Friday, 17 February 2017

Donald Trump’s press conference

BREAKING: Donald Trump’s press conference (analysis)
Alexander Mercouris

President Trump confirms during marathon press conference that his priority before negotiating with the Russians is to shore up his position at home. He has taken a first step towards rooting out his opponents in the intelligence community by asking the Justice Department to instruct the FBI to undertake a criminal investigation of the leaks which brought down General Flynn.
President Trump’s gigantic sprawling 77 minute press conference was – as is always the case with him – a bravura performance that left the media reeling.  Amid all the fire and thunder – which included denunciations of the media and warm and supportive words for General Flynn –  it did however reveal some important things.

Firstly, Trump confirmed that the decision has been made to roll out a new ‘travel ban’ Executive Order next week.

This is a sensible step, clearly made following legal advice from the Justice Department, and follows logically from the Judgment of the appeal court of the ninth circuit which I have analysed previously.

The two most important things to come out of the press conference are however (1) that President Trump still wants a detente with Russia, and is aware that the plotting against his administration is intended to make that more difficult; and (2) that – as I predicted – he has asked the Justice Department to instruct the FBI to carry out a criminal investigation of the leaks which led to General Flynn’s downfall.

President Trump’s comments about Russia were in some ways the most remarkable amongst those he made during his whole press conference, with the President directly accusing his opponents of weakening his position in negotiations with the Russians by giving the Russians grounds to doubt that he is in a strong enough position to make a deal with them

If we could get along with Russia, that’s a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson, who’s going to be meeting with them shortly and I told him. I said “I know politically it’s probably not good for me.” The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water.

Everyone in this country’s going to say “oh, it’s so great.” That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you’ve had a lot of presidents that haven’t taken that tack. Look where we are now. Look where we are now. So, if I can – now, I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff. But – but it’s possible I won’t be able to get along with Putin.

Maybe it is. But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said “you know.” He’s sitting behind his desk and he’s saying “you know, I see what’s going on in the United States, I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story.” OK?

And that’s a shame because if we could get along with Russia – and by the way, China and Japan and everyone. If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing……

All of those things that you mentioned are very recent, because probably Putin assumes that he’s not going to be able to make a deal with me because it’s politically not popular for me to make a deal. So Hillary Clinton tries a re-set. It failed. They all tried. But I’m different than those people.

(bold italics dded)

Trump’s belief that the Russians doubt that because of the domestic opposition he faces he is capable of delivering on a deal he agrees with them is undoubtedly right.  It is interesting that Trump himself realises it.

It shows that Trump’s priority at the moment is to shore up his position at home before he negotiates with the Russians.  As an experienced deal-maker he clearly does not want to be put in a position where the Russians doubt that he is able to deliver on what he promises, and this explains why negotiations with the Russians have been put back.

This in part also explains the criminal investigation into the leaks he has asked the Justice Department to tell the FBI to undertake.  Clearly he understands that until he has mastered his bureaucracy and proved to the Russians that he is the master of his own house there is no sense in his negotiating with them.  That he has done what he previously hinted at, and has asked the Justice Department to instruct the FBI to investigate the leaks, he has now confirmed
Yes, we’re looking at them very — very, very serious. I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies and we’re — I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They’re put out by people either in agencies — I think you’ll see it stopping because now we have our people in. You know, again, we don’t have our people in because we can’t get them approved by the Senate.

(bold italics dded)

Note that the highlighted words all but confirm a point I have repeatedly made: that the reason Trump has been unable to act against the leakers before is because the Department of Justice under Sally Yates has been working against him.

To be clear this is going to be a very different investigation from the various FBI investigations into the nebulous claims of contacts between President Trump’s campaign team and the Russians details of which have been appearing all over the media.  As Trump himself all but says – and as the FBI investigators undertaking them surely know – those investigations are a complete waste of time, and will lead nowhere, because no-one has identified a crime for anyone to investigate.

By contrast in the case of the leaks that brought about the downfall of General Flynn, not only is there no doubt a crime was committed, but The New York Times and CNN know the identity of the perpetrators, and probably enough is already known about them anyway to make it possible to identify them without too much difficulty.

Unlike the investigations into the allegations that are being made against Donald Trump’s campaign team, this investigation therefore stands a very strong chance of success, resulting in arrests, charges and legal action.

I would guess that already by now as I am writing this various people in The New York Times, CNN, the US intelligence community, and former officials of the Obama administration, are busy phoning their lawyers

This is how CNN covers it:

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump gave lengthy news conference Thursday, a last-minute addition to the schedule, where he announced his new selection to lead the Labor Department, Alexander Acosta. His back-and-forth with reporters touched on everything from his critique of the media, his Electoral College margin of victory, the workings of his administration, former national security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation and more.

Here are the most memorable lines:

On how things are going

"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine."

On leaks, news

"The leaks are real, the news is fake."

On picking his next question

"I want to find a friendly reporter."

On false claims about his Electoral College win's spot in history
"I was given that information, I don't know."

On his own speech

"I'm not ranting and raving, I'm just telling you you're dishonest people."

On Obamacare

"Obamacare, they fill up our alleys with people you wonder how they got there."
On reports about Russia contacts

"You can talk all you want about Russia -- which was all a fabricated fake news ... It is all fake news. It is all fake news."

On Flynn

"I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right."

On why Flynn was fired

"The thing is he didn't tell our Vice President properly and then he said he didn't remember... that just wasn't acceptable to me."
On an alternative career

"I'd be a pretty good reporter."

On dealing with Russia

"The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone will say, "Oh, it's so great, it's so great. That's not great."

On nuclear holocaust and Russia

"Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They are a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. But if we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that is as good thing, not a bad thing."
On the travel ban

"We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban, we had a bad court."

On violence in Chicago

"There are two Chicagos, as you know. One Chicago that is incredible, luxurious and safe. There is another Chicago that is worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk about and that you talk about on the news."

Thursday, 16 February 2017

NZ: Homes evacuated as Christchurch Port Hills fires rage out of control

Last line of Defence

As the Port Hills fires are fought from land and air, police warn they can change direction and move incredibly quickly - people should be ready to evacuate, and not go to the area to look or take photos

What you need to know:

Christchurch Homes have been destroyed by a raging fire which continued to burn overnight, jumping into Victoria Park and spreading to around 1850ha of land
At least 450 homes have been officially evacuated. Many others have self-evacuated
A state of civil emergency has been declared in Christchurch and Selwyn
If you are at all worried or uncomfortable remaining in your home, please evacuate
People are advised to stay away from the hills to allow emergency services access and ensure swift evacuation
Cashmere Primary is closed.

How did it start?

• The first fire — believed to have been caused by an electrical problem — began on Monday, along Early Valley Rd in Lansdowne. By 7pm, crews were battling a second blaze on Marley's Hill, south of the city. Authorities don't know how that blaze began, but believe it started in a car park off Summit Rd.

Evacuation Centres:

1. Halswell Library 2. Selwyn Events Centre in Lincoln 3. Te Hapua Halswell Centre, Halswell Rd 4. Nga Hau e Wha Marae, Pages Rd 5. There's also a Facebook page, Evacuation Housing, for evacuated residents to ask for help, and for people to offer temporary accommodation to those evacuated.

'That house that just caught fire ... that's our house"

16 February, 2017

A man who watched the Port Hills fire raze his family home this morning says he doesn't want to believe the devastation is real.

Henry Reese, 22, and his family were evacuated from the home his parents have lived in for 25 years about 3pm yesterday and saw their neighbours' home burn to the ground about 6pm.

When daylight broke this morning RNZ was there as Mr Reese watched the Worsleys Road house go up in flames at about 7.45am.

Henry Reese, centre, watches his family home burn to the groundHenry Reese, centre, watches his family home burn. Photo: RNZ / Joelle Daly

"That house that just caught fire about 10 mins ago is our house," he said. "It survived the night and then no choppers [were] up there in the morning and obviously a little fire started up and there was no-one there [to protect it]."

"Right now it looks like our house is getting destroyed. It's a bit of a shame, quite a big shame… It's quite a beautiful family house."

On the phone to his family, Mr Reese told them if they arrived quickly they would be able to see the last part of their house before the flames finished it off.

"It's still hard to believe. I barely trust myself that that's our house but it certainly looks that way. I don't want to believe it."

"Even when we were evacuated, we didn't think this would be the last time in this house. Can't believe it," he said.

More Christchurch homes were evacuated this morning as a huge fire burned on the Port Hills, and at least five helicopters with monsoon buckets were dispatched at first light.

The Port Hills fire near Christchurch Adventure Park.The Port Hills fire near Christchurch Adventure Park this morning. Photo: RNZ / Joelle Daly

A local state of emergency was declared by Christchurch City Council and Selwyn District Council yesterday evening.

Overnight, the two main fires merged into one large blaze in excess of 1850 hectares and was growing. Latest reports that it has now spread to the harbour side of Sugarloaf.

Police this morning evacuated homes downhill of the Sign of the Takahe on Dyers Pass Road.

Follow RNZ's live coverage here

Brian Ellwood, who lives on Dyers Pass Rd near the Sign of the Takahe, was told to leave home about 4.30am.

He and his wife put their two cats, three chickens and two children in their cars and parked up at a petrol station.

"All the important things, we got," he said.

Police inspector Derek Erasmus said the force of the fire overnight was frightening.

"Trees exploding, long lines of fire ... across hillsides. Looking at what the fire service were doing, an incredibly difficult and dangerous job for them."

He said 85 extra army and police staff were brought in overnight to help evacuate people.

Helicopters with monsoon buckets and ground crews are tackling a blaze close to a house at the top of Worsleys Road.Helicopters with monsoon buckets and ground crews are tackling a blaze close to a house at the top of Worsleys Road. Photo: RNZ / Joelle Daly

Governors Bay School and Cashmere Primary School are closed. Cashmere principal Gavin Burn said for families with a lot going on the decision was to create certainty, so they know where their children are.

About 100 houses are without electricity power this morning. Lines company Orion said the focus today was on ensuring the power supply to water pumping stations near the fire to keep the water pressure up.

Two major pylon circuits that cross the Port Hills are out but an underground loop cable commissioned in the last year is keeping up the power supply to the city, it said.

Christchurch civil defence controller Dave Adamson told Morning Report the weather forecast was not good for firefighting, with winds expected to develop this afternoon.

If there were shifts in wind direction other areas could be in the line of the fire.
About 450 houses have been evacuated with anything up to 1000 people having left their homes, he said. Parts of Cashmere Hills, Westmorland, Cracroft and Early Valley Road were evacuated last night.

Seven houses are believed to have been damaged by the fire since yesterday, on Early Valley Road and Worsley Road, civil defence said. That was an update to a civil defence report last night that three homes had been destroyed on Worsley Spur in addition to five confirmed destroyed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Flames leap close to a house in the Port Hills.Flames leap close to a house in the Port Hills. Photo: Supplied / Matthew Rankin

The Fire Service said a total of 15 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft will be used to fight the fire from the air today, and more than 200 firefighters will be on the ground.

A fire ban has been brought in from South Canterbury to Hurunui as resources are put towards tackling the Port Hills blaze.

Police on the scene as Port Hills fire continues to burn.Police on the scene as the fire burns and evacuations continue. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

PM, Civil Defence Minister, head to Christchurch

Prime Minister Bill English has cancelled his events today to fly to Christchurch.
Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, who heading to Christchurch, said the situation was "getting pretty serious".

"The requirement to get that fire out is even more pressing than at any point in the last couple of days."

Declaring a state of emergency had been "a little slow" but once it had been done, the civil defence response was okay, he told Morning Report. Firefighters and others are doing great work in dangerous conditions.

"The people out there fighting the fire are very brave people."

Mr Brownlee is expected to meet the mayors of Selwyn and Christchurch this morning and be briefed on the emergency response.

A fire engine speeds through Christchurch as smoke billows from the Port Hills fire.A fire engine speeds through Christchurch as smoke billows from the Port Hills fire. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Paul Harding Brown and his wife Deborah left their Kennedys Bush Road house twice - first on Monday night and again last night - and were waiting at the bottom of the road to be allowed back home.

The fire on Monday night was one hill over from their home. Last night it was 200-300m from the end of the road.

Mr Harding Brown couldn't see his house from where he was waiting this morning. "We just have to wait it out and see what happens."

'It's just gone ballistic'

Helicopter pilot Alan Beck, who was in the air for over 14 hours yesterday, said the conditions were terrible.

"It's just gone ballistic - we're losing house after house," Mr Beck said.
"It really is a controlled disaster at the moment."

There were enough air and ground resources to fight the fire, but crews were struggling to get enough water.

"Down on the flat there's water everywhere but it's not deep enough," he said.

"We're robbing all the swimming pools we can... It's quite a desperate situation here."
Aerial crews stood down at about 8.30pm last night, after smoke and dark made it too dangerous to continue.

Mr Beck said the terrain also made for difficult flying.

"There's transmission wires, power wires, the gondola - we've been working in a nightmare of wires up here so it's been one hell of a job."

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

World War 111 headlines

Russia Moves Cruise Missiles Sends Fears Through NATO

Israeli News Live

Stephen Cohen on the Flynn resination and the New Cold War

Kremlin-Baiting Trump: Allegations So Far.
Kremlin-Baiting Trump: Allegations So Far. Stephen F. Cohen, @nyu @princeton.

What We Don’t Know

It is not clear whether Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were directed by, or carried out with the knowledge of, the president-elect or any of his other senior advisers, including the chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. It is also not clear why the White House did not act earlier on the information given to it by the Justice Department.

— Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile that American officials say violates a landmark arms control treaty, posing a major test for President Trump as his administration is facing a crisis over its ties to Moscow.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump made it clear he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine and reduce violence in Ukraine, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.

"President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea," Spicer said at a daily news briefing. "At the same time, he fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia."


What the Russians are doing by stealing documents, spending unlimited amounts of money and creating and distributing “fake news” has the potential to corrupt our political system to its core, if it hasn’t already. If Russia invades the Baltic states, could US assistance to them die in Congress because elected officials fear Russian retaliation? It sounds unbelievable, but we saw the GOP mysteriously change its platform this summer, removing aid to Ukraine – and that was before Putin proved his influence over the election.

The Duran: Gen. Flynn's resignation "a heavy blow for president Trump"

The folks over at the Duran (Mercouris, Lavelle et al) have not so much been wrong as naïve in thinking that this could possibly have anything other than tragic results.

First big defeat for Donald Trump as Michael Flynn exits
Alexander Mercouris

Flynn resignation internal US matter – Kremlin

14 February, 2017

The scandal that has ousted General Michael Flynn from the post of National Security Adviser is absurd and concocted. Though there were probably other reasons for his going - including his apparently poor performance in the post of National Security Adviser - his resignation is nonetheless a heavy blow for President Trump.

General Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Adviser is by far the biggest blow President Trump has suffered since his inauguration.

As I have written previously, this is a completely concocted scandal. The most General Flynn is accused of is telling Russian ambassador Kislyak that Russia should not overreact to the sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia during the height of the Clinton leaks hysteria in December. Even the ‘anonymous officials’ who claim to have seen the transcript of the tapes of his conversations with Kislyak admit that he did not tell Kislyak that President Trump would cancel the sanctions. Instead all Flynn did was call for was restraint.

I cannot see how this could possibly have threatened US national security. Nor do I see how – just three weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration – it could be considered to be ‘undermining’ President Obama’s foreign policy, which Donald Trump was publicly criticising anyway.

It seems that back in January that was also the FBI’s view, and that it was reporting that after checking the transcripts of Flynn’s telephone conversations with Kislyak, that it could find nothing illicit in them. That is obviously right, and in any sane world that would have been the end of the whole affair.

Yet on the strength of these calls Sally Yates as Acting Attorney General apparently advised the White House that General Flynn might have committed an offence under the Logan Act and initiated an FBI investigation of General Flynn’s actions, saying he might have opened himself up to blackmail by the Russian government.

It should be said clearly that this is totally absurd. Town Hall has provided a comprehensive refutation of the claim that there has been an offence under the Logan Act and as I cannot improve on it I here reproduce it

[T]he Logan Act dates to 1799, when a state legislator with no ties to any administration tried to assert himself as personal negotiator for final peace with France. The anti-Jefferson Federalists did not like this private initiative, so passed the Logan Act to make private ventures intent on negotiating personal treaties over international feuds a crime. The bill was whipped out in days.
And in the 200 years since, not a single individual has ever been prosecuted under the act, not one. And its constitutionality is widely doubted in any event, even by Democrat legal scholars. Funny how precedent and constitutionality matter when they work for a party, and not at all when they work against it.
The folly of casting anyone – let alone General Flynn, an incoming National Security Advisor – as violator of this important-sounding, but utterly obsolete and toothless Logan Act would be funny enough, if it were not being dressed up in congressional outrage, with somber questions like – yes – “what did he know, and when did he know it?” Watergate already, really?
To compound the absurdity, if General Flynn violated the Logan Act by talking to the Russian ambassador, then Barack Obama as a candidate in 2008 did so on a far greater scale. As Town Hall also says

In July 2008, independent of any policy conversations by staff, candidate Obama went to the Middle East and Europe and spoke extensively, one-on-one, about policy with leaders from Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, France, Germany and Britain. As a candidate, not as a president-elect.
Without thought of violating the Logan Act, Mr. Obama conducted substantive conversations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s Prime Minister Elud Olmert, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair and opposition leader David Cameron. In short, in an effort to transparently promote his presidential candidacy, with all manner of topics, candidate Obama flew straight into the Logan Act…..
To cap the irony and Obama counter-example, before assuming office and not president-elect, Mr. Obama spoke of peace and how to end world conflicts on July 24, 2008, in a speech at the Victory Column in Berlin, before an estimated 200,000 people. But no talk of Logan Act. None.
It has been suggested rather portentously that the true reason General Flynn resigned was not because of the conversations he had with Kislyak but because he lied about these conversations to Vice-President Pence, and that a furious Pence has taken umbrage and has insisted that Flynn must go.

This is only marginally less absurd.

Firstly since General Flynn did nothing remotely wrong either by holding the conversations with Kislyak or by what he is reported to have said during them, what he said about them to Vice-President Pence really shouldn’t matter.

Secondly, it is overwhelmingly likely that General Flynn – as he says – simply made a mistake.

As a former intelligence officer General Flynn surely knows that Kislyak’s telephone conversations are monitored by US intelligence. Indeed it is a virtual certainty that as the former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency he has actually seen transcripts of Kislyak’s conversations and of those of other Russian officials.

Given that that is so Flynn would surely have known when he reported to Pence that US intelligence had been listening in to his conversations with Kislyak and that any lie he said to Pence would be quickly discovered. Since he didn’t in fact say any remotely improper to Kislyak he wouldn’t have had any reason to lie anyway.

Most likely Flynn thought he was being asked whether he had told Kislyak that the Trump administration would lift the sanctions, which he denied doing because he didn’t do so. In the confusion this was mistaken for a denial that the subject of the sanctions was even discussed, when it was in fact touched on, though only in the most innocuous way.

In the rush of events this sort of thing occasionally happens, and in his resignation statement Flynn all but says that this is what happened. It is by far the most plausible explanation for the whole affair, and no-one who is not completely paranoid or who is not pursuing an agenda would think otherwise.

Why then has Flynn been forced to resign?

There is a possibility that, disproportionate though that would be, Vice-President Pence might indeed have been genuinely angry about the mix-up, and might – despite receiving an apology from Flynn – have been so angry with Flynn that he insisted that Flynn should go. It is becoming increasingly clear that Pence is a key figure within the Trump administration, and if he is indeed as angry with Flynn as some reports suggest, then Trump may have felt that he had no option but to let Flynn go.

I have to say however that my own view is that the explanation that Flynn was forced to go because he lied to Pence looks to me like a cover story to hide the true reasons why Flynn had to go.

I suspect these are (1) that Flynn is still the subject of the FBI probe launched by Sally Yates; and (2) that there were increasing doubts about Flynn’s fitness for the role of National Security Adviser.

Turning first to the FBI probe, Sally Yates’s warnings to the White House that Flynn might be blackmailed by the Russian government because of what he said to Kislyak on the telephone, and the claim that he might have violated the Logan Act, are for the reasons I have discussed previously absurd. As I have said media reports that circulated in January were saying that the FBI after checking the transcripts of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak could find nothing illicit in them. Nonetheless it seems the probe Sally Yates ordered is still continuing.

In passing I should say that I find it impossible to believe that Sally Yates herself genuinely believes that the warnings she is supposed to have given the White House about Flynn are anything other than absurd. What they in fact show is not that there is a serious case against Flynn but – as was also shown by Yates’s refusal to defend the ‘travel ban’ Executive Order in the courts – that as Acting Attorney General Yates was actively working against the President and the administration she was supposed to be serving, in this case by making farfetched claims against one of the President’s advisers.

The problem is that absurd though the FBI probe Sally Yates launched is, once launched it cannot be stopped by Presidential order, since doing so would be an abuse of Presidential power.

The result is that Flynn and the whole administration risked being distracted for weeks or months by constant sniping by the Democrats and the administration’s enemies within the US bureaucracy whilst the probe was underway. It is therefore understandable that Trump’s two closest political advisers – Preibus and Bannon – apparently both concluded that the administration simply could not afford this, and decided that Flynn would have to go.

I would add that the recent media attacks on Flynn are grounded on the fact that an FBI investigation is underway. Had there not been such an investigation it is difficult to see how the media attacks on Flynn could have gained traction. Indeed it is doubtful they would have happened at all. Given that were it not for these media attacks Flynn would still be President Trump’s National Security Adviser, Flynn’s ouster is Sally Yates’s parting gift to an administration she clearly deeply opposes and was working against.

Having said all this, Donald Trump and his team would probably have stuck with Flynn had there not also been serious concerns about his performance as National Security Adviser.

By most accounts Flynn is an abrasive personality, who makes enemies easily, and there have been numerous reports of his poor management skills in a job where such skills are essential. The fact that he obviously failed to take proper notes of his conversations with Kislyak – relying instead on his memory – is just one example of his sloppy approach to paperwork, something which incidentally must have dismayed Pence the lawyer.

Flynn also clearly has an obsessive streak, as shown by his pathological hostility to Iran, which is obviously inappropriate for someone who is the President’s most important adviser on national security questions.

There is also another possible problem with Flynn, which may have worked against him. This is his habit of self-promotion as shown by his extraordinary appearance in the White House briefing room to read out his statement about Iran.

In the 1970s, in the age of Kissinger and Brzezinski, the President’s National Security Adviser ran US foreign policy, ousting the Secretary of State and the State Department from that role. Unsurprisingly Kissinger and Brzezinsky were media stars, far outshining the Secretaries of State of the period (William Rogers, Cyrus Vance and Edward Muskie).

In the 1980s under Ronald Reagan a successful effort was made to re-establish the Secretary of State’s and the State Department’s primacy in managing the nation’s foreign policy, with the National Security Adviser once again relegated to an advisory role. Since then no National Security Adviser has achieved anything like the power or prominence that Kissinger and Brzezinski once had.

It is not impossible that the very public role Flynn was carving out for himself alarmed some people within the foreign policy and national security bureaucracy, with fears that Flynn was seeking to make himself Donald Trump’s Kissinger or Brzezinski. If so it would not be surprising if the bureaucracy united against him to see off the challenge, with even senior officials like Tillerson and Mattis in that case probably wanting Flynn to go.

Whatever the reasons for his going, Flynn’s departure is however a serious blow for Donald Trump.

It is a much more serious blow than the court decisions on the ‘travel ban’ Executive Order, which I expect the administration to reverse or overcome.

Losing Flynn by contrast shows weakness, and has given Donald Trump’s many enemies – including those in the bureaucracy – their first blood. They will now be hungering for more.

Trump and his advisers presumably calculated that the damage that would have been done by holding on to Flynn would have been greater than the damage that was done by letting him go. Time will show whether they are right. Much will depend on who Trump choses to replace him.