Flynn was fired on February 13, two weeks after it became clear that he had been compromised by Russian officials and had lied to numerous White House officials, including Vice President Pence. One of the biggest mysteries about the scandal, however, is why it took so long for the White House to rid itself of a national security advisor who was a clear blackmail risk. Some alleged that this was proof that Flynn wasn’t the only compromised member of the White House.
But a more quotidian explanation always seemed more likely. Trump is famously loyal and—despite the catchphrase that helped make him president—is not fond of firing people, even if they have screwed up in a massive way. Trump, moreover, has portrayed the Russia story as a political distraction cooked up by his rivals—firing Flynn for his dealings with the Russians would undercut his own narrative. Finally, Trump simply liked Flynn quite a bit, partly because he craves the approval of generals and partly because Flynn, who led the “lock her up” chants, showed loyalty to him.
It has now become clear that a number of people, including President Obama and acting Attorney General Sally Yates, warned Trump that Flynn was at best unreliable and at worst compromised. And yet, not only did Trump keep Flynn on board, he reportedly misses him quite a bit.
According to Politico, “Continued loyalty from Trump has given Flynn a lingering influence over policy in the White House, where staffers initially hired by Flynn, including his deputy K.T. McFarland, remain on the National Security Council and in other positions. Senior administration officials, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, also remain loyal to Flynn and have worked to undermine his successor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, according to several people familiar with the situation.” (Bloomberg reports that Trump has taken to screaming at McMaster for perceived slights.)
Since McMaster has taken control of the National Security Council, the White House has gone to great lengths to suggest that, after the turbulence of its first days, the ship has been righted. But the problem with the White House, as we learn again and again, is that Donald Trump is in charge of it. Until that changes people like Flynn and Bannon will always have a voice.