The man who should have stopped the Flynn mess

These events represent extraordinary lapses by McGahn in the vetting Flynn for the National Security Advisor position. The White House Counsel “has special responsibility for legal and ethics compliance within the West Wing,” notes Barack Obama’s White House Counsel, Bob Bauer. “She may have to advise on a wide range of areas,” Bauer added, “but a bedrock responsibility is ensuring the adherence to law and ethics standards by the President and the staff.”

McGahn’s office thus would have been in charge of screening the incoming National Security Advisor for conflicts of interest and related ethics issues. It was incumbent on McGahn, who knew about Flynn’s foreign agent issue, to raise the issue with Flynn, to uncover all of the facts, and to counsel Flynn on whether and how he might resolve the issue before he assumed his very important White House post on January 20. McGahn failed in all of these duties.

The alarm bells should have gone off long before Trump became President, when McGahn—a senior transition advisor to the President-elect and soon to be named White House Counsel—learned about the foreign agent issue for the first time in early November. A wise attorney in that vital position would have immediately taken affirmative steps to determine how Flynn’s possible involvement with a foreign government might affect his role as an advisor to the President-elect during the 10-week transition period. Indeed, normal vetting processes should have made Flynn’s failure to disclose his possible relationship with the Turkish government during the months before the election, while serving in an advisory role to candidate Trump, as disqualifying for the position as National Security Advisor.