LESS than a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, it is clear this is a Wild West Wing. Mr Trump is engulfed by a scandal that this week led to the firing of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Dismissal will not be the end of the Flynn affair. It invites bigger questions, about both the nature of the Trump administration’s ties with Russia and the way the new president runs his administration.

First, Russia. At the end of December the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia after the Kremlin interfered with the presidential election—an attack on American democracy (see article). That same day Mr Flynn spoke on the phone to the Russian ambassador to Washington. After this came to light, Mr Flynn denied, both in public and in private, having discussed the sanctions with the ambassador. It turns out he did, a disclosure that the administration says cost Mr Flynn the president’s trust.

That Mr Flynn may have sought to undermine his country’s policy was bad enough. But press reports this week, based on leaks from the intelligence services, suggest that other members of the Trump team were in contact with Russia during the campaign. If so, what was discussed? And what hold might Russia have over officials who now know from the example of Mr Flynn that exposure can cost them their job?

The Trump camp denies having any untoward Russian contacts. Yet the readiness of America’s spies to leak damning information from wire taps and intercepts against their commander-in-chief shows how deeply unhealthy the situation has become. It reflects concerns about the second question—the way Mr Trump manages his administration.

Mr Trump’s judgment is in question. The choice of such a flawed man as Mr Flynn to fill a vital role looks reckless. After being told by the Justice Department of the conversations between Mr Flynn and the ambassador, Mr Trump took two weeks to ask for his resignation—while the vice-president knew nothing. After he went, Mr Trump continued to defend Mr Flynn as a “wonderful man”. Mr Trump faces accusations that his decisions were clouded by the lingering controversy over Russia’s election-tampering. Or was Mr Flynn operating with his master’s blessing? A barrage of furious Trump tweets against the intelligence services points to trouble ahead.

No more Flynn-flam

Until these matters are clarified, Russia will dog Mr Trump. Congress now needs to stiffen its spine and conduct a thorough investigation of the Flynn affair, despite the temptation of many Republicans to shelter the president, whom they hope will further their own agenda. Separately, investigations by the FBI into Russia’s interference in the election needs to be seen to be scrupulously independent—which means that Mr Trump’s attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, should step aside from them. And the president, who sold himself to voters as a straight-talker, needs to avoid the suspicion that he is trying to sweep the Russian questions under the Oval Office carpet.

If anything good is to come of this, it will be to strengthen the defence secretary, James Mattis, and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson—the axis of the sensible. Mr Trump has the chance to appoint a solid figure, such as Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL commander, as his national security adviser. That might lead to a steadier foreign policy to bolster recent affirmations of America’s support for the one-China principle, Japan and NATO, which had been in doubt. It would also allow Mr Trump to deal with Russia on the issues, rather than through the prism of a scandal. But that supposes Mr Trump can get a grip on his administration.