Apoplectic Democrats are convinced that the Mike Flynn fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg. “General Flynn’s resignation is not the end of the story,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week in demanding more investigations. “It is merely a beginning.”
But the FBI, which has been investigating Trump's Russia ties for awhile, just revealed whether or not it will be pursuing criminal charges against Mike Flynn - and their decision pours some cold water over the Democrats' case.
CNN reporter Jim Sciutto reported late last night that the FBI, after reviewing the transcripts of Flynn's call with the Russian ambassador and interviewing him, decided it will not be pursuing criminal charges:
“The FBI is saying that barring new information, they're not going to pursue charges against him. They add that in their conversations with him that he was forthcoming. He did not hide the truth. They say that if he forgot certain details of things he was not intentionally misleading. So if they don't learn anything new they're not going to pursue charges.”
This is a significant setback for Democrats hoping that Flynn's apparent transgressions are just the tip of the iceberg in a criminal Watergate-style scandal. A serious investigation into any broader conspiracy here would have to be based on Flynn either doing or saying something illegal. - 'Who told him to do it,' 'why did he do it,' etc.
But Flynn is not facing criminal charges, meaning what he did was not out-of-bounds legally speaking. It also likely means that his phone call did not provide any compelling evidence of Russian collusion with Trump. In fact, according to an ABC news report today, the FBI has no evidence to date that anyone in Trump's circle knowingly spoke with Russian intelligence, which takes some air out of the Democrats' balloon.
That aside, the controversy around Flynn specifically will continue to swirl. In that same report, CNN notes that the FBI has suspended his security clearance. The Senate Judiciary Committee has requested both the FBI and Department of Justice to brief them on what they know about Flynn and provide them with the transcripts of the calls. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is already investigating Russia's involvement in the U.S. election, has indicated Flynn's conduct will now likely be a part of it.
But Democrats were hoping Flynn would be the trigger to launch a broader, powerful and public investigation into Trump. The FBI's decision takes the wind out of their sails and - for now - keeps this in the realm of politics.