Commentary: Flynn and the force Trump can’t resist

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – This is how a dam crumbles.

A crack widens to a hole, which then becomes a break and then the accumulating pressure brings the whole thing down.

John Krull, publisher,

This seems to be what’s happening within President Donald Trump’s White House now.

The steady, unrelenting pressure brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the ties of the Trump campaign and administration ties with Russia already has produced several cracks – the Paul Manafort indictment, the George Papadopoulos plea bargain – in the president’s stonewall.

But the negotiated guilty plea of lying to the FBI by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn means at least one crack has widened into a hole and maybe even a break.

Flynn was in serious trouble. Mueller had many avenues to prosecute Flynn, several of which could have led to serious prison time for both Flynn and his family. The plea bargain on the smallest of the charges facing Flynn in exchange for cooperating with the special counsel means Flynn likely won’t spend any time behind bars and his family will be left alone.

The only way Flynn could have wiggled out from under that weight was by trading something – something big.

About the only thing he had to offer that Mueller might want is the president himself.

Perhaps this explains the president’s erratic behavior since word first broke that Flynn’s defense team had stopped cooperating with the White House’s lawyers.

Trump’s attorneys have done their best to minimize the impact of that development. After months of praising and defending Flynn, they have pivoted and said the guilty plea for lying demonstrates he can’t be trusted – an obvious attempt to try to discredit damaging testimony from the man before he even delivers it.

That is what lawyers are supposed to do. They’re supposed to protect their client.

What they cannot do is protect Trump from himself.

The news that Flynn had flipped seemed to unhinge the president.

Since it first broke, he’s waded, unnecessarily, into the quagmire enveloping former NBC “Today” host Matt Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct – and thus renewed calls that the accusations Trump has harassed and assaulted women be investigated. He’s suggested that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape isn’t real – even though he acknowledged it and apologized for it just a year ago. And he has tried to raise again the thoroughly discredited claim that former President Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen.

If all that weren’t enough, he also has gone out of his way to undercut and embarrass his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, while the United States attempts to deal with a potential nuclear threat in North Korea.

The president’s actions are those of a man who is unbalanced.

Or desperate.

This president’s pattern when he is under assault or stress is unvarying. He tries to find a way to go on the counter-attack, either by demeaning or discrediting his opponents or critics. If he can’t do that, Trump creates one diversion or conjures up one smoke screen after another to distract people from what’s going on.

He does this because it is the only way he knows to meet a challenge.

But it isn’t likely to work in this situation.

Robert Mueller is everything Donald Trump is not – disciplined rather than impulsive, self-contained instead of needy, and determined rather than self-pitying.

Some months ago, I talked with Peter Rusthoven, former associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan, a onetime Republican U.S. Senate candidate and a veteran of some savage Washington wars.

Rusthoven said the intelligence and the investigatory communities in the federal government were the two forces that savvy political figures never wanted to alienate – and that Trump had angered them both. Rusthoven predicted the president would learn this lesson to his regret, because both communities moved like powerful rivers, always forward, with a drive that just never lets up.

That’s another way of saying that the dam protecting the president is under immense pressure and about to crumble.

That’s when Donald Trump’s real education will begin.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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One Response to Commentary: Flynn and the force Trump can’t resist

  1. John, my wife and I are long time regular subscribers to your Statehuse file and enjoy reading them every day . Thank you, the teaching staff and the students for all the great work you all do to hoel inform and make our demoiracy work better each day-sadly with big set backs all too often . But that is what history tells us of setbacks and of steps forward over time. But human endeavor is about always picking ipiur selves up and pushing forward as best we can toward , just as our predisessor have toward a more perfect union .

    One of these push forward efforts may be the national movement for the popular election of our President – winner take all >
    Below is an e-mail I am sending to my Sate senator Walker asking for his comments.

    I will be happy to share with you what feed back i get from him.

    Meanwhile perhaps you may find this topic of interest an a future column with your readers 0including my wife and I .
    FYI- We will be having dinner tomorrw with former Sen Bob and Barbara Garton and I will be aking Bb for his perspectives as well- Bob and Barbra often speak fondly of you and your ideas as well.

    Indiana , Franklic College, journalism students, and your readers – we are are all fmost ortunate to have the opportunity to raad your ideas about wht we do nd how we can improve our working together to accomplish more for more citizens in a farier and more just way. toward a more perfect union- the great American Dream .


    My Dec 3. 2017 e-mail to : Indiana
    Senator Greg Walker,

    I will welcome hearing your thinking on why this pending national popular vote proposal for electing our US President does not follow the same voting logic as we have for our Indiana Governor. and all other state, county , and national office holders -each voter , one vote ? and in the case of the electoral college have the same proportional vote results count

    Is there a reason why this legislation has gone no where in Indiana , but has passed in 11 other states ?

    Thank you for your time and consideration in helping me better understand this national election process and why it remains different for the US President today .

    Don Harvey
    Registered Republican voter
    315-19th Street
    Columbus, IN 47201

    “Agreement among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote”

    September 24, 2017

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

    The bill is law in 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes, including small states (RI, VT, HI, DC), medium-sized states (MD, MA, WA), and large states (NJ, IL, NY, CA). The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes. The bill has passed at least one chamber in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes. The bill was recently approved by a bipartisan 40-16 vote in the Arizona House, 28-18 in the Oklahoma Senate, and unanimously by legislative committees in Georgia and Missouri. A total of 2,794 state legislators have endorsed it.

    The shortcomings of the current system stem from state winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state).

    Because of winner-take-all, presidential candidates have no reason to solicit votes in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. The 12 closely divided “battleground” states within 3% of the national outcome received 100% of the general-election campaign events in 2012 (shaded on map below). Obama and Romney campaigned together in only 8 states. Two-thirds of the events (176 of 253) were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Meanwhile, 38 states were totally ignored.

    Battleground states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants, twice as many disaster declarations, and numerous favorable actions from Presidents, as detailed in Presidential Pork (Hudak 2014), Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter (Hecht and Schultz 2015), Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President (Morrissey 2016), The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign (Doherty 2011), and The Particularistic President (Kriner and Reeves 2015).

    State winner-take-all statutes have allowed candidates to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of our nation’s 57 presidential elections—1 in 14 times. A shift of 214,393 votes in 2012 would have elected Mitt Romney despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of almost 5,000,000 votes.

    The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” Winner-take-all was not debated at the Constitutional Convention or mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not used by a majority of the states until the 11th presidential election (1828).

    The National Popular Vote interstate compact will go into effect after it is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, when the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC) will receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states.

    The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.

    Supporters include former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), Birch Bayh (D–IN), and David Durenberger (R–MN); former Cong. John Anderson (R–IL, I), John Buchanan (R–AL), Tom Campbell (R–CA), Tom Downey (D–NY), Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Bob Barr (R-GA); former Governors Howard Dean (D–VT) and Jim Edgar (R–IL); and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA).

    For additional information, see our book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote (downloadable for free at