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.
The conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador took place over the phone weeks before Trump's inauguration, when Flynn was still a private citizen with no position in the government, the New York Times reported. Flynn suggested to Kislyak that once Trump was president he would reconsider US positions on Russia — such as sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama. Private US citizens are prohibited from negotiating with foreign governments by the Logan Act, and some US officials have said they believed Flynn had gone too far.
Pence denied that conversation took place on national television. But, the Times reported, the Russian ambassador's calls had been wiretapped by US intelligence, and a transcript was made available to the White House.
Then–acting Attorney General Sally Yates late last month briefed Trump that Flynn had misled officials about the phone call, the Washington Post reported, and she told Trump the Department of Justice believed that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
In his resignation letter, Flynn, who had been on the job for just 24 days, said he inadvertently briefed Pence and others with "incomplete information."
"I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology," Flynn said.
The move came just hours after Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, said on MSNBC that the president had "full confidence" in Flynn.
The Kremlin declined to comment when asked about the resignation. Speaking on Tuesday morning, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We would like to refrain from commenting. This is the Americans’ internal affair, an issue for the Trump administration, and not our business."
Retired Lt. General Joseph Kellogg has been named acting national security adviser, the White House said in a statement.
The news was met with calls from several Democrats in Congress for an investigation into what Flynn had said to Russia — and who else in the Trump administration knew about it. A formal congressional inquiry would require Republicans to agree.
The retired general's son, Michael Flynn Jr., tweeted Tuesday morning that the "disinformation campaign" against his father had prevailed. He deleted the tweet less than an hour after posting it.
And Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the "real story" was about the illegal leaks coming out of Washington.
Read Flynn's full resignation letter here.
February 13, 2017
In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.
Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.
Throughout my over thirty three years of honorable military service, and my tenure as the National Security Advisor, I have always performed my duties with the utmost of integrity and honesty to those I have served, to include the President of the United States.
I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.
I am also extremely honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America's leadership position in the world.
As I step away once again from serving my nation in this current capacity, I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty, the friendship of those who I worked with throughout the hard fought campaign, the challenging period of transition, and during the early days of his presidency.
I know with the strong leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the superb team they are assembling, this team will go down in history as one of the greatest presidencies in U.S. history, and I firmly believe the American people will be well served as they all work together to help Make America Great Again.
Michael T. Flynn, LTG (Ret)
Assistant to the President / National Security Advisor