On the roster: Flynn’s stumbles an object lesson for Trump - Trump says just some ‘tweaking’ on Canada trade - Miller takes hardline stance on presidential power - Audible: Thanks, pal - Rocket boys
FLYNN’S STUMBLES AN OBJECT LESSON FOR TRUMP
American presidents live in a world of secrecy, but they can have almost no real secrets themselves.
Presidents quickly learn that privacy is a thing of the past, and not just from the prying eyes of the press and public. They have to assume that every phone call, every meeting, every movement is heard and seen by someone.
Hostile spies are always watching – or at least trying to – and so are the intelligence and defense agencies that are trying to protect him. Almost all of it may stay secret from the general public, but the safe bet for world leaders including our own, is that someone is listening.
As President Trump sometimes awkwardly comes to terms with being the fish in the fishbowl, he gets to observe the case of his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
The main issue for Flynn is that he did not tell the truth about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. It would have been bad enough if Flynn had simply misled the press, but he also seems to have let the vice president step forward and repeat those untruths on his behalf.
Flynn, who has attributed the misstatements to poor memory and not any intent to deceive, has reportedly apologized to Pence and is doing his best to dig in against his internal foes.
The retired general’s perilous position is highlighted in a couple of different ways. We know of reports about tensions between Flynn and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Mattis has more pull inside the administration, arguably, than any other cabinet member and if he has issues with Flynn, that’s a big deal.
But more ominous for Flynn was the news over the weekend that the CIA director had nixed one of Flynn’s top deputies for failing to qualify for high-level security clearance. If Trump’s newly minted CIA boss, Mike Pompeo, feels obliged and willing to shut down the president’s closest national security adviser that’s a big deal.
Flynn or his allies seemed to make the case that the deputy got booted because of a turf war between the agencies and as retribution for Flynn’s efforts to reform U.S. intelligence.
Remember all of the drama at the time of the inauguration about Trump questioning U.S. intelligence and wondering if the Russians weren’t telling the truth and the CIA lying? That was probably Flynn’s voice coming through.
But to renew allegations of corruption against the CIA after Trump’s director is in charge is something different. It’s hard to imagine Trump would believe Pompeo is a crook so soon after selecting him and so soon after the president visited the agency to make peace.
Flynn’s ongoing drama with other agencies is just one piece of the puzzle here, though.
The biggest part is about Flynn’s ties to Russia. Had Flynn not told the truth about a call to with the ambassador from France or Burundi or even Iran, it would be far less damaging.
Flynn, who is seen by many in the national security community as too cozy with Putinist Russia and who in 2015 accepted an honorarium from the Kremlin propaganda network, was calling the Russian ambassador and discussing sanctions on Russia concerning interference in the 2016 campaign.
Flynn’s continued presence at such a high echelon makes for a daily reminder of an unhappy chapter. Democrats want to portray Trump as Putin’s “puppet,” so it hardly helps Trump to have his top national security adviser caught telling untruths about his communications with Russians.
Trump will presumably see or has already seen the transcript of Flynn’s calls and will make up his own mind about whether keeping Flynn’s counsel is worth the internal strife and external narrative.
But whatever Trump decides, he can learn one key lesson from Flynn: Somebody is always listening.
According to the initial reports, Flynn did not seem to understand that of course the United States eavesdrops on the Russian Embassy, both to try to gain intelligence but also to try to identify Americas who may be trying to help the Kremlin. He held his conversations and then issued his flat denials apparently unaware that the audio existed somewhere in the maze of the national security apparatus.
If Flynn ends up being a bust it will be in part because either he experienced a rather remarkable lapse in memory or that he, the former head of military intelligence, didn’t remember that the U.S. bugged the Russian embassy.
Conquering Roman generals on their triumphal marches through the Eternal City were shadowed by a slave who repeated to them “Respice post te. Hominem te memento,” meaning, “Look to the time after your death. Remember that you are human.”
Fulfilling the role of momento mori for American presidents, who are carried in triumphal parades of black limousines and saluting troops wherever they go, is the man with the nuclear “football,” a case containing the launch codes and detailed plans for deploying the U.S. atomic arsenal.
That military aide to the president is always there, just on the other side of the door, always within reach, whenever the president is away from the White House. A president may be heading out for a round of golf or dinner with his wife, but the reminder is always there: Life as we know it could be permanently extinguished in a matter of minutes.
When Trump this past weekend visited the Florida country club that serves as his winter home, the black satchel and its custodian were there. But that is just one part of the national security apparatus that constantly surrounds the commander in chief.
As Trump observes Flynn’s predicament, he can see a man who is suffering because he seemingly didn’t understand or remember how the world changes once you are inside.
THE RULEBOOK: OVERKILL
“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood;” ― Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 62
TIME OUT: REVOLUTIONARY
History: “On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642…In 1992, the Vatican formally acknowledged its mistake in condemning Galileo.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
TRUMP SAYS JUST SOME ‘TWEAKING’ ON CANADA TRADE
Reuters: “President Donald Trump said on Monday the United States will be ‘tweaking’ its trade relationship with Canada, unlike its trade ties with Mexico where it faces a more severe situation. ‘We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We’ll be tweaking it,’ Trump said at a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House. ‘It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taking place on the southern border. On the southern border, for many, many years the transaction was not fair to the United States.’”
Friends in need… - Bloomberg: “U.S. liberals hoping for Trudeau to emerge as Trump’s foil shouldn’t hold their breath. He’s already bit his tongue and focused almost exclusively on an economic relationship that accounts for three-quarters of Canada’s exports. The White House visit will test just how far Trudeau can go to woo the president and preserve trade without selling out his core values…Nearly two-thirds of all Canadian trade is with the U.S., the highest ratio of Group of 20 nations and quadruple all but Mexico. Almost all of Canada’s oil goes to the U.S. and most of the country’s manufacturing is geared toward meeting U.S. demand.”
MILLER TAKES HARDLINE STANCE ON PRESIDENTIAL POWER
Chicago Tribune: “The White House is pursuing several options to reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban on all refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations, fighting back against what one top adviser on Sunday called ‘judicial usurpation of power.’ White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the author of the controversial executive order, said the administration was simultaneously weighing several legal options after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday against reinstating the travel ban, which had been blocked temporarily by a federal judge in Washington state… ‘I want to say something very clearly, and this is going to be very disappointing to the people protesting the president and the people in Congress, like (Senate Democratic Leader Charles E.) Schumer, who have attacked the president for his lawful and necessary action: The president’s powers here are beyond question,’ Miller said on Fox News.”
Says new exec order on immigration among options… - Fox News: “Miller, an immigration hawk, told ‘Fox News Sunday’ that new executive orders to protect Americans from ‘hostile’ intruders are under consideration, as are potential legal challenges.”
And doubles down on voter fraud - Time: “During a tense interview Sunday on ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Miller to provide evidence of voter fraud after Trump falsely alleged last week that he would have won New Hampshire during the election if ‘thousands of people hadn’t been bused in to illegally vote.’ ‘Anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics is aware of this,’ Miller said, who insisted that the White House has provided ‘enormous evidence’ of voter fraud, citing the ‘massive numbers of non-citizens in this country who are registered to vote.’”
Senate poised to approve Trump Treasury pick - AP
Dems turn sights on blocking Trump Labor nominee Puzder - The Hill
But… business groups ride to Puzder’s rescue - Politico
Hmmmm… Christie set for White House lunch with Trump - NJ.com
Kremlim hints at possible Trump-Putin meeting before July G20 Summit - Reuters
Overseas investors dump U.S. debt holdings in warning to Trump - Bloomberg
Trump plan to revive US steel industry faces high hurdles - Boston Globe
AUDIBLE: THANKS, PAL
“[O]n paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff – and Donald trusted him – but it’s pretty clear the guy is in way over his head.” – Trump friend Christopher Ruddy in an interview with WaPo attacking White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Ruddy would later walk back his comments.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Now there you go again, you / they aren’t giving us fair treatment. In the Friday edition of the Halftime Report, Does this airbag make me look fat? segment, it is stated "a 273-pound dummy, more than 100 pounds heavier than normal, as well as a prototype based on an overweight 70-year-old woman.” The male is equated to a “Dummy”. Is that the Sacramento Bee description or your’s?” – Will Gibbs, Mossyrock, Wash.
[Ed. note: You know, Mr. Gibbs, that truth is an absolute defense against charges of libel…]
“Love your podcast. In your latest Dana compared Trace Atkins to George Jones. I loved your reaction of an immediate ‘NO’. It’s great that there is someone near my age (46) who knows what real country music is. Keep up the good work.” – David Kimbler, Columbus, Ohio
[Ed. note: We just have to keep up the fight, Mr. Kimbler! And that’s not to say that there isn’t great hillbilly music being made today. Maybe more than ever. You just have to look past a lot of starched straw cowboy hats to find it…]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WSAZ: “Huntington [W. Va.] Police say they responded to a shots fired call on the 300 block of 5th Avenue just before 11 on Saturday morning. As one of the officers approached the scene near 3rd street, they stopped a man who was driving a white 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix. He told officers that several people were firing bottle rockets at his car. According to the criminal complaint, several officers then surrounded the house and started calling out everybody in the house with their weapons drawn. While that was happening, a bottle rocket was shot towards one of the officers, but nobody claimed to shoot at the officer. After the brief standoff, all five people in the house came out. Two of them told officers that they weren’t firing the bottle rockets and told the other three to stop several times. Lila Norris, Jennifer Blevins and Robert Schwieger were all arrested and charged with attempt to commit a felony. The man driving the car was also arrested and charged with second offense DUI, driving with a revoked license and obstructing an officer. All four were arraigned and will be held at Western Regional Jail.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.