National security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday night after it was revealed he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Flynn, who served in the job for less than a month, stepped down following days of reports that he had spoken to the ambassador about American sanctions against Russia in late December, weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Mr. Flynn previously had denied that he had any substantive conversations with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, and Mr. Pence repeated that claim in television interviews as recently as earlier this month.
But on Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department last month warned the White House that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
Officials said Mr. Pence has told others in the White House that he believes Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy—and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office—represents a remarkable breach of protocol.
The Times reports that the FBI has been examining Flynn’s phone calls as suspicions have grown about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council. There was a risk of blackmail because Flynn attempted to cover his tracks with his bosses, but Russians knew what had been said in the phone calls, and if they wanted him to do something, they could have threatened to expose his lie if he failed to cooperate, according to the report.
Additionally, the Army has been investigating whether Flynn received money from the Russian government during a 2015 trip to Moscow because such a payment could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Defense officials have also said that Flynn, who is a retired three-star general, did not file the required paperwork for the Moscow trip.
In reference to Flynn, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Monday that “the president is evaluating the situation” and that Donald Trump would be talking to Pence and others about Flynn’s future.
Of course, this statement was in direct contradiction to a statement made shortly before it by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway during an interview with MSNBC, in which she said that Flynn had the “full confidence of the president.”
For his part, Trump ignored questions shouted at him by reporters during the swearing-in ceremony for newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Monday night.
More from the Times:
The White House has examined a transcript of a wiretapped conversation that Mr. Flynn had with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in December, according to administration officials. Mr. Flynn originally told Mr. Pence and others that the call was limited to small talk and holiday pleasantries.
But the conversation, according to officials who have seen the transcript of the wiretap, also included a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia after intelligence agencies determined that Mr. Putin’s government tried to interfere with the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Still, current and former administration officials familiar with the call said the transcript was ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could justify both firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.
Mr. Trump, however, has become increasingly concerned about the continued fallout over Mr. Flynn’s behavior, according to people familiar with his thinking, and has told aides that the media storm around Mr. Flynn would damage the president’s image on national security issues.
Trump’s image on national security issues has already been damaged because people have the same questions about Flynn that they have had about Trump, and it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes to light; we could actually be watching this administration unravel from the inside out.
Given that members of Congress are making moves to investigate Trump’s dealings and conflicts of interest, maybe we can create an “Advent calendar” that will count down the days until he is out of here.
Read more at the New York Times.