Trump’s national security advisor steps down, after misleading the vice president about his conversations with Russian ambassador.
- By Dan De LuceDan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. He joined FP in June 2015 after working as Pentagon correspondent for Agence France-Presse. Prior to that, Dan reported for the Guardian from Iran until he was expelled by the regime in 2004. After the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe, Dan worked as a freelance journalist in Prague. He later covered the war in former Yugoslavia for Reuters from 1993 to 1995 before serving as Sarajevo bureau chief after the conflict. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dan lives in Washington with his wife, journalist and author Caitriona Palmer, and his four children.
Michael Flynn resigned late on Monday as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor after he offered a misleading account of his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States that alarmed law enforcement and intelligence officials.
Flynn’s departure comes less than a month after he took up the job, an early exit without precedent that underscored the administration’s chaotic and disorganized initial weeks in office. But his resignation offers little prospect of defusing a growing cloud over the administration about the nature of the Trump team’s communications with Moscow before the president was sworn in on Jan. 20. The administration has yet to clarify if other senior aides encouraged Flynn’s overtures to Russia or sought to undermine the outgoing Obama administration’s policies.
Flynn’s resignation came after dramatic revelations in the Washington Post last week that he had discussed U.S. sanctions in December with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at a moment when the outgoing Obama administration was preparing to impose a new round of sanctions on Moscow for its meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
Flynn had initially denied that the subject came up in his conversations, but later changed his account, saying that it was possible the topic was discussed.
The Justice Department reportedly warned the White House that Flynn had not come clean about the nature of his conversations with the Russian diplomat, and expressed fears that the retired Army general could be vulnerable to blackmail from Moscow.
The accounts of Flynn’s phone calls to the Russian ambassador have fueled concerns among lawmakers in Congress and allies in Europe about Trump’s persistent affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his willingness to consider lifting sanctions on Moscow without concrete concessions in return.
The Post’s bombshell report last week, and the White House’s refusal to come to Flynn’s defense over the weekend, triggered intense speculation that the national security advisor could be forced to resign.
In his resignation letter, Flynn said that “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.
“I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”
Flynn, a retired three-star general who served in military intelligence and as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he had “always performed my duties with the utmost of integrity and honesty to those I have served.”
Flynn said he was honored to have served under President Trump, “who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.”
During the campaign, Flynn had railed against Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for using a private email server when she was secretary of state, saying she had jeopardized national security. At the Republican Party’s convention in August, he led chants of “Lock Her Up!”
Now Flynn faces potential legal jeopardy for his actions. Experts say it’s possible he could be charged for violating the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from conducting foreign policy, violating other criminal statutes or for possibly lying to federal investigators.
The White House said in a statement that retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former commander of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, would replace Flynn as acting national security advisor.
But it’s not clear if Kellogg will serve in an interim role or be named as the permanent replacement. Flynn’s resignation set off speculation about possible successors, including David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to mishandling classified information and handing it over to his mistress and biographer. The scandal surrounding the case forced him to resign as CIA director.
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