(CNN)Michael T. Flynn’s resignation is the second major blow to the Trump administration within the span of a week.
After the courts stopped the President’s executive order halting admission of refugees, his national security adviser is forced to step down amid revelations of his discussions with Russian officials following the election. The resignation comes in the wake of mixed signals from the White House about what would happen to Flynn.
It is not a total surprise that Flynn is the first major member of the administration to fall from power. He has always been one of the most controversial figures in Trump’s inner circle. A national security adviser whose views were seen as far outside the mainstream, Flynn bought into conspiracy theories and made anti-Islamic statements.
The embarrassment over Flynn might persuade Trump, who is always concerned about winning above all else, to back away from his ongoing defense of anything that Russia seems to do and fall more in line with where the rest of his party has been on this issue. Most important, Flynn’s departure might increase the clout of other, more respected figures like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and bolster the standing of his national security team that has been off to such a shaky start.
The truth is that it can go either way — as is seemingly the case with everything that has gone down with the Trump White House. But Flynn’s departure is clearly a significant moment for this President as one of his most loyal, most controversial and most influential figures — in many ways a symbol of the angry attack style that has defined the White House — is forced to step down as a result of a scandal that has been hovering over the President, who has been in office for less than a month.
This creates a moment of vulnerability no matter how savvy Trump might be. He will now have to take steps quickly to reestablish control over his national security team and to create more confidence on Capitol Hill that someone is in charge in the Oval Office. Otherwise, Trump might find himself facing the kinds of congressional investigations that can quickly tie an administration into knots.