President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has resigned, amid an uproar over conversations with a Russian ambassador to the US.
The news comes after an earlier report that Flynn may be susceptible to Russian blackmail, according to an assessment from the Department of Justice that was compiled late last month.
A report from The Washington Post on Monday night said Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had misled officials about his correspondence with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
Yates was fired by Trump at the end of January after she defied him on his now-suspended travel ban.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan both said at the time that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position,” with Russia and agreed that Vice President Mike Pence deserved to know he had been misled, according to officials cited by The Post. It remains unclear what White House counsel Donald McGahn did with that information.
Flynn reportedly apologised on Monday to Pence, saying that he may have discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions with Kislyak before Trump was sworn in. Prior to this, Flynn contended that US sanctions never came up during his conversations with Kislyak.
President Barack Obama announced new sanctions on Russia in late December for that country’s role in election-related cyberattacks.
As the evidence of Flynn’s discussions mounted, including transcripts of calls, a spokesman said that Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
The damage had already been done, however, as The New York Times reports that three administration officials familiar with the situation reportedly said Pence, who made several television appearances to defend Flynn, was incensed at the national security adviser for allegedly withholding information.
Earlier Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement that the White House was “evaluating the situation” with Flynn. A senior Trump administration official also said that they were aware of the matter and that they were “working on this for weeks.”
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers had urged Flynn to resign. On Monday, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado released this statement:
“As national security advisor, Michael Flynn is responsible to the President, Vice President, and the American people. It is his duty to be fully transparent and forthright in his actions — anything less is unacceptable. If in fact he purposely misled the President, he should step down immediately.”
Rumours of Flynn’s removal were also fuelled when sources close to the White House told Politico on Monday that Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner was taking party in the search for potential replacements for Flynn. One of these replacements could be retired Gen. David Petraeus, according to Politico, is scheduled to meet with Trump this week.
“They are trying to figure out the solution to Flynn right now,” said one of Politico’s sources. “The problem is they don’t have it yet. They need to get a solution.”