Mike Flynn's resignation as national security adviser late Monday night wasn't the end of the story about the Trump administration's ties to Russia. It was just the latest chapter.
While Trump and his senior advisers hope that sacrificing Flynn at the altar of the Washington establishment will quiet many of the questions raised by the former National Security Agency chief's conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, it's very hard to see how that happens given all of the new reporting on the matter and how much we still don't know.
Let's start with this fact, first reported by The Washington Post just hours before Flynn stepped aside: The White House was informed a month ago by the Justice Department that Flynn could be ripe for blackmail by the Russian government. From our story:
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
This goes well beyond whether Flynn misled the public — and the president and vice president — about whether he brought up economic sanctions in his conversations with Kisylak. Knowing that Flynn, the national security adviser, was potentially vulnerable to blackmail from a foreign government, why didn't the Trump administration act far sooner to either sideline Flynn until more questions could be answered or get rid of him entirely? And why was Trump seemingly willing to wait out the public disapproval of Flynn right up until Flynn stepped aside Monday night?
Flynn's stated reason for stepping aside — expressed in a letter sent to reporters Monday night — was that he had unintentionally misled the president and the vice president about the nature of his chats with Kisylak. But that's small potatoes when compared with an official warning from the Justice Department that Flynn might be compromised by Russia.
That warning begs another question: What else did Flynn discuss with Kisylak? Was there more than just sanctions, which Flynn spent weeks denying ever came up, on the agenda in these calls and conversations? And, if so, what was it? And did he bring the sanctions up on his own? Or was he prompted to do so by someone above his pay grade? If so, by whom?
Remember, too, that there are (at least) two ongoing investigations into U.S. government officials' contact with the Russians: One by the FBI and one by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who sits on that committee, told The Post's Kelsey Snell Monday that the investigation will include Flynn's contacts with Kisylak and “anything else that involves the Russians.” Added Rubio: “We are going to go wherever the truth leads us.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) released a statement Tuesday morning insisting that Flynn's resignation “raises further questions about the Trump administration's intentions toward Vladimir Putin's Russia.”
And Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is proposing a select committee be formed to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
Put simply: Flynn's resignation solves a problem for Trump. But it doesn't solve all the problems related to Russia for him or his administration. Not even close.