb,” and were filled with sweeping statements like “Islamic fundamentalism, of which the ideology of the Iranian regime is a textbook case, draws much of its inspiration from Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin.”

In April, 2015, Flynn accepted an invitation to spend a week at Dartmouth. Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department counterterrorism chief who now directed the school’s international-affairs center, had come to know Flynn in Afghanistan. He considered him friendly and engaging, and thought students and faculty would appreciate his insights and his unconventionality. He set up class visits, dinner discussions, and a talk, which Flynn titled “World Without Order.”

Benjamin told me that he quickly realized during the visit that Flynn’s “easygoing pragmatism” had given way to some “very hard-edged ideas,” particularly on Iran. Flynn voiced contempt toward Iran’s leaders (“They are liars”) and said that they had “no right” to participate in negotiations with the United States over their nuclear program. (The Iran nuclear deal was signed in July, 2015.)
“I’ve encountered plenty of military officers who were deeply upset by the role that Iranian-backed militias played in Iraq, but Flynn’s animosity was off the charts,” Benjamin said. Flynn expressed similarly harsh views of Islam in general, describing the faith as a political ideology, and not a religion. Benjamin, who, in 2002, co-wrote a book, “The Age of Sacred Terror,” about the ideological war that America faced against radical Islam, deemed Flynn’s comments “pointlessly pejorative” and thought they would serve only to inflame extremists. He began discouraging Dartmouth’s administrators and faculty from attending the events.

On Fox News, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN, and elsewhere, Flynn became increasingly critical of the Obama Administration. He lashed out at the Iran nuclear deal, the Administration’s ISIS strategy, and its approach to radical Islam generally. Several Republican hopefuls preparing to run against Hillary Clinton asked for his advice. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, brought Flynn on as an informal adviser for her Presidential bid. She told me that she found him refreshing. “He is a very down-to-earth, approachable guy,” she said. She was also impressed by his candor. Flynn, she said, “doesn’t pull punches.”

In August, 2015, Flynn went to New York to meet Trump for the first time. They were scheduled to talk for thirty minutes; the conversation lasted ninety. Flynn was deeply impressed. “I knew he was going to be the President of the United States,” he told me.

Two months later, Flynn appeared on RT, the English-language Russian television channel, formerly known as Russia Today. The outlet was widely regarded as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, even before a recent U.S. intelligence report on Russian hacking and the Presidential election said that the channel had become an important part of a “Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government.” Flynn discussed the civil war in Syria, where Russian jets were flying bombing sorties in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He contrasted Putin’s resolve with what he described as Obama’s dithering in the region: “There’s no coherence or no clarity to the strategy.”
In early November, 2015, a D.C.-based representative of RT contacted Flynn’s speakers’ bureau and invited him to Moscow for the channel’s tenth-anniversary celebration. The fee was approximately forty thousand dollars, according to a source familiar with the arrangement. This trip was considerably more fraught than the one he had made as D.I.A. director. On December 1st, RT issued a press release announcing Flynn’s participation. In e-mails, Simone Ledeen urged her former boss, and family friend, to reconsider. “I begged him, ‘Please, sir: don’t do this. It’s not just you. You’re a retired three-star general. It’s the Army. It’s all of the people who have been with you, all of these analysts known as “Flynn’s people.” Don’t do this to them. Don’t do this to yourself.’ ”

Flynn assured his critics that he knew what he was doing. “Know my values and beliefs are mine & won’t change because I’m on a different piece of geography,” he tweeted. Before the trip, Flynn received a classified counterespionage briefing at D.I.A. headquarters. Hall, the former C.I.A. chief of Russia operations, told me, “Whatever personal electronic device you carry with you into Russia will be compromised.”

Flynn stayed at a hotel near Red Square. The RT gala featured speakers and panel discussions during the day and a dinner at night. That morning, Sophie Shevardnadze, an RT correspondent, interviewed Flynn. From the stage, he confessed to feeling as if he were behind enemy lines. “I’m sort of in the lair,” he said.

A Russian jet had recently been shot down near the Syrian border by a Turkish plane, and Shevardnadze asked Flynn how Russia should respond. “Are we not to react? What does Turkey expect?” she asked. Circumspect, Flynn said, “I don’t know what Turkey expects. I don’t know what Russia expects.”

Flynn also seemed to go out of his way to tweak the Russian government and its partners in Damascus and Tehran. “Let’s face it, come on, is Assad the future of Syria, given the way the situation has unfolded?” Flynn said. He added that Assad’s allies in Iran were making things worse in Syria and elsewhere. “Iran exports a lot of terrorism,” he declared.

Flynn was seated at the head table for dinner that evening. Putin sat to his left. Cyril Svoboda, the former foreign minister of the Czech Republic, sat to Flynn’s right. I called Svoboda, who speaks fluent English and Russian, and who translated a brief exchange between the two men, and asked what they discussed. “It was very, very short,” Svoboda said. “ ‘Kak vashi dela?’ ‘Shto novovo?’ ‘Khorosho.’ ” (“How are you?” “What’s new?” “Good.”)

After dinner, Putin went onstage and congratulated RT on its success. The Russian government wasn’t perfect, he said, so he appreciated RT for its presentation of “various points of view.” After Putin concluded his remarks, Flynn, joining other diners, stood and applauded.

Last year, Flynn talked to Dana Priest, of the Washington Post, about the trip. When Priest asked why he would go on RT, a state-run channel, Flynn replied, “Well, what’s CNN?”

“Well, it’s not run by the state,” Priest said. “You’re rolling your eyes.”

“Well, what’s MSNBC?” Flynn said. “I mean, come on . . . what’s Al Jazeera?”

By early 2016, Flynn was enthusiastic about Trump. “He picked the right horse and he picked it early,” the close Flynn associate told me. Flynn’s Twitter feed, which had once been full of sunset photos and surf reports, turned increasingly reactionary, particularly on immigration and Islam. “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he posted, last February. Not long afterward, he retweeted a picture apparently showing refugees tromping across the European countryside with text that read, “Historians will look back in amazement that the West destroyed its own civilization.”

In July, his book with Ledeen, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,” came out. After Trump tweeted an endorsement, the book made the Times best-seller list. Although Ledeen’s name appears (in small type) on the cover, “The Field of Fight” is written in the first person and presented in Flynn’s voice. But I ran the book through software that allowed me to compare it to the text of Ledeen’s previous books and articles. Dozens of matches turned up. The similarities suggested just how much Ledeen’s long-standing obsessions had melded into Flynn’s. Although an ISIS flag is pictured on the front cover, “The Field of Fight” is, in many ways, a call to action against Iran. “Every day we see evidence of Iranian espionage in the United States,” Flynn writes. “It is hard to imagine that there are no Hezbollah terrorist groups inside this country. If they could blow up buildings in Buenos Aires, they can surely do the same here.”
During the summer of 2016, the Trump campaign floated Flynn, a lifelong Democrat, as a Vice-Presidential candidate. After the Republican Convention, Flynn became a regular presence at Trump campaign events, sometimes accompanied by his older son, Michael, Jr. Flynn had been absent for long stretches of Michael, Jr.,’s, teen-age years and early adulthood—he reportedly missed his wedding while deployed in Iraq. Flynn made Michael, Jr., his chief of staff.

In part through his son, Flynn began flirting with an online community of conspiracy theorists and white nationalists who referred to themselves as the “alt-right.” The neo-Nazis among them called Trump the “God Emperor.” On Twitter, Flynn frequently tagged Mike Cernovich, an alt-right activist, in tweets, and encouraged others to follow his feed. Michael, Jr., promoted stories from Alex Jones, the right-wing radio host who believes that the 9/11 attacks, and the 2012 school shooting in Sandy Hook, were inside jobs. A little more than a year ago, Michael, Jr., tweeted @billclinton, “You’re a Rapist.”

Flynn’s own views seemed to be tilting increasingly toward the fringe. He, as Trump has, publicly insinuated that Obama was a secret Muslim, and not a true American. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s Islamic,” Flynn said of Obama, during remarks last year before the American Congress for Truth, an anti-Muslim group. But Obama “didn’t grow up an American kid,” Flynn said, adding that the President’s values were “totally different than mine.”

Flynn also stoked fear about Muslims and, in a tweet that used the hashtag #NeverHillary, shared an anti-Semitic comment that read, in part, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” (He subsequently deleted the tweet, calling it “a mistake.”) “I’m not perfect. I’m not a very good social-media person,” he told me in one of our conversations. Stanley McChrystal and Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, both contacted Flynn and tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to tone it down.

Flynn predicted a Trump win, but he was making contingency plans. He began reorienting his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, so that it would be able to compete for lobbying clients after the election. The firm arranged to work with Sphere Consulting, a public-relations and lobbying business in Washington.

In August of last year, a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hired Flynn Intel Group on a lobbying contract to help promote the view that Turkey’s business climate was a positive one. This was a challenging task, given that Erdoğan had survived a coup attempt just the month before, and was, in retaliation, rounding up anyone considered insufficiently faithful to his regime. Flynn had previously been critical of Erdoğan, whom he viewed as an Islamist threat. He put those concerns aside now as he vouched for Erdoğan’s government, writing an op-ed for The Hill that heralded Turkey as “our strongest ally” against ISIS.

Flynn remembered Election Night fondly, a moment of triumph. “I like to think that I helped get Donald Trump elected President,” he told me. “Maybe I helped a little, maybe a lot.” One of Trump’s first major decisions was to appoint Flynn his national-security adviser, calling him “an invaluable asset to me and my Administration.” Flynn told me, “Service was something our family was always encouraged to do.” He went on, “I made some mistakes, but I’m still serving. It’s like being a priest, you know. I’ve been called to serve.”

After the election, Flynn spent his days at Trump Tower, down the hall from Bannon and Reince Priebus. “My sched is so tight, literally from sunrise to well past sunset,” Flynn wrote me, in a text message. He was “consumed with reading.”

The team he assembled drew heavily from his former military colleagues, but the qualifications of others were less apparent. K. T. McFarland, until recently a Fox News analyst, became his deputy. Flynn’s son, Michael, Jr., did a brief stint on the transition, before he was dismissed, after continuing to push on Twitter the fake-news story about Hillary Clinton’s role in a child-sex-trafficking ring in a pizzeria in northwest Washington, D.C.

Michael Ledeen volunteered to help Flynn by examining Obama’s executive orders on foreign policy, particularly on Iran, recommending “which ones should be cancelled, which ones should be expanded, and so on.” Ledeen considered the moment an auspicious one. “I’ve been agitating for thirty years to go after Iran,” he said. “Now all of a sudden we’ve got a national-security adviser, a Secretary of Defense, and the head of the C.I.A. who all agree.”

Like Trump, Flynn stewed over what was said, and written, about him. Much of it was unfavorable. A scathing Times editorial called his appointment “alarming,” saying that he “would encourage Mr. Trump’s worst impulses.” The editorial went on, “A core theme of Mr. Trump’s campaign was making America safer. With this appointment, he is doing the opposite.”

When we met at the restaurant before the Inauguration, Flynn was guarded. “What’s the purpose of this thing?” he asked me. He had previously questioned whether I would “rehash all this stuff about me being anti-Semitic and pro-Russia and an Islamophobe.”

Flynn told me he prided himself as a strategist. I asked about his strategy for combatting ISIS. He said that Obama had “too narrowly defined” efforts to defeat the enemy. Part of the Trump 

Administration’s military strategy should include “fighting these guys on the battlefield,” he told me.
Although Bannon’s clout seemingly grew by the day, Flynn’s imprint on national-security policy was unmistakable. Traditionally, the measure of a national-security adviser’s effectiveness has been defined by his relationship with the President. That may well have enabled Flynn to hold on to his job as long as he did; Trump’s loyalty is well known. (When I asked Flynn if he regarded himself as the “honest broker,” he said that model was a “misnomer” with Trump. “The honest broker? It’s Donald Trump.”)

Nine days into the new Administration, Iran test-fired a ballistic missile from a remote base in the desert. Flynn regarded the test as a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, covering the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. (In fact, the resolution does not prohibit Iran from firing missiles but, rather, calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”)

Flynn’s team drafted a strongly worded warning that criticized the Obama Administration for “fail[ing] to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions.” The White House sent a draft to the Pentagon for review. According to a senior military official, staffers in the Defense Secretary’s office recommended softening some of the language and removing the condemnations of the Obama Administration. Their suggestions were ignored.

Three days after the missile test, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, interrupted his daily briefing and invited Flynn to the lectern. The Times had just published a story describing Flynn’s influence as waning, and he seemed intent on proving otherwise. Trump had encouraged him to read the statement himself, Flynn later told me. The President “felt a strong message needed to be put out,” he said, as if he could dispel rumors of White House turmoil by threatening war overseas.

Flynn scolded Iran for its “destabilizing behavior across the entire Middle East” and declared, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” I spoke to Flynn a few days later. I asked him what he meant by “on notice.” He replied, “We have a standard, set by sanctions that have been put in place, that we expect they will meet.” I asked if he thought there were ways to modify Iran’s behavior short of regime change.

“You’ll have to ask Khomeini,” he said. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the cleric who led the Islamic Revolution, died in 1989. Did Flynn mean Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has led the country since then?

“Come on,” Flynn said. “That’s my Irish brogue.” He declined to specify how Iran might be punished, because he didn’t want to “telegraph” military action. “One thing I learned as a lieutenant in the Army is that the best plan is the one that gives you the most options at the last possible minute,” he said.

Military officials have been drawing up retaliatory options, including warplanes, drones, troops, and cyberattacks. “Planning is trying to keep up with the rhetoric,” one senior defense official told me.

The end for Flynn came rather abruptly. He had spent the weekend with the President and the Prime Minister of Japan at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where they had used a table in an open dining area as an impromptu—and unsecured—situation room after a ballistic missile test by North Korea. But, back in Washington on Monday afternoon, there was confusion about Flynn’s standing. During a television interview, Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser, said that Flynn enjoyed Trump’s “full confidence.” Then, within the hour, Spicer said that Trump was “evaluating the situation.” Flynn went about his duties as usual that afternoon, participating in foreign-policy discussions in the Oval Office, an Administration official told me.

But, that evening, another Post article appeared online, this time about the Justice Department’s blackmail fears. Soon afterward, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. The news broke just before eleven.

Since the election, Flynn had been “read in” to dozens of “special access programs,” the country’s most highly classified intelligence operations. By protocol, he would have spent his final moments in the White House being “read out” of each program, a process that involves signing multiple confidentiality forms. At around 11:30 p.m., he walked out of the White House and called his wife.
At that hour, the roads were empty and Flynn drove, alone, to his home, in Old Town Alexandria. He barely slept that night. On Tuesday, a government representative came to his home to collect his phones, badges, and keys. He spent the next few days with his wife, taking long walks, “reflecting and capturing his thoughts,” the close associate told me. As Washington, just across the Potomac River, convulsed, Flynn was going through his own “range of emotional swings,” the associate said.
Last Wednesday, at a midday press conference, Trump, who Spicer said earlier had lost trust in Flynn, now praised him (“a fine person”), blamed the media for his ouster (“The press should be ashamed of themselves”), and attributed Flynn’s resignation not to potentially criminal contacts with the Russian Ambassador but to “illegal” leaks.

There were reports of investigations on an array of fronts: an F.B.I.-led inquiry into Flynn’s communications with the Russian Ambassador; an Army-led one into payments that Flynn might have received from the Russian government when he went to Moscow in 2015; and calls for probes from members of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Flynn has been consulting with a lawyer. It is illegal for unauthorized private citizens to conduct diplomacy with foreign governments, but such a violation would be difficult to prosecute. When, soon after Flynn became national-security adviser, F.B.I. agents questioned him, he denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak, the Post reported. If he lied to the F.B.I., he could be vulnerable to felony charges.

Russian officials deny any improper contact with Flynn or anyone else in Trump’s circle. The predominant view in the state media and among Russian analysts is that the Flynn affair, coupled with the American intelligence report on the hack of the Democratic National Committee, is likely to limit Trump’s ability to make some of the major changes in U.S.-Russia policy that he was hinting at throughout the campaign.

Last week, Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, requested a briefing from the director of national intelligence on Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials, including unredacted transcripts of conversations. Schiff expressed concern to me about evidence preservation; the Administration had already shown its capacity for deceit. After all, he said, Trump had known “for weeks” that Flynn was lying. “The fact that they were O.K. with that tells you a lot about their comfort level misleading the public.”

A former C.I.A. official raised similar concerns about how long Flynn was allowed to stay in his job. “We’ve now got a guy briefed on our most closely guarded secrets about a whole host of issues—including Russia—who has been canned,” the official said. “We don’t have something from the movies where you can put an eraser on someone’s head and it all goes away. We’ve got to rely on Mike Flynn to keep those secrets, just as we rely on others who’ve been given access to classified information when they leave those positions.”

White House officials portrayed Flynn as having had his conversations with the Russian Ambassador on his own. But Schiff and others are doubtful. Schiff said he thought that it would be “extraordinary” if Flynn was “some kind of free agent, entering into discussions with the Russians about undermining President Obama’s sanctions against Russia for its interference in our elections to help elect Donald Trump.” (During a news conference last Thursday, Trump said that Flynn had done nothing wrong in his discussions with the Russian envoy. “I didn’t direct him,” Trump said, “but I would have directed him if he didn’t do it.”)

Some of Flynn’s former military colleagues, even those from whom he’s drifted apart in recent years, told me they were skeptical that Flynn would have conducted shadow diplomacy on his own. Despite his reputation as an agitator, he was, in the end, a soldier who followed orders, they said.
“This story is bigger than Mike Flynn,” the senior military intelligence official said. “Who told Mike to go do this? I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.” 


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