Flynn was still allowed to participate in national security briefings during that time despite concerns raised by the heads of the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency. At Trump’s request, Flynn resigned on Monday evening, nearly 24 hours after the Washington Post reported that Yates had raised concerns to White House legal counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
The White House previously implied that Flynn was not fired and was instead Flynn’s decision.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during Tuesday’s briefing defended Trump’s decision to not act immediately on the information in a press briefing. He also insisted that Flynn had done nothing illegal, but that the president had demanded his resignation after he decided he could no longer trust him.
“The president was informed of [Flynn and Russia]. He asked the White House legal counsel to review the situation. The first matter was whether there was a legal issue. We had to review whether there was a legal issue, which the White House legal counsel concluded that there was not,” said Spicer.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates raised concerns that Flynn, when asked about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, had lied to Pence and other administration officials by telling them he had not discussed Obama administration sanctions on Russia, a violation of an obscure federal law known as the Logan Act.
Spicer insisted that Trump came to the decision to ask Flynn for his resignation on Monday after concluding that he could no longer be trusted.
“This was an act of trust. Whether or not he mislead the vice president was the issue,” said Spicer.
Spicer went on to defend Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak, but he did not address the fact that phone conversations between the Russian ambassador and Flynn occurred before Trump was sworn in as president.
“The job of the incoming [national security adviser] is to sit down with his counterparts and start that dialogue. And that’s exactly what he did,” said Spicer. “So the question isn’t whether he did anything improper or illegal it’s the question of whether he could be trusted further and that trust, or the erosion of that trust, was frankly the issue.”
Spicer made no mention of the fact that Flynn was not yet national security adviser in December, which was when he discussed Obama-imposed economic sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador.
Fox News reported that Flynn spoke with Ambassador Kislyak around Christmastime and told Pence he did not discuss sanctions laid out by former President Barack Obama, which Pence went on to publicize on Sunday news programs.