What Trump Should Do After Russia Allegations Rock Security Council

“The Trump White House has a chance here to right the ship – pick a better person for the role, reorganize their national security system and get a fresh start. And they really need to do that urgently.”

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 16, 2017 8:46 am

President Donald Trump’s aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence in the year before the election, according to the New York Times, citing four current and former American officials. These officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials and included other associates of Trump.

This is not, however, the same communication that ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had with Russian officials during the transition. Both reports have thrown the Trump White House into a full-blown crisis, the Washington Post says. It’s causing a significant breach in relations between Trump and the Republican Congress.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell now says it is highly likely that the events leading to Flynn’s departure would be added to a larger investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

But Trump tweeted that the report from the Times is nonsense.

William Inboden is the director of the Clements Center for National Security at the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin. He served as senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council at the White House.

The Council is the president’s main body of national security advisors. The first team includes cabinet secretaries and agency heads like the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the CIA director. The second team is made up of a body of staff who are permanently housed at the White House there to serve the president.

Inboden says the news coming out of Washington is troubling, but we don’t know the full story yet. He says he’s concerned about the inappropriate contact between the Trump administration and the Russians.

He has another area of concern as well:

“The much larger picture of the very troubled state of U.S.-Russian relations over the last eight years and Russia’s efforts to take advantage of America.”

Republican lawmakers have said the real problem is that the information is being leaked.

It is a problem, Inboden says, but it’s not unusual.

“It’s a continual problem in Washington,” he says. “Washington is a city that feeds on leaks. That’s the regular diet there. That is something that afflicts every administration. It doesn’t make it okay, but it’s nothing unusual.”

Inboden says it’s unprecedented to have a national security advisor fired less than a month on the job.

“Flynn has now set a new record for the shortest tenure there,” he says. “But to give it a little bit of historical perspective, other administrations have gotten off to a rocky start with a poor choice of national security advisor and recovered.”

It’s time now to correct the mistake, Inboden says.

“The Trump White House has a chance here to right the ship – pick a better person for the role, reorganize their national security system and get a fresh start. And they really need to do that urgently,” he says.”It’s going to be very hard but not impossible.

“President Trump came into office probably as the least prepared person to hold the presidency in American history and we’re seeing evidence of that very steep learning curve here. But he’s got to ask himself how serious he’s going to be about doing the job well and is he willing to make the tough calls to reorganize his White House, put the right people in place and be an effective president.”

Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.