- - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Michael Flynn is gone as the president’s official national security adviser, and now the important back story moves to the front. What is this curious episode really all about? Nothing is ever as it seems in Washington.

Mr. Flynn learned the hard way the ancient rule that so many high government officials learned before him, that a misdemeanor can become a felony when embraced by a lie — “it’s not the crime, but the cover-up.” When Mr. Flynn was accused of improper conversations with the Russian ambassador about what Russia could expect from the new president, Mr. Flynn assured Vice President Mike Pence that it wasn’t so. But it was, as he now concedes.

That’s bad enough, but more bad is coming. The Washington Free Beacon, a reliable internet news site, reports that the crucial back story is that Mr. Flynn’s abrupt resignation Monday night was “the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national-security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran.”

The Beacon quotes “multiple sources in and out of the [Trump] White House,” whom it does not name, who described a furtive, behind the scenes campaign of planting damaging stories about Mr. Flynn with some of the abundant correspondents who despise Mr. Trump. They’re eager to bring him down and if the national interest suffers, well, collateral damage is merely the grim reality of war.

The campaign is said to be led by Ben Rhodes, an adviser to Barack Obama when he was president and who, like the former president, is still in town to remain close to the action. The Iran nuclear deal, which was conducted in secret and whose details are still closely guarded by Mr. Obama and his friends, is regarded by the former president as the centerpiece of the “legacy” he continues to obsess over.

“They know that the number one target is Iran … [and] they all knew their sacred little agreement with Iran was going to go off the books,” a source told the Beacon. “So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.”

Mr. Flynn’s sin is great, in no small part because it cost the president a voice that was useful and needed, but the sins of his accusers are greater. President Trump has promised to reveal the carefully hidden particulars of the Iran nuclear agreement, and the time to do that may well be at hand.

“The drumbeat of leaks of sensitive material related to General Flynn has been building since he was named to his position,” a member of the National Security Council told the newspaper. “[Monday night’s resignation] was not the result of a series of random events. The president has lost a valuable adviser and we need to make sure this sort of thing does not happen again.”

The intelligence community’s feud with President Trump is well known, and it may be coming clear why the president scorned his daily security briefings until he could sort out whom he could trust and whom he should not. Barack Obama’s legacy, as it turns out, includes a band of dedicated troublemakers who regard Donald Trump as “not my president.”

Barack Obama is still in town — he says he’s only here to await his daughter’s graduation from high school, but he’s fortifying a mansion in Kalorama that looks in place for the long march — but he’s not going to return to the White House except as a tourist, and his coterie of apparatchiks might as well get used to it. President Trump’s task is to clean house and stop damaging leaks. Mike Flynn is only a collateral target.

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