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Michael Flynn’s resignation signals instability in the White House — but, perhaps, more stability in American foreign policy.


Flynnghazi

Michael Flynn with Jared Kushner Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • The first high-profile resignation of a Trump appointee comes 24 days into his presidency: Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser Monday night, amid evidence that he discussed US sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and allegations that he violated federal law by lying to the FBI about it. [Vox / Yochi Dreazen]
  • Flynn, in an interview with the Daily Caller that appears to be the last one of his tenure, insists that he did nothing wrong. [Daily Caller / Richard Pollock]
  • By this point, though, the Flynn scandal isn’t just about Flynn. It’s become a classic question of who in the Trump administration knew, what they knew, and when they knew it. (The Huffington Post has a helpful timeline.) [Huffington Post / Jessica Schulberg]
  • That skein began to unravel Monday night, when reports surfaced that Justice Department officials had told White House counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn had lied in late January. (This puts McGahn at the intersection of both the biggest fiascos of the young Trump administration, in case you’re keeping score.) [Lawfare / Jack Goldsmith]
  • Press secretary Sean Spicer was quick to assert that the White House had independently investigated Flynn, and, despite President Trump being proven “instinctively correct” in his snap judgment that no law had been broken, the investigation showed a breach of trust.
  • That story, which was flimsy to begin with, is already falling apart — with White House sources (presumably allies of VP Mike Pence) reporting that Pence didn’t know until last Thursday, when the Washington Post broke the news of the sanctions call, that the DOJ had already told the White House about it 11 days earlier. [NBC News / Vaughn Hillyard and Hallie Jackson]
  • While Flynn’s resignation portends instability for the Trump White House, it’s a breath of relief for many in the foreign policy establishment. Flynn was, in many ways, the most erratic and Islamophobic of Trump’s inner circle, and having him gone makes several of the worst-case scenarios of a Trump presidency less plausible. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • (It’s likely, in fact, that intelligence operatives engaged in some strategic leaking and gamesmanship to help push Flynn out — which some observers see as a disconcerting parallel to how “deep state” shadow governments operate in countries like Turkey.) [The Week / Damon Linker]
  • But while some in the intelligence community see Flynn’s ouster as a chance to turn over a new leaf, others are still deeply wary of the Trump administration. [The Guardian / Spencer Ackerman]
  • After all, Flynn was far from the only Trump adviser with Islamophobic credentials. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]


Kim Jong Down

 Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
Kim Jong Nam
  • Kim Jong Nam — the son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and half-brother of current leader Kim Jong Un — died suddenly in a Malaysian airport Tuesday, in an apparent murder. [BBC]
  • How Kim was killed is still unclear. Some reports indicate he was splashed or sprayed in the face with a liquid; others report a woman passed by and covered his face with a poison-soaked cloth.
  • Kim was once the heir apparent to the North Korean presidency. But he was always something of a black sheep — on several occasions, according to reports, Kim Jong Il threatened to send his son to a prison camp (credibly enough that the family started stocking up on shoes). [BBC / Michael Madden]
  • He was stripped of what status he had in 2001, after an extremely embarrassing incident in which he was caught traveling to Japan with a fake passport; he said he wanted to see Tokyo Disneyland. [Mental Floss / David W. Brown]
  • Since then, Kim had lived a life that was half exile, half playboy — living lavishly, but also writing 150 emails to a Japanese journalist predicting the imminent collapse of the North Korean regime and lamenting the instability of hereditary leadership. [AP]
  • That instability could have caused his death. It’s known that Kim Jong Un’s uncle, the one reformist threat to the regime, was executed in 2013. [NYT / Choe Sang-hun]
  • Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un’s aunt continues to live a quiet, anonymous life somewhere in America. [Washington Post / Anna Fifeld]

Happy Merger Breakup Day

No merger for you Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
  • Two massive health care mergers were broken off Tuesday. Aetna and Humana announced they wouldn’t continue to seek a merger, and Cigna announced that it was dropping plans to merge with Anthem (and seeking billions in compensation from it instead). [Reuters / Caroline Humer]
  • Both mergers had been blocked by federal judges in court cases over the past month, out of concerns that merging two of the five major players in the health care market would have monopolistic consequences for consumers. [Washington Post / Carolyn Y. Johnson]
  • While the Aetna/Humana breakup is mutual, the Cigna/Anthem one is very much not — Cigna wants Anthem to pay the $ 1.85 billion it promised Cigna if the merger were blocked by regulators, while Anthem denies it should have to pay just because Cigna wants out. [Bloomberg / Cecile Deurat]
  • Ostensibly, none of the merger fights are about the future of the health insurance market under the Affordable Care Act (and/or whatever replaces it). But that’s definitely in the background. And accordingly, Humana, as part of its plan to move on from the blocked merger, announced it will pull out of the ACA exchanges entirely by 2018 — the first major insurer to do so. [Politico / Adam Cancryn]
  • Ironically, Aetna stands accused of pulling out of some marketplaces last year to make it easier for the merger to go forward, while its erstwhile partner Humana has pulled out because the merger failed. [CNBC / Matt Egan]
  • In a darker irony, if blocking the mergers in the name of preventing monopoly leads to insurers pulling out of the exchanges, the end result, for many consumers, will be a de facto monopoly. [Vox / Sarah Kliff, Sarah Frostenson, and Soo Oh]

Miscellaneous

  • Who among us didn’t write an essay at age 10 that sounds an awful lot like a Donald Trump speech? [The Week / Noah Millman]
  • One reason you freaked out so much about avian flu 10 years ago: Lobbyists for the pharmaceutical company Roche helped stir panic so they could sell more Tamiflu. [WSJ / Brody Mullins]
  • Connie Converse was a pioneering singer-songwriter, an acoustic guitar virtuoso who quit the instrument and got just as good at piano, before, in 1974, she packed up, drove away, and was never heard from again. [New Yorker / Howard Fishman]
  • The interiors of 1930s school buses looked a weird amount like limos. [Greater Greater Washington / Dan Malouff]
  • Trying to locate the districts of Panem, using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. [BLS / Elizabeth Cross]

Verbatim

  • “Valentine’s Day is how we share the love at the Castle.” [White Castle VP Jamie Richardson to Eater / Kelsey McKinney]
  • “College officials pay much more attention to the test scores of their entering students than to how much these scores improve during college. … This would be the equivalent of judging a clinic or hospital on the basis of the condition of the patients it admits rather than the effectiveness of the care and treatment patients receive once they are admitted.” [Alexander Astin via Chronicle of Higher Education / James Lang]
  • “Today if ‘violent and ungovernable’ was in a major CEO’s divorce filing it’d at least be the front page of the business section. This made the paper but it was just a tiny little box.” [Lisa Napoli to Mel / Tracy Moore]
  • “The morning after the show I attended, they woke up together, ordered ‘four hundred thousand dollars’ worth of room service, and experienced a moment of gratitude over being in a hotel room.” [New Yorker / Carrie Battan]
  • “As I unhooked my bra and reached for the hospital gown he wandered in again, apparently too short a visit to say hello or sorry, but long enough to get a clear view of my mostly naked body. Ten minutes later, when my clothes were safely stowed away and I had left the privacy of my changing station, he was introduced to me as my doctor.” [Narratively / EP Wohlfart]

Watch this: How Steve Bannon sees the world

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist believes the West is at war with Islam. [YouTube / Liz Scheltens, Gina Barton, and Nicholas Garbaty]

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