WASHINGTON (AP) — The storm over national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia made his situation “unsustainable,” prompting Flynn to resign less than a month into the new Trump administration, a top White House official said Tuesday.
Flynn’s ouster appeared to be driven more by the idea that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials than by the content of his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Still, the matter deepened questions about President Donald Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said this morning that Flynn “knew he’d become a lightning rod” and made the decision to resign.
Flynn’s resignation — which one White House official said was offered at the request of the president — came after reports that the Justice Department had alerted the White House weeks ago that there were contradictions between Trump officials’ public accounting of the Russia contacts and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on routine recordings of communications with foreign officials who are in the U.S.
White House officials haven’t said when Trump was told of the Justice Department warning or why Flynn had been allowed to stay on the job with access to a full range of intelligence materials.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a longtime Russia critic, said Congress needs to know what Flynn discussed with the ambassador and why.
“The idea that he did this on his own without any direction is a good question to ask,” Graham added.
Pence and others, apparently relying on information from Flynn, had said the national security adviser did not discuss U.S. economic sanctions against Russia with the Russian envoy during the American presidential transition.
Flynn later told officials the sanctions may have been discussed, the latest change in his account of his pre-inauguration discussions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Such conversations would breach diplomatic protocol and possibly violate the Logan Act, a law aimed at keeping private citizens from conducting U.S. diplomacy.