The retired general has for days been at the center of controversy about what he said to a Russian ambassador — and whether he lied to Vice President Pence about it.
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President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned late Monday after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn had for days fielded accusations that he had discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as a private citizen in December. Pence publicly defended the retired general, and reports said Flynn lied to the vice president about his conversations with Kislyak.
The conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador took place over the phone weeks before Trump’s inauguration, when Flynn was still a private citizen with no position in the government, the New York Times reported. Flynn suggested to Kislyak that once Trump was president he would reconsider US positions on Russia — such as sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama. Private US citizens are prohibited from negotiating with foreign governments by the Logan Act, and some US officials have said they believed Flynn had gone too far.
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Pence denied that conversation took place on national television. But, the Times reported, the Russian ambassador’s calls had been wiretapped by US intelligence, and a transcript was made available to the White House.
Then–acting Attorney General Sally Yates late last month briefed Trump that Flynn had misled officials about the phone call, the Washington Post reported, and she told Trump the Department of Justice believed that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
In his resignation letter, Flynn, who had been on the job for just 24 days, said he inadvertently briefed Pence and others with “incomplete information.”
“I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn said.
The move came just hours after Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, said on MSNBC that the president had “full confidence” in Flynn.
The Kremlin declined to comment when asked about the resignation. Speaking on Tuesday morning, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We would like to refrain from commenting. This is the Americans’ internal affair, an issue for the Trump administration, and not our business.”
Retired Lt. General Joseph Kellogg has been named acting national security adviser, the White House said in a statement.
The news was met with calls from several Democrats in Congress for an investigation into what Flynn had said to Russia — and who else in the Trump administration knew about it. A formal congressional inquiry would require Republicans to agree.