The White House wants everyone focused on “leaks” instead of the Flynn scandal
President Trump knew about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s call with a Russian diplomat and his subsequent mischaracterizations to the vice president for “weeks” before making the decision to ask for his resignation, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer.
At the daily White House press briefing on Tuesday, Spicer said Trump had been leading a “deliberative process” to “ascertain the truth,” even though the Washington Post reported Monday night that acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates had warned the president that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail before she was fired.
Spicer added that the White House believes Flynn did nothing legally wrong but Trump had lost trust in him because he misled Vice President Mike Pence. “The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask General Flynn for his resignation,” he said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway attempted to portray the move as deliberative and consensual, telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that Flynn had decided to resign on Monday evening because he “knew he’d become a lightning rod” for the administration.
Yet when pressed on the timeline of events leading up to Flynn’s dismissal and whether Flynn resigned on his own or at the behest of President Trump, Conway offered an incoherent explanation.
To which Lauer replied: “Kellyanne, that makes no sense.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
Flynn resigned his post as NSA Monday night following revelations that he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration and then misled the public and other government officials, including Vice President Pence, about nature of that call.
Despite multiple public denials from Flynn and senior staff at the White House that the NSA chief had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak, leaks began to trickle out over the last week contradicting Flynn’s claims.
Yet Trump’s administration and Republican allies spent much of the day focusing on the origin of those “illegal” leaks rather than their contents, attacking federal government bureaucrats who they believe released the information in an effort to sabotage the NSA chief and further embroil Trump’s White House in scandal.
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. His tweet came minutes after Fox News ran a segment entitled “Lawmakers Ask Why Info Was Leaked To Media” written in the chyron. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told the network that “leaks of this nature are incredibly damaging to America” and said that an unspecified agency is “not supportive, loyal to the United States.” Spicer repeated this position during the White House press briefing.
“It is leaks,” Spicer said. “If you think about it, all of this information was leaked.”
But some Republicans did not seem as anxious to brush the issue aside. Texas Senator John Cornyn, the second highest ranking Republican Senator, said the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should further investigate Flynn. Late Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell told congressional reporters it was “highly likely” the Senate Intel Committee would pursue further investigations into Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador and their greater connection to Trump’s administration. And Senator John McCain of Arizona issued a statement that that Flynn’s resignation “raises further questions” about Trump’s “intentions” with regard to Russian President Vladimir Putin.