President Donald Trump was told several weeks ago that Michael Flynn was not truthful in disclosing his pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador — actions which ultimately led to an “erosion of trust” and the president asking for the national security adviser’s resignation, the White House said Tuesday.
“The evolving, and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation in a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn’s resignation,” Spicer said in his daily briefing to the White House press corps on Tuesday. “Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House Counsel of this situation, the White House counsel briefed the president and a small group of senior advisers.”
He did not elaborate on what those “other questionable instances” that led to Flynn’s dismissal were.
Flynn resigned late Monday evening amid reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak which included discussion of U.S. sanctions. Flynn’s departure Monday night came on the heels of revelations that the Justice Department had informed the White House that he could be subject to blackmail from Russia.
That Flynn misled the vice president and others, as well as his “not having a firm grasp” on his recollections of what was actually discussed on the call with the Russian ambassador factored in to the president’s decision, Spicer said.
The White House counsel was given a “heads up” sometime the week of January 23 by acting Attorney General Sally Yates with what she knew about the call. For the next roughly 17 days, Flynn continued acting in his capacity as national security adviser and even put Iran “on notice” during an appearance in the White House briefing room.
Asked if Trump instructed Flynn to discuss sanctions during the transition, Spicer said “absolutely not.”
Spicer made clear that the White House first dispensed with the legal side of the situation, with White House counsel finding that Flynn had not done anything legally wrong in his conversations. Spicer did not go into specific detail when asked what material the White House counsel’s office reviewed to determine Flynn broke no laws.
“It was not an issue of law, it was an issue of trust,” Spicer repeatedly stated.