Even more than every other day of the Trump presidency, this is a day for vigilance.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, part of the inner circle of the Trump for President campaign in 2016 and the president’s national security adviser in the first weeks of the administration, is pleading guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI.
His conviction brings Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election into the White House and indeed the Oval Office. The lies Flynn is admitting to involve his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S, and sanctions imposed on Russia by former President Barack Obama.
The single, relatively light charge (five years in prison is the maximum sentence for lying to the FBI) suggests that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller and providing evidence to advance the investigation. If the president has anything to hide, Flynn almost certainly knows about it.
The question now is what will Trump do?
The president has been trying for months to get Flynn off the hook. In the spring, he fired FBI Director James Comey after Comey refused to give Flynn a pass. Will he now exercise his power to grant Flynn a pardon? Will he move to derail the investigation entirely by firing Mueller? Might he even do both?
Either move would be a challenge to Congress and the rule of law, a naked attempt to obstruct justice that would trigger serious calls for Trump’s impeachment.
That’s where all of us come in. Americans must make it clear – so clear that even the most Trump-friendly senators and congressmen understand – that the president cannot be permitted to put himself above the law.
Members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, have been worried for months that the president might try to fire Mueller. They’ve proposed, but not acted on, bills that would protect Mueller and keep the investigation going regardless of any presidential move to stop it.
This would be a good time to push that legislation to the front of the congressional calendar. It would be a good time for lawmakers in both parties to tell the president directly that moves to absolve Flynn or fire Mueller would constitute obstruction of justice – an impeachable offense.
Today's plea "is an encouraging sign that the investigation is continuing apace," said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. "The fact that he is not currently being charged with the rest of the laundry list of apparent violations that have come to light is a clear sign that he is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation."
She warned that the president "must not issue pardons or obstruct the work of Robert Mueller in any way. If the Administration undermines the investigation or begins issuing pardons Congress must act, and it must act decisively to protect our democracy. To do otherwise for reasons of political expediency or for any other reason would be to sell out the very bedrocks of our democracy and send us hurtling down the path to oligarchy."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections