In the wake of the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Adviser, two Duquesne University faculty experts offer insight on what it all means.
They break it down this way:
Andrew Simpson, assistant professor of history:
- This shows that there are unclear lines of communication and authority in the administration as it is forming. This is not new, but the sudden resignation of a national security advisor less than a month in is new.
- It shows continued issues with vetting that have delayed the cabinet nomination process
- The situation may help to heal rifts with the intelligence community
- It continues to raise more questions about the relationship between key figures of Trump’s campaign and administration and Russia.
John Hanley, assistant professor of political science:
Dr. Hanley's research interests include American political institutions, public opinion, and immigration. He teaches courses on state and local politics, research methods, and constitutional law, as well as the intro class in American politics. In particular, he is interested in how institutions interact with one another and the public, and has produced three publications looking at how the Supreme Court affects and may be affected by public opinion. His present research examines congressional investigations of the executive branch and other governmental and non-governmental institutions.
- We don't know yet how bad the Flynn-Russia connections were. The New York Times article suggested that the discussions about sanctions were ambiguous, so it's not a given that this is a scandal that will bring down Trump's presidency. Obviously, it's embarrassing, not least because Flynn was leading chants of "Lock Her Up" at the Convention, and because Trump picked him from Obama's reject pile, where--we now know--he clearly deserved to be. There wasn't much of a honeymoon for Trump, but now it's clearly over.
- For the Trump administration, losing a national security adviser this early isn't terribly surprising. Keep in mind that he finished the election on his third campaign manager. Flynn is partly the symptom of a chaotic White House that makes a lot of unforced errors and appears also to be cultivating a reputation for dishonesty and rule-breaking. Many Republicans who put a high premium on honesty, lawfulness, and character are avoiding them, and the strain is starting to show. Below the cabinet and senior advisor levels, they are having real problems staffing the administration. I think we'll have to see at some point in the next few months a "hard reboot" of the administration, with a highly respected senior Republican brought in as Chief of Staff to signal a change and ensure order.
- Running against this, from a public opinion standpoint, Trump is not as constrained as we're used to seeing elected officials. He wasn't supposed to win, and yet he did. Not confirming Merrick Garland was supposed to be a mistake by the Senate Republicans, and yet the gamble paid off. Therefore, their instinct is going to be to hunker down and keep the faith. In that sense, this presidency doesn't operate under the normal rules. We're used to a pattern in which politicians are hit by a scandal like this and they fall apart somewhat quickly. A few times we've seen something come up with Trump and it's hard to see how he's going to survive the week. That he's managed to do it is disheartening to his opponents and builds support among his core supporters.
- Republicans in Congress face some very difficult choices. If Trump's popularity continues to recede, it's going to become more important that they credibly appear as an effective check on him. Otherwise it's likely to be a difficult 2017. But once you start issuing subpoenas and voting against him, you're inflicting real damage and hurting cooperation on legislation. They're inextricably linked to Trump, and so they need a restart too.
- The big problem is, we have a psychological presidency, not the political one we're used to. You're going to have to convince Trump to give up Twitter, be in charge, and have Kelly Anne Conway and others fighting for him on television. And even if he agrees to it soon, he might rebel down the line. Republicans worried about this before, but convinced themselves for a time that it might not be that bad. Now they're in for four years of worry.
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