Obama Team In Despair Over Flynn Pick

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn after meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower on November 18. Marc Thiessen writes that everything Flynn predicted came true—and he was pushed out because the White House didn’t want to hear it. Mike Segar/reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

If you thought the handwringing among the cast of Hamilton over the impending Trump presidency was bad, it apparently does not compare to the growing despair among the Obama White House team.

What has them most upset? The elevation of Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions?

No, it turns out that the most "devastating blow" was the selection of a fellow Democrat, Lieutenant General Michael Fynn, as national security adviser.

The Associated Press reports:

As Obama hopped from capital to capital, news of the emerging Trump administration followed him, dominating news conferences and private meetings with leaders…. Each time Air Force One landed in another foreign capital, cellphones buzzed and White House officials' faces fell as the latest news came in about Trump's team-in-waiting....

The selections deflated the hopes in the White House that Trump, faced with the awesome duty of running the nation, might tone it down after the campaign.

Of all the Trump's choices, White House officials said it was the selection of Flynn that felt like the most devastating blow, given the immense authority the national security adviser has over matters of war and peace.

By the time Obama arrived in Peru, the creeping sense of despair among his aides was palpable.

So why are Obama aides so upset about Flynn, who Foreign Policy magazine reports "as a boy...would help arrange bus rides for Democratic voters on election days in his hometown."

Simple. Because he warned them about the danger of Barack Obama's Iraq withdrawal and predicted the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). And then, after leaving his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), he out called Obama for failing to heed that advice.

Related: Michael Rubin: Trump team's first ethics scandal

It was under Flynn's leadership that the DIA issued a classified report in 2012 predicting everything that has come to pass in Iraq since Obama's withdrawal of American troops. It warned that the chaos in Syria was creating conditions that could allow Al-Qaeda in Iraq (now ISIS) to make a comeback and declare an Islamic caliphate.

The report, dated August 2012 and obtained by Judicial Watch last year, also warned:

The deterioration of the situation [in Syria] has dire consequences on the Iraqi situation and…creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, now ISIS] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world, against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters.

ISIS could also declare an Islamic State through union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory…[and] renewing facilitation of terrorist elements from all over the Arab world entering into [the] Iraqi arena.

Then, in February 2014—a month after Obama had publicly dismissed ISIS as a "jayvee team" that is "engaged in various local power struggles and disputes" and is not "a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into"—Flynn went to Capitol Hill to deliver the DIA's "annual threat assessment" to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He accurately predicted ISIS would probably "attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014, as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah and [by] the group's ability to concurrently maintain safe havens in Syria."

Related: Michael Rubin: General Flynn must explain himself

Everything Flynn's DIA predicted came true, and he was pushed out because people in the White House didn't want to hear it. As Flynn told The New York Times, "It didn't meet the narrative."

He was right and they were wrong. Now he's in and they are out. Hence the "creeping sense of despair" on the Obama team.

Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. A member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush, he served as chief speechwriter to the president and to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Before joining the Bush administration, Thiessen spent more than six years as a spokesman and senior policy adviser to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms.

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