Critics of President Trump may be gloating about the ouster of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, but Eli Lake at Bloomberg View thinks they're missing a much larger point. Flynn was brought down because the intelligence community leaked transcripts of his talks with the Russian ambassador. This is almost entirely unprecedented, writes Lake. "Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets," he notes, and the reason is clear: "Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do." Though Trump was mocked for his tweet saying that leaks were the real story in this mess, the president had a real point, writes Lake.
"In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism," writes Lake, but that's not the case here. Yes, Flynn's actions and possible links to Russia deserve an investigation, but that's not the point. He had made himself a target of Democrats with his anti-Clinton rhetoric during the campaign and with the intelligence community because of his fierce criticism, and he seems to have paid the price with what the headline of Lake's piece calls a "political assassination." (The Drudge Report was using that phrase in a banner headline.) At the Week, Damon Linker is on board: He calls Flynn's ouster "a soft coup" by bureaucrats in the intel community, and adds, "This isn't the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function." Read Lake's full piece here, and Linker's here.