As Republicans and Democrats alike press for an intensive investigation into ties between the Russian government and the nascent Trump administration, concern about the ability of the White House to manage a national security crisis has apparently spread into the highest ranks of the U.S. military.
On Tuesday morning, speaking a conference on special operations and low intensity conflict near Washington, a prominent four-star general suggested that the chaos in the White House, which saw the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn late Monday night, could bleed into the military’s readiness.
General Raymond A. Thomas, who leads the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, told his audience, “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil,” The New York Times reported. “I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.” He said that his command has remained “focused” on its mission. However, he also told the Times, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”
The announcement that Flynn had resigned came just hours after a top White House adviser said the retired Army general still enjoyed the “full confidence” of the president. It also followed the revelation, by The Washington Post, that the Department of Justice warned the White House weeks ago that Flynn appeared to have had illicit contact with Russian officials and might be susceptible to blackmail.
Despite the warning from DOJ, Flynn was allowed to continue receiving briefings on the nation’s most sensitive secrets. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed Flynn’s continued participation in intelligence matters in an interview on ABC Tuesday morning.
The revelation that Flynn was allowed to remain in the White House Situation Room has infuriated critics of the Trump administration, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“General Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “As our nation confronts the most complex and diverse array of global challenges since the end of World War II, it is imperative that the President select a new national security adviser who is empowered by clear lines of authority and responsibility and possesses the skills and experience necessary to organize the national security system across our government.”
He added, “General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections.”
Other senior senators, including the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, have called for an investigation into Flynn.
Speaking on a radio program, Senate Intelligence Committee member Roy Blunt said that he believes an investigation is necessary and the Flynn ought to be called to testify before Congress.
“I think everybody needs that investigation to happen,” he said. “And the Senate Intelligence Committee, again that I serve on, has been given the principle responsibility to look into this, and I think that we should look into it exhaustively so that at the end of this process, nobody wonders whether there was a stone left unturned, and shouldn’t reach conclusions before you have the information that you need to have to make those conclusions.”
Democrats joined in, with top party leaders also calling for immediate investigations into any White House-Russia connections and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee telling colleagues in a closed-door meeting that more revelations about Flynn’s connections to Russia are likely to come out in the next few days.
However, Republicans continue to command all the levers of real power in Washington, and those in place to mount a serious investigation of the Trump administration were notably reluctant to do so on Tuesday morning.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, of California, told CNN on Tuesday that he would not be investigating the White House’s connections to Russia, suggesting that the president could be protected by executive privilege.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Tuesday morning that he had not made up his mind about calling on Flynn to appear before his panel.
House Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, said Tuesday morning that he saw no need to investigate Flynn, saying “I think that situation has taken care of itself.”