Flynn handed in his resignation after conceding that he gave ‘incomplete information’ about his calls with Russia’s ambassador to the US.
Fired by one American commander-in-chief , Michael Flynn has now delivered his resignation to another.
President Donald Trump had been weighing the fate of his national security adviser, a retired lieutenant general who just three weeks into the new administration put himself in the center of a controversy. Flynn resigned late Monday.
At issue was Flynn’s contact with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington. Flynn and the Russian appear to have discussed US sanctions on Russia late last year, raising questions about whether he was freelancing on foreign policy while President Barack Obama was still in office and whether he misled Trump officials about the calls.
The uncertainty about his future deepened Monday when the White House issued a statement saying that Trump was “evaluating the situation” surrounding Flynn. In his resignation letter, Flynn said he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the US during the transition and gave “incomplete information” about those discussions to Vice President Mike Pence.
The center of a storm is a familiar place for Flynn. His military career ended when Obama dismissed him as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. Flynn has said he was pushed out for holding tougher views than Obama about Islamic terrorism. A former senior US official claimed the firing was for insubordination, after Flynn failed to follow guidance from superiors.
Out of government, he disappeared into the world of mid-level defense contractors and international influence peddlers. In December 2015, he appeared at a Moscow banquet headlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2016, Flynn became a trusted confidant of Trump, tweeting that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
As national security adviser, Flynn required no Senate confirmation vote or vetting of his record.
The Washington Post and other US newspapers, citing current and former US officials, reported last week that Flynn made explicit references to US sanctions on Russia in conversations with Putin’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. One of the calls took place on Dec. 29, the day Obama announced new penalties against Russia‘s top intelligence agencies over allegations they meddled in the election with the objective of helping Trump win.
While it’s not unusual for incoming administrators to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office, the repeated contacts just as the US was pulling the trigger on sanctions suggests Flynn might have helped shape Russia’s response. They also contradicted denials about such sanctions discussions by several Trump administration officials, including the vice president. Some Democratic lawmakers want a congressional investigation.
Russia Comes to Flynn’s Defense
Russian lawmakers on Tuesday mounted a fierce defense of Flynn.
The Kremlin has confirmed that Flynn was in contact with Kislyak but denied that they talked about lifting sanctions.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, said in a post on Facebook that firing a national security adviser for his contacts with Russia is “not just paranoia but something even worse.”
Kosachev also expressed frustration at the Trump administration.”Either Trump hasn’t found the necessary independence and he’s been driven into a corner… or russophobia has permeated the new administration from top to bottom,” he wrote.
Kosachev’s counterpart at the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, Alexei Pushkov, tweeted shortly after the announcement that “it was not Flynn who was targeted but relations with Russia.”