Cable news networks capped another day of White House whiplash with news Michael Flynn handed in his resignation after just 24 days as the White House national security adviser, after a report surfaced he had mislead Vice President Pence and others about his conversation with Russian Ambassador to the United States. The news followed, by hours, Kellyanne Conway telling MSNBC that Flynn had the “full confidence of the President,” and by one less hour White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying “the President is evaluating the situation.”
Trump appointed Keith Kellogg, retired Army lieutenant general, as acting national security adviser. Though Kellogg is also a contender to replace Flynn on a permanent basis, cable news talking heads focused almost exclusively on another candidate, retired Gen. David Petraeus.
CNN’s Gloria Berger reported Petraeus is coming to the White House for meetings tomorrow, but there was “no deal yet.” FNC’s chief White House correspondent John Roberts added that the “only thing is, the condition of his parole does not allow him to leave the country until April.” CNN reported Petraeus would have three days to notify his probation officer about his new job, if appointed, and would need to notify the probation officer if he leaves North Carolina; his work travel would have to be approved by the officer. Petraeus, who oversaw military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, was sentenced in 2015 to serve two years of probation and pay a $100,000 fine for sharing classified information with his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, CNN reminded.
Flynn’s exit came shortly after WaPo reported former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had spoken to the White House a month ago over concerns about Flynn. In the meeting, WaPo reported, Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel said Flynn appeared to have misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador, and warned that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. (The White House later fired Yates after she instructed the DOJ not to defend Trump’s travel ban.)
Flynn told Vice President-elect Mike Pence, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia over its interference in the 2016 presidential election in his communication with the Russian ambassador.
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn wrote in his resignation. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”
WaPo reported earlier this evening, shortly before Flynn’s resignation, that his undoing was set in motion when Russian ruler Vladimir Putin said Russia would not retaliate for sanctions Obama’s administration imposed in December. That head-scratcher set intelligence analysts searching for an explanation.
“The search turned up [Ambassador Sergey] Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general with years of intelligence experience,” WaPo reported.
From that call and subsequent intercepts, FBI agents wrote a secret report summarizing Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak. Yates considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call to be “potentially illegal,” the paper reported.