December 29, 2016 was a busy day, and only in the last few days have we learned how much.
In the weeks before that, the administration of President Obama learned that high levels of Russia’s government (and likely Vladimir Putin) worked to sway the Presidential election toward Mr. Trump. In response President Obama ordered expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned several individuals. We expected Russia to retaliate.
Unknown to us at the time, Mr. Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn made a phone call to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was reported at the time that this was a “courtesy call” and the sanctions were never discussed. We’ve since learned that wasn’t true and that he spoke about sanctions.
Later that day Mr. Putin (after previously threatening), elected not to retaliate.
Then President Elect Trump tweeted that Mr. Putin was “very smart.”
When asked about the call between General Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak, Vice President Pence reported that it was a simple courtesy call and they did not discuss sanctions. General Flynn was fired this past week when it was reported that they did talk about the sanctions.
I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, the belief that “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”
In other words I find it most plausible that last December 29th Mr. Trump directed General Flynn to call Ambassador Kislyak and tell him not to worry about the sanctions as they would be rolled back after January 20th. General Flynn is an experienced Army officer and previously served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and certainly would have known not to make that call unless he was given a direct order.
I have no confidence that there will ever be a full investigation of this, but I find it telling that Mr. Trump had no problem throwing someone else under the bus to save his own reputation.