NEW YORK CITY — Leon Panetta didn’t mince words following the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, over his contacts with Russian officials on Monday evening.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington,” Panetta, who served as President Barack Obama’s defence secretary from 2011 to 2013, said in a Tuesday interview with The New York Times.
Panetta, a Democrat, has served nine presidents — Democrat and Republican — in various high-profile positions, including chief-of-staff, CIA director, and secretary of defence in a career spanning decades.
“I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt,” Panetta said to The Times. “You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.”
Panetta’s comments came a day after Flynn resigned after it was revealed that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the contents of a December phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn discussed the Obama Administration’s sanctions on Russia with Kislyak during the call, where he gave the impression that the sanctions would be “revisited” at a later time.
Acting attorney-general Sally Yates informed the White House that Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak was “potentially illegal,” though Trump took no immediate action. Yates was fired on January 30 after refusing to enforce the Trump Administration’s travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries.
The Trump campaign also had repeated contact with Russian officials prior to the general election in November, the New York Times reported on Wednesday citing US intelligence sources.
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