In Donald Trump's Washington, it’s not the crime that gets you fired. It’s getting caught for it.
Once news broke Flynn had lied, Trump could only delay the inevitable. Flynn's resignation as national security adviser was not predetermined by the fact that the Department of Justice knew about his questionable ties to Russia, or his sometimes wacky approach to world affairs. But lying to the president, vice president and others is not something anyone can come back from politically — perhaps especially in the Trump White House.
Trump and his advisers like to believe laws of politics do not apply to his administration. The fact that his campaign grew more risky and unorthodox as Election Day neared is proof. Keeping his bosses in the dark about his contacts with Russia — and not revealing his actions when given the chance — was a political misstep Washington cannot forgive. Further, it may have been considered a sign of disloyalty, a quality Trump will not tolerate among his staff.
"That makes no sense." It doesn't seem the White House had talking points ready to handle the fallout from Flynn's resignation. Just watch this interview Matt Lauer did with Kellyanne Conway where she will not say whether Flynn would have resigned if this information had not gone public. Meanwhile, the president has been silent about Flynn on Twitter — except for criticism of leaks out of Washington. Trump and his surrogates have not criticized Flynn. Conway even said Flynn was in important meetings Monday, signaling he was a key part of the administration until yesterday evening. And instead of digging into possible ties between the White House and Russia, the Republican House wants to investigate who leaked information to the media that Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador.
This sends a clear message: This behavior will not be perceived well publicly — but the White House is otherwise OK with it. So don't let it go public.
But while Flynn's resignation signals a slight rebalancing of the laws of political gravity, the worldview Flynn helped Trump codify is far more important than one resignation. Trump has signaled he will be a friend to Russia, changed dynamics with European allies, begun work to build literal and figurative walls around the country, looked for opportunities to be more aggressive in the Middle East, inched toward a trade war with China and much more. Flynn supported the implementation of this approach before many others, supporting Trump on the campaign trail as most former military and national security leaders spoke ill of Trump. Flynn came into the Trump White House after retiring early from a top intelligence job in the Obama administration, reportedly because of a poor management style and disagreements with his superiors over the threat of Islamic terrorism. Flynn's return to government as a top presidential adviser was remarkable. And his push for a more aggressive and militaristic approach to foreign policy is sure to remain key for Trump, especially with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller around to push isolationism and nationalism.
A little more: A friendship with Russia is about more than Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands. Refusing to respond to Russian aggression in Europe could lead to the collapse of NATO and a global rise in military readiness. Jonathan Cristol of the World Policy Institute explains how to Mic.
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to the political newsletter that couldn't get through to the Russian ambassador. Want to receive this as a daily email in your inbox? Subscribe here.
• Today: Michael Flynn is out at the White House. But his mission to reshape America's role in the world is alive and well.
• More: Steven Mnuchin is the new treasury secretary. More on what that means below.
• Even more: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the White House on Monday. The three takeaways from his visit.
• Yes, more: The important Tuesday signing for a resolution you've never heard of. Looming trouble for Trump's labor nominee? More setbacks for the president's immigration ban.
• Trump's agenda today: A parent-teacher conference listening session. Lunch with Chris Christie. Meeting with secretaries John Kelly and Jeff Sessions.
What newly confirmed Steven Mnuchin will mean for the economy
Wall Street could not be happier. For all of Trump's talk of draining the swamp, the confirmation of Steven Mnuchin to lead the Department of the Treasury empowers bankers to regulate themselves. Mnuchin is an opponent of the federal government's current level of oversight over the U.S. financial industry. (Mnuchin's former employer, Goldman Sachs, had total assets in 2015 of $861 billion — which would rank the New York bank 17th among countries by GDP in 2016, slightly larger than Saudi Arabia.) Mnuchin profited from the housing crisis, making around $200 million for overhauling a failing California mortgage lender by foreclosing on 36,000 homes and allegations of discrimination against minorities.
During Mnuchin's confirmation hearing, Democrats grilled him for his role in running a "foreclosure machine." Mnuchin also came under fire for not disclosing ties to foreign investors. That theme continued Tuesday, with Sen. Chuck Schumer calling Mnuchin's appointment "a broken promise" by Trump to hold Wall Street accountable.
What Mnuchin will do first: Confirmed with the support of only one Democratic senator, Mnuchin is likely to feel little reason to compromise. And he will find company in Trump's administration with other former Goldman employees in top positions of power. (The net worth of Trump's Cabinet, once confirmed, is expected to be about $13 billion.) As Mnuchin was sworn-in, Trump said "our nation's financial system is truly in great hands."
Mnuchin will oversee an overhaul of U.S. tax policy. That will feature, Trump promises, a reduction of the tax rate on corporations from 35% to 15% and unspecified cuts to middle-income tax rates. As the country's top economic official, Mnuchin will help craft new trade deals — with a focus on protecting American manufacturers, Trump has also promised. And closely watched will be Mnuchin's efforts to roll back regulations Barack Obama's administration put in place to restrain large banks.
A brief hello from Justin Trudeau
In a meeting overshadowed by other news, Trump and Trudeau largely stuck to the expected script as they described the relationship between the United States and Canada. The top three takeaways:
1. For two politicians on opposite ends of the spectrum, the largely united front they presented was notable. Trump said America's trade with Canada was far fairer than with Mexico, while Trudeau reaffirmed his commitment to working closely with the United States. That relationship is key to the $2 billion in daily trade between the U.S. and Canada, an amount that could fluctuate depending on how Trump changes NAFTA. Only a few weeks ago, Trudeau was openly opposed to the immigration ban to the south by saying his country would welcome refugees — a policy he doubled down on during Monday's meeting in Washington, D.C.
There were a few tense moments. Trudeau declined to criticize Trump's controversial policies, saying, "The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves." Trump repeatedly called his stalled-in-court immigration ban "common sense" as Trudeau stood by.
2. Trump has developed a pattern noted (and loathed) by many in the media. In his last two press conferences with foreign leaders, Trump has taken four questions. All of them have been from media outlets seen as conservative or favorable to his point of view. That played out Monday when the two reporters who questioned Trump did not ask about his degree of confidence in Flynn, who had not yet resigned.
3. The meeting produced another must-see awkward handshake moment.
A chink in Trump's Cabinet plan
Ahead of Thursday's confirmation hearing for Andrew Puzder, four Republican senators are reportedly not ready to support Puzder's nomination. That stands in contrast to other confirmed Cabinet nominees, including controversial picks like Betsy DeVos, who did not face such a confirmation-killing level of skepticism before their hearing. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and big business groups have engaged in an intense lobbying effort to ensure Trump's labor secretary nominee does not lose his confirmation vote by a vote or two.
With his confirmation hearing delayed several times, Puzder was a controversial pick from the start. On Monday there were protests against Puzder in 24 cities, led by fast-food workers who fear his track record running Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Puzder, who is worth tens of millions of dollars, opposes minimum wage increases and rules that employees must be paid for overtime work. He has also faced allegations of domestic abuse and criticism over how his companies have portrayed women in advertising.
Democrats would love nothing more than to block Puzder's nomination. But so far, GOP unity around Trump's nominees has been largely resolute. Time will tell.
More confirmation news: Scott Pruitt, Trump's pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency, could come up for a vote on Tuesday. While the Oklahoma attorney general is expected to be confirmed, his nomination has drawn widespread criticism from groups worried he will allow greater pollution and worsen the effects of climate change.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• Trump is expected to sign a resolution on Tuesday you've probably never heard of. It rolls back a rule saying mining and drilling companies have to disclose payments to governments during the development of oil, natural gas or other fossil fuel extraction. It was a rule finalized by Obama's Securities and Exchange Commission.
• The web page describing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has disappeared from the Department of Education's website for "technical" reasons. IDEA was the same law Betsy DeVos, the new education secretary, struggled to explain during her confirmation hearing. (Mic)
• Telephone calls are not going to change the mind of your member of Congress. Visiting them, in-person, will make the most difference. (Mic)
• A fact that bears repeating: Immigrants do not increase crime rates. In fact, a new study says they may reduce crime. (Mic)
• Immigrant communities are fearful of raids targeting undocumented immigrants. Last week, 680 people were arrested. (Time) Keep in mind, that's fewer than the height of deportation actions under Obama, when up to 2,000 people were arrested in one week. (Associated Press) A key distinction: Those raids targeted convicted criminals or fugitives, while recent Trump-era raids have targeted people who are simply in the U.S. without documentation.
• Yet another judge has ruled against Trump's immigration ban, this time in Virginia. (Wall Street Journal) And in Seattle, the judge who issued a nationwide ban on the enforcement of Trump's order denied a federal government request to lift his stay until a federal appeals court is done considering the legality of the ban. (Politico)