WASHINGTON – At least three people must have celebrated the news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversation with a Russian ambassador.
First to pop a champagne cork was surely Matt Lauer, whose Icarus imitation put to shame all others recently accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Accused of dropping his drawers and locking unsuspecting women in his office with a remote control button under his desk, America’s boy-next-door suddenly vanished from the airwaves, suffering what must have been an excruciating few days of humiliating ruin.
For two decades, Lauer had managed to present himself as a non-threatening, essentially neutered male presence on NBC’s “Today,” nabbing consequential interviews and taking home around $28 million a year in exchange for never being controversial. All that bottled up bad-to-the-bone-ness must have driven him to over-compensate by using his status to seduce and control at least some of the women around him.
It appears that if the viewing audience would be denied access to his inner toro, then his female minions would at least cow to his sexual fantasies. Acting out doesn’t come much plainer.
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Thus, it was a source of some vicarious relief when Flynn hijacked the news cycle Friday, giving Lauer – and, presumably, all concerned – a respite from the nightmare that wasn’t just a bad dream, after all.
For different reasons, another person who might have had reason to skip along Fifth Avenue, pausing now and then for a Stoli shot and a surprisingly well-executed pirouette, is Hillary Clinton. What irony, what glee, what perfect justice for the man who led delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention in chanting, “Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up!” No stranger to schadenfreude herself, Clinton must be enjoying an extra helping of sweet revenge with her just deserts.
Indeed, as Flynn left the federal courthouse where he entered his plea, protesters could be heard calling, “Lock him up, lock him up.”
Flynn’s plea means he traded felony jail time for his cooperation in helping special investigator Robert Mueller’s team as it continues its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Which brings us to a third individual who must have at least allowed himself a smirk if not a smile: James Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director, specifically because of his Russia investigation, by the president’s own words. Especially memorable from those first few weeks of Trump’s occupation of the White House was his February 14 meeting with Comey, during which he asked the director to consider “letting Flynn go.”
Comey subsequently testified during a congressional hearing that he interpreted those words to mean that the president was pressuring him to, well, let Flynn go. It seemed obvious then – and is explicitly clear now – that the president was pressuring the head of the FBI to end his investigation of the national security adviser – or else. The “else” came soon thereafter.
A relatively alert 4-year-old would have been able to deduce Trump’s meaning, even as congressional Republicans try to see other reasons for his private conversation with the FBI director. Do they really think that Trump was merely concerned that Flynn – a former general known for disruptive behavior – couldn’t handle the heat?
Of course Trump was worried about what Flynn might divulge under pressure from investigators. About whom? About what? Apparently, we and Trump are about to find out.
The questions raised by Flynn’s guilty plea are titillating as well as disturbing: What else was Trump worried about? What was the content of Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador that made him feel it was necessary to lie?
If Trump was worried 10 months ago – and we haven’t even mentioned his own alleged sexual misconduct – by now he must be wishing he had lost the election, as he had expected. With a 60 percent disapproval rating, a majority of Americans apparently agree with him.