The political bombshell du jour is the defenestration of President Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pre-inauguration discussions with Russia's ambassador about sanctions — and subsequently lied about that fact. This implies a lot of troubling things about Russia's links with President Trump and his inner circle.
But there's another key part of this story: American intelligence officials are willing to use their powers to attack senior presidential aides. This is just as troubling as Flynn's and Trump's Russia ties, as my colleague Damon Linker ably explains.
Like Trump or not — and I don't like him! — he is the legitimate president of the United States. Civil servants should serve him, and their response to illegal or unethical orders should be to resign, not use the powers of their office to undermine him.
The Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo reports that the campaign against Flynn included Obama "loyalists" inside the government as well as former Obama staffers. That is startling and wrong. Donald Trump is the president. He must be treated as such.
This whole scandal raises a disturbing parallel, hit upon by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat: Mohammed Morsi, the former president of Egypt. Morsi won a democratic election, just as Trump did. Then his administration hit the shoals because it was sabotaged by the Egyptian "deep state" — the officials running the security services and other key ministries who make the government run. Under Morsi, the government mostly refused to function, making his administration a political disaster, until the moment when he was removed by a bloodless coup to a collective shrug from the same nation that ignited the Arab Spring.
That is not unlike what's happening with Trump now.
We need to clear the air. The links between President Trump, his inner circle, and Russia pose fantastically worrying problems for the constitutional health of the country. But so does what amounts to a self-arrogated right by intelligence officials to blackmail constitutionally legitimate officials whom they happen to intensely dislike.
Democrats want to use the issue of Trump and Russia as a partisan club. Meanwhile, most, though not all, Republicans have been asleep at the wheel and supporting Trump in the hopes of enacting a conservative agenda while they have unified control of government (or so they think, anyway).
We need an independent investigation, overseen by a bipartisan congressional committee, but led by public servants above reproach — say, a retired judge or prosecutor with respect from both parties. They must dig in to Trump's links with Russia. We've had a lot of tantalizing leaks and hints so far, but nobody has been able to come up with a smoking gun showing collusion between Trump and Putin. There's almost certainly something there, but we don't know what or why. And one reason is because everybody is shouting at each other.
We need a process. For this, it is mostly Republicans who need to grow a spine, and remember that the constitutional health of the nation is more important than replacing ObamaCare (and as a conservative, I believe dismantling ObamaCare is extremely important).
But it's not just Trump who needs investigating. We also need a new Church Committee — the Senate committee formed in the wake of a series of intelligence abuses in the 1970s that led to the creation of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The use of intelligence by intelligence officials for their own institutional purposes has gone beyond what is acceptable, and also needs to be aired out. A president undemocratically disemboweled by the deep state is only marginally less alarming, and less dangerous, an outcome than a Manchurian candidate in the White House.
In the meantime, alert public watchers should keep in mind both angles here, because both are terribly important. Don't let your partisan rancor blind you to one or the other.