Wednesday, February 15, 2017
On Monday night, U.S. retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Advisor at the request of President Donald Trump in response to a Justice Department report indicating the Russian government could blackmail Flynn over untrue statements he’d made to Vice President Pence.
Specifically, Flynn told Pence he had not discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Pence later went on television and relayed this to the public. However, U.S. intelligence officials had recorded Pence and Kislyak’s conversations. According to one such official, Flynn insinuated to Kislyak then-President-elect Trump would be pleased if Russia did not retaliate for the Obama administration’s December 29 order sanctioning Russian spy agencies and expelling 35 suspected Russian spies from U.S. territory. In his resignation letter, Flynn referred to his statements as “incomplete information” and said he’d apologized to Pence.
Under the 1799 Logan Act, individual U.S. citizens are not allowed to negotiate with foreign governments without permission, and Flynn may have violated it, but University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck said the real issue is whether Flynn lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In remarks to NBC News a senior intelligence official said Flynn had not been shown to have done anything illegal. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the resignation was due to a “trust issue” rather than any legal concern.
According to White House spokespeople, President Trump was informed Flynn had misled Pence last month by then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates, while Vice President Pence did not learn of this until news reports surfaced earlier this week. Democratic Representative Adam Schiff claimed Trump asked Flynn to resign because of the media response and not because of the conversation with Pence itself. There is significant opposition in the U.S. Congress to lifting sanctions against Russia. Several Democrats and some Republicans have called for investigation of the Trump administration’s ties with the country.
Retired general Keith Kellogg, who served as an advisor to Trump during his presidential campaign, was selected as Flynn’s acting replacement.