The Corner

National Security & Defense

Wait, the Big Scoop Was that Lots of People Were Wary About Flynn?

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The New York Times tells us “the biggest takeaway on Monday was that a lot of people had serious concerns about Michael Flynn serving as national security adviser. But none of them was named Donald J. Trump.”

Yeah, Trump does that sometimes. If everybody in the world tells him to zig, he’ll zag.

But the news that a lot of people were wary about Flynn doesn’t seem like a particularly shocking revelation. By mid-November 2016, we knew that Flynn was running a firm that lobbied for foreign clients, that “a Turkish businessman with real estate, aerospace, and consulting interests” was paying Flynn’s firm “tens of thousands of dollars” for lobbying services, and that while Flynn was running the firm, he was receiving classified intelligence briefings as part of the campaign. In other words, we already knew that he was in a murky region where he insisted that he wasn’t lobbying but his firm was, and that he was getting classified information while he was paid, indirectly, by foreign interests.

By itself, a former lawmaker or military official becoming a registered foreign agent isn’t unethical and it certainly isn’t illegal. Heck, it’s common:

Of the 1,009 members of Congress who have left Capitol Hill since 1990, 114 of them — just over 11 percent — lobbied for or otherwise represented a foreign government, foreign-owned company or think tank, according to a POLITICO review of records filed with the tiny DOJ office charged with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 law passed to deal with the threat of Nazi propagandists in the United States.

The top 10 former lawmakers-turned-foreign-agents, according to POLITICO’s review, include a wide range of retired members, including congressional leaders and presidential contenders like Dick Gephardt, rank-and-file members like Albert Wynn and back-bench bomb-throwers like former Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV, each of whom worked on FARA contracts bringing more than $1 million to their respective firms in 2015.

But Americans can’t accept a revolving door between serving public office on behalf of us and working for a foreign government and back again. Perhaps we should make the door swing one way. You can become a foreign agent, lobbying our government on behalf of a foreign interest, but you can’t return to a taxpayer-funded position after that.