This is one of those stories that’ll be dismissed as “FAKE NEWS!” and then, if Trump actually does re-appoint Flynn to something, the spin will change instantly to “Awesome! Trump’s showing the media that they can’t control him.”
I think it’s probably fake news. Probably.
Several sources close to Flynn and to the administration tell The Daily Beast that Trump has expressed his hopes that a resolution of the FBI’s investigation in Flynn’s favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity—a scenario some of Trump’s closest advisers in and outside the West Wing have assured him absolutely should not happen…
“Trump feels really, really, really, bad about firing him, and he genuinely thinks if the investigation is over Flynn can come back,” said one White House official.
One former FBI official and a second government official said Trump thought he owed Flynn for how things ended up and was determined to clear Flynn’s name and bring him back to the White House.
That’s three different sources for the claim that Trump wants Flynn back in some capacity. I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else but there’s lots of stuff out there about Trump’s misgivings over Flynn’s firing. I linked some of it in this morning’s post. Trump has repeatedly called Flynn a good man when asked about him over the last few months, and if you believe the NYT story from a few days ago, he intervened personally with Comey to ask the FBI to “go easy” on him. Just today we were told that Trump has been in contact with Flynn in the past month, encouraging him to “stay strong,” over the objections of his lawyers.
Given the personal respect and affection Trump obviously has for Flynn and his flair for the dramatic, I’m surprised he hasn’t pardoned him already. In which case why wouldn’t he want to try to bring him back to the White House once he’s finally in the clear? It may sound crazy to you and me to hand a key natsec role again to someone who’s been under federal investigation, served as a lobbyist for a foreign government while declining to register, trafficked in conspiracy theories, and notoriously had difficulties as a manager in the federal bureaucracy, but Trump likes to do things outside the box. It would annoy the media to no end, at least. And in the end, isn’t that what’s important?
Besides, Trump seems to be thinking of bringing back all sorts of old hands from the campaign. Why not Flynn too? He has a trust problem in the White House; the solution, it would seem, is to surround himself with people whom he deems trustworthy, like, uh, Corey Lewandowski and Mike Flynn.
Trump maybe possibly conceivably wanting to bring back Flynn isn’t the real news from this story, though. This is, especially since it’s sourced on the record:
“He did not want to be National Security Adviser,” Michael Ledeen, a friend of the retired Army general, told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “He didn’t want to be in the government. He wanted to go back to private life.”
“But Trump insisted on it,” said historian Ledeen, co-author of Flynn’s 2016 book The Field of Fight, their manifesto for defeating Islamic militancy. “He likes him, he trusted him, he was comfortable with him,” he said…
A third source with direct knowledge of Trump transition team discussions confirmed that Flynn did not want the National Security Adviser post, though he claimed Flynn was instead hoping for a position in the intelligence community, preferably Director of National Intelligence or the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Flynn had “foreign agent” issues and he was under federal investigation and he didn’t want to be NSA in the first place, and Trump knew all of this by early January and … still kept him in the job? Why didn’t they nudge him resign before the inauguration due to him having had a “change of heart” or whatever? The craziest part is, if not for the WaPo story in February exposing his phone call with the Russian ambassador, he might have hung on as NSA even longer. What would this guy have had to have done, how many people would have had to express discomfort with him, for Trump to decide that he wasn’t worth the trouble?
There’s another way to read this story, though. What if Trump isn’t such a heartfelt fan of Flynn but rather is behaving strategically in constantly praising him, telling him to stay strong, etc? He may have been spooked by the reports that circulated weeks ago that Flynn was seeking an immunity deal from prosecutors. The more derisive the White House is towards Flynn publicly, the more it risks angering and alienating him. This story about wanting to bring him back may be the capper on months of telling interviewers how “wonderful” Flynn is: Basically, the sources are dangling a job at him if he’s careful not to incriminate anyone at the White House during his legal troubles. Team Trump is doing what it can to stay on Flynn’s good side. By the same token, the details about Flynn not wanting to be NSA may be strategy from his own side to put pressure on Trump. “Don’t think you can pin all of your problems on him,” the message seems to be. “You knew about his legal issues and you begged him to be NSA anyway.” It may be a veiled warning that Flynn is prepared to accuse the White House of knowledge, if not complicity, in anything he’s charged with. Stay tuned.