Here's what's going on:
- Gen. Michael Flynn resigned as President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Monday evening after it was revealed he communicated with a Russian official about sanctions before Trump took office — which could have been illegal — and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about it.
- White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump asked for Flynn's resignation because trust between the two had "eroded" — denying there was a legal issue.
- Trump has been aware of the situation since Jan. 26, Spicer said, adding that the White House had been "reviewing and evaluating" the issue "on a daily basis for a few weeks."
- Pence reportedly wasn't informed about Flynn's contact with the Russians until Feb. 9, a full 15 days after Trump was briefed on the matter.
- In early February, when asked about a report concerning Flynn's communication with the Russians, Trump told reporters he had to "look into" it, adding, "I don't know about that."
- Trump on Tuesday morning seemed to blame the media, tweeting, "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?"
- Some Senate Republicans are calling for an investigation into the administration's ties to Russia.
- And here are the military men who could replace Flynn.
Key members of intelligence community say they haven’t been briefed on Flynn investigation
WASHINGTON — Key members of the intelligence community and Congress have been kept in the dark over counterintelligence investigations into Trump's inner circle, underscoring concern of a disconnect between Trump and his national security apparatus.
"I still don't know who got [those intercepts]" one high-ranking US intelligence official said, referring to reported transcripts of a call between ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the US. The official said they weren't sure whether the intercepted phone call — where Flynn reportedly talked with the ambassador about sanctions — was based on FBI intelligence or NSA intercepts, or whether the call between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador was collected under a FISA warrant.
Further, the official said, it was unclear whether the intercepted phone call was picked up as part of a formal counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, or through some other means of domestic or counterintelligence surveillance directed at the ambassador.
Read more here.
Pence kept in the dark for two weeks about Flynn's Russia calls
Vice President Mike Pence reportedly didn't learn about Michael Flynn's calls to a Russian official for two weeks after President Donald Trump was briefed on the matter. By the time Pence finally got the truth, he had already publicly defended Flynn using the misinformation he had received.
NBC News and the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump was first informed on Jan. 26 that Flynn had contact with the Russian ambassador. Flynn reportedly discussed sanctions against Russia for the country's alleged meddling in the November election.
However, Pence wasn't told about Flynn's contact with the Russians until 15 days later, on Feb. 9. By that time, Pence had already given a public interview during which he said Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
The timing of Pence's discovery of Flynn's Russian contacts coincides with the publication of a Washington Post story about the calls.
The controversy over the calls and the fact that Flynn misled Pence ultimately cost the national security adviser his job. Flynn resigned Monday night.
—Jim Dalrymple II
Russia deploys missiles new missiles, sends spy ship off the coast of Delaware
Russia has deployed new missiles that US officials say violate a treaty, and has a spy ship patrolling international waters near Delaware.
The New York Times reported that Russia secretly moved the ground-launched cruise missiles to an operational base in Russia in December. Officials also reportedly believe the missiles violate a 1987 treaty banning both Russian and US intermediate-range missiles that are based on land.
The same day that news of the missiles broke, a Russian spy ship reportedly was seen cruising north off the coast of Delaware. The ship was about 70 miles from land, in international waters, according to Fox News. It reportedly was traveling north at 10 knots.
CBS News described the ship as a general intelligence vessel that previously made a port of call in Cuba.
News of the missiles and spy ship came just hours after President Trump's national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned. Flynn stepped down after it was revealed he communicated with a Russian official about sanctions before Trump took office.
—Jim Dalrymple II
Flynn insists he "crossed no lines"
Right before he resigned as national security adviser, Michael Flynn told the Daily Caller he "crossed no lines" in his talks with Russia's ambassador but feels "terrible" about the position he put Vice President Mike Pence in.
"I feel terrible. I put him in a position. He's a man of incredible integrity. I think the world of him. He is so good for our country," he said. "I should have said, 'I don't know. I can't recall,' which is the truth. Looking back, that's what I should have done."
But Flynn said the "real story" is the ongoing leaks of classified government information to the press, calling it "a crime" and a "real concern for this president."
"In some of these cases, you're talking about stuff that's taken off of a classified system and given to a reporter. You call them leaks. It's a criminal act. This is a crime. It's not just a wink and a nod," Flynn told the paper.
Early Monday morning, Flynn said President Trump told him he needed to speak out more frequently, which he says he intends to do.
"I haven't been fighting back because I'm not that kind of guy. I'm behind the scenes. I've always been behind the scenes. But this is ridiculous. It's so out of control," Flynn told the Daily Caller. "I've become an international celebrity for all the wrong reasons."
Spicer says Trust between president and Flynn had "eroded"
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Michael Flynn's resignation came after the trust between him and the president had "eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change."
"The president was very concerned that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others," Spicer said.
Flynn resigned not on his own, but only after Trump asked for his resignation — "and he got it," Spicer said, contradicting what Kellyanne Conway said earlier in the day, when she told the Today show Tuesday that Flynn offered his resignation and Trump accepted it.
The press secretary repeated several times that the Flynn's resignation was a "trust issue" rather than a "legal issue," insisting that Flynn was simply doing his job.
"The job of the incoming national security adviser is to sit down with the counterparts and start a dialogue and that's exactly what he did," Spicer said. "The question wasn't if he did anything improper or illegal," but whether "he could be trusted further."
Spicer provided a loose timeline of how the situation unfolded, saying that the acting attorney general at the time told the White House Counsel that there may be a conflict with what Flynn had told the vice president.
Once the White House counsel informed Trump on Jan. 26, the president asked him for a review of "whether there was a legal situation here."
"The issue pure and simple came down to a matter of trust, and the president concluded that he no longer that the trust of his national security adviser," Spicer said.
Spicer said the Department of Justice is to blame for the delay in action — it's surprising for an administration official to throw a federal department under the bus — saying they were unaware of the conflicts in Flynn's statements as early as Jan. 13.
"The idea of why did it take so long, I think the first question should be 'Where was the Department of Justice in this?'" Spicer said. "They were aware of this."
Trump had been aware of the situation since Jan. 25, Spicer said, adding that the White House was "reviewing and evaluating" the issue "on a daily basis for a few weeks."
That seemed to contradict Trump's comments on Friday, when reporters aboard Air Force One asked him about a Washington Post article about Flynn discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the US.
Trump at the time said, "I don't know about that," adding that he planned to "look into" the reports.
Spicer on Tuesday insisted the president didn't lie. "He asked specifically if he was aware of a Washington Post story," Spicer said, when asked about Trump's comment. "He hadn't seen that at the time. Of course he was involved. I said he was aware of the situation right after the White House counsel informed him back in January."
On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that "the real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?" Spicer defended the president's tweet saying "we have an issue where classified information … is being given out."
"If you think about this, understand that all of this information was leaked," Spicer said. "I think there's a real story here."
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Republican Senate Intelligence Committee member: “I think we should talk to Flynn very soon”
US Senator from Missouri Roy Blunt on Tuesday morning said that the Senate Intelligence Committee, a board on which he serves, is prepared to investigate former national security adviser Michael Flynn in light of his resignation.
In an interview with KTRS radio, Blunt acknowledged that Flynn, a retired general, has "served the country well and for a long time, but you need to be truthful in whatever job you have. And the national security advisor, of all the people that work with and for the president, has to be absolutely trustworthy and truthful."
Blunt said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has already been tasked by the majority leader to investigate the case.
"I think everybody needs that investigation to happen, and the Senate Intelligence Committee that I serve on has been given the principal responsibility to look into this," he said, adding that he thinks they should "look into it exhaustively."
The senator said he expected the committee to speak with Gen. Flynn "very soon," and that they hoped to answer three key questions.
"What did he know, what did he do, and is there any reason to believe that anybody else knew that and didn't take the kind of action they should have taken?" he said.
Watch the full interview here.
US allies in Europe have no idea "what the fuck is going on" with the Trump administration
BRUSSELS — Already concerned by the Trump administration's erratic approach to the trans-Atlantic alliance, European security services have been shaken by the resignation of US national security adviser Michael Flynn over allegations he lied about his contacts with Russian diplomats, amid increasing concern that the new US administration is pursuing an uncomfortably close relationship with NATO's foremost rival, Russia.
Flynn's resignation Monday night immediately sent European officials into a frenzy of attempting to determine what the change of the president's top national security advisor would mean as the Atlantic alliance has already been struggling with understanding how the new president will approach a litany of complex European situations from the expansion of NATO to the war against ISIS to concerns about an expansionist Russia.
"I was hoping you could tell me what the fuck is going on over there," said one European Union intelligence official who, like the other officials contacted, declined to speak about such a diplomatically sensitive situation on the record.
"There's no guide for handling this sort of situation, happening with such an important and powerful ally," the official said. "If anything, it's a wakeup call to European leaders that counting on America isn't currently a smart policy. Of course this is exactly what Putin wants — to destabilize the Atlantic alliance — but I have to counsel my policymakers the best I can and right now it's, 'Prepare to handle some crises without US support.'" —Mitch Prothero
Flynn's handpicked Russia team is still in place — what does that mean for Trump?
As retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn trudges away from the National Security Council, David Cattler's job gets a lot harder.
Cattler, according to two people with knowledge of the NSC, was handpicked with Flynn's blessing to manage the Russia portfolio for the NSC, despite a lack of expertise on the Kremlin. With the departure of Flynn — who has made no secret of his affinity for Moscow, and has been thought to be one of the driving forces behind the Trump administration's approach to the Kremlin — where Trump and the NSC go on Russia is a glaring question mark.
Flynn spent the better part of the last month staffing up the NSC with intelligence hands like Cattler, who was announced as an NSC addition early this month. Whether Flynn's team will stay in place now that he's gone remains to be seen.
Being a "Flynn" person, one former military intelligence analyst said, could mean a whole host of things. "That could mean [Cattler] loves to fight terrorists, or that he could handle Flynn's horrible management," the analyst, who also now works in defense contracting, said. —Ali Watkins
A leading Democrat likened the Flynn ordeal to Watergate
The Democratic whip of the House, Steny Hoyer, equated the Flynn ordeal to the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.
When asked about fellow Democrats making the analogy, Hoyer said, "If there is an analogy to be made, so be it."
He also reacted to House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz refusing to investigate, saying that if it were a Hillary Clinton administration they would have done so immediately. —Lissandra Villa
Flynn's resignation has officials across the Middle East bracing for more chaos
Top US allies in the Middle East said they were concerned about signs of chaos within the Trump administration after the resignation of Michael Flynn from the post of national security adviser less than a month into the job.
One Middle East official agreed with the description of the turmoil in Washington as fitna, which means sedition in Arabic, a loaded term that refers to the violent struggle that marked the Shiite–Sunni split in Islam.
But officials were also confident that the US system would quickly stabilize and maintain focus on top priorities, like defeating ISIS and confronting Iran, which Flynn put on notice after a ballistic missile test in one of his first acts as national security adviser.
Few if any leaders in the Middle East publicly commented on Flynn's departure, but American adversaries were likely heartened by the chaos in Washington. A commentator on Iran's state-run Press TV called Flynn's resignation "unfortunate for Flynn, but good for Iran because he was such an outspoken enemy of Iran."
Sen. Warren calls for a "launch a real, bipartisan, transparent inquiry into Russia"
Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for a full investigation into the Trump administration's connections to Russia in a tweetstorm on Tuesday morning.
"American national security demands that we not allow Michael Flynn to become a scapegoat for this Admin's disturbing ties to Russia," Warren said.
".@StateDept Sec Rex Tillerson has close ties to Putin. @CommerceGov nominee Wilbur Ross has close financial ties to Putin buddies," she said, adding, ".@realDonaldTrump is still making money overseas & may have financial ties to Russia. Nobody knows since he STILL won't release his taxes." —Tom Namako
House Oversight and House Intelligence committees won't investigate Flynn
House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he will not investigation Mike Flynn's contact with the Russian government, which led to the national security adviser resigning after 24 days in office.
"It's taking care of itself," Chaffetz told reporters on Tuesday according to Politico, adding that further investigation would be up to the House Intelligence Committee.
"I think he did the right thing stepping down," Chaffetz said.
Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he won't open an investigation into Flynn, but will investigate how details of his call with the Russian government was leaked, CNN reported.
In a statement, Nunes called Flynn a "good friend" and thanked him for his service. "Washington, DC, can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America's gratitude and respect for dedicating so much of his life to strengthening our national security," Nunes said.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
House Speaker Paul Ryan dodges question about whether there should be an investigation into Flynn
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said President Trump made the "right decision" asking for Mike Flynn's resignation as national security adviser, but when asked about an independent investigation said, "I'm not going to prejudge."
"I think the administration will explain," he said, adding, "You cannot have a national security adviser misleading the vice president and others."
"I think the president was right to ask for his resignation. I believe it was the right thing to do," Ryan added, which drew interest because it wasn't previously reported that Trump asked for the resignation.
Ryan went on to say that national security is the most important responsibility a president has.
"As soon as this person lost the president's trust, the president asked for his resignation," Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. "And that was the right thing to do." —Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
John McCain calls Flynn’s resignation a sign of “dysfunction”
John McCain called Mike Flynn's resignation a troubling indication of the "dysfunction" of the county's national security operation.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Arizona senator said the nation is facing "the most complex and diverse array of global challenges since the end of World War II," adding that Flynn's replacement must be "empowered by clear lines of authority and responsibility."
McCain went on to say that Flynn's resignation raises questions about the Trump administration's intentions about Russia.
"American policy toward Russia must be made clear and unequivocal: we will honor our commitments to our NATO allies, we will maintain and enhance our deterrent posture in Europe, we will hold Russian violators of human rights accountable for their actions, and we will maintain sanctions on Russia so long as it continues to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," McCain's statement reads.
Read McCain's full statement here. —Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
These are the military men who could replace Flynn
Only 24 days after the Trump administration began, national security adviser Michael Flynn has stepped down, leaving a placeholder retired general behind and a sense of confusion and dread in the body he ran.
For now, former Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr. has been named as acting national security adviser in Flynn's stead. Kellogg had spent just over three weeks serving as the National Security Council's chief of staff. During the presidential campaign, he was an adviser to Donald Trump on foreign policy and military matters. Prior to his retirement, he'd served as head of the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Directorate under the Joint Chiefs of Staff. —Hayes Brown and Nancy Youssef
Mike Pence rises as Mike Flynn falls
National security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation Monday night might have been a stunning early setback for the new administration, but it also offered proof that Vice President Mike Pence does have some power to spur change in the White House.
Flynn resigned after reports emerged that he discussed the issue of sanctions with Russian officials prior to President Donald Trump's inauguration and, worse, misled Pence, leading the vice president to claim falsely that Flynn had not spoken to Russia on Sunday TV shows. Flynn apologized to Pence, but the relationship had soured, with Pence's credibility at stake.
Earlier on Monday, after Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway said on television that Flynn still had the president's full confidence, a Pence ally would not say the same for the vice president. It was frankly "unclear," the ally said, if "Flynn has his trust."
—Adrian Carrasquillo, Tarini Parti, and Alexis Levinson
Here's BuzzFeed News' original story on Flynn's resignation
President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned late Monday after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn had for days fielded accusations that he had discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as a private citizen in December. Pence publicly defended the retired general, and reports said Flynn lied to the vice president about his conversations with Kislyak.
—Claudia Koerner and Adrian Carrasquillo