Congressional Democrats slammed the White House for failing to act until reports surfaced that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about whether he communicated with Russia about sanctions before President Donald Trump took office.
After just three weeks on the job, Flynn resigned Monday evening after multiple reports revealed that the Department of Justice informed Trump weeks ago that Flynn attempted to cover up a December call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. During the call, Flynn reportedly urged the ambassador not to overreact to a new round of sanctions, which former President Barack Obama’s administration levied due to Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
In a joint statement on Monday, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. and Elijah Cummings said that they were communicating with law enforcement about potential briefings about Flynn’s Russia ties, and were “shocked and dismayed” that the White House knew about Flynn’s lie but “apparently did nothing about it — neither to clarify the truth to the American public or to stop General Flynn from being an ongoing national security concern.”
“General Flynn was unfit to be the National Security Advisor, and should have been dismissed three weeks ago,”the statement said. “We in Congress need to know who authorised his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks. We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security.”
The statement continued: “While Congressional Republicans have turned a blind eye to their constitutional duty to conduct oversight on these issues, we Democrats believe that this new disclosure warrants a full classified briefing by all relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice and the FBI, as soon as possible and certainly before Thursday, February 16.”
The revelations also spurred new calls for a broader investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Though a Senate subcommittee has already announced hearings on the subject, Sen Claire McCaskill went a step further on Tuesday, advocating for the creation of a bipartisan Congressional committee to investigate the full extent of Russia’s attempts to tip the scales in the election.
In a statement, Democratic National Committee press secretary Adrienne Watson said that there are “serious unanswered questions about the connections of Donald Trump, his White House and his campaign to Russia.”
“The evidence suggests that General Flynn worked to undermine the sanctions imposed on Russia for interfering in the election to help Donald Trump,” Watson said. “Was this a reward for Russia’s help? Who else in the White House besides the White House Counsel was aware of this activity? What did President Trump know and when did he know it?”
The statement continued: “We urgently need Republicans to join with Democrats to support an independent, bi-partisan 9/11 Commission-style investigation to determine both what happened and what we need to do now to make sure it never happens again. Only once we have answers can we move on. Until then, there is a dark cloud hanging over our country.”
For their part, some Republicans close to the administration attempted to downplay Flynn’s conduct.
Rep. Chris Collins, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill, on Tuesday to thank Flynn for his service and tell media outlets that it was “time to move on.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day and I guess they’re having breakfast with their wives,” Collins said when asked on CNN why many congressional Republicans were silent about Flynn’s resignation.
“We move on from here. I’m not going to be one, nor I hope that others, dwell on the situation, or pile on…I just think it’s time to move on, find the replacement,” he added.
Others were slightly critical of Flynn’s conduct.
Sen. John McCain said in a statements that Flynn’s resignation represented a “troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus,” and “raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” noting Trump’s recent suggestion that the US and Russia governments were morally equivalent.
“American policy toward Russia must be made clear and unequivocal: we will honour our commitments to our NATO allies, we will maintain and enhance our deterrent posture in Europe, we will hold Russian violators of human rights accountable for their actions, and we will maintain sanctions on Russia so long as it continues to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” McCain said.
It’s time for a select bipartisan committee on the involvement of Russia in this administration and election. Period. Stop. Public hearings.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) February 14, 2017