Faced with one problem too many, General Michael T. Flynn stepped down as national security adviser Monday evening.
Flynn’s decision follows days of speculation that he was not forthright with Vice President Mike Pence when Pence asked — in mid-January, before the inauguration of President Donald Trump — if Flynn had ever discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
“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.”
It turned out Flynn likely spoke with the ambassador about sanctions on Russia on Dec. 29. Media reports began hitting Friday that there were transcripts of calls to the Russian ambassador.
The revelation shook the White House and reportedly angered Pence. And Flynn, who was one of Trump’s most ardent supporters on the campaign trail, was suddenly out.
Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr. will serve as acting national security adviser in the interim, per a late-night White House release.
A White House official told LifeZette that Trump was considering Kellogg, Navy Vice Admiral Bob Harward, and former Army Gen. David Petraeus as permanent replacements for the position of national security adviser.
Some media reports late Monday night indicated that Harward, an ally of Defense Secretary James Mattis, could be the NSA front-runner.
The national security adviser needs no Senate confirmation, yet the job is still is a top post.
Flynn’s problems accrued over the last several weeks. On Dec. 29, however, they got deep.
That was the day President Obama slapped new sanctions on Russia for allegedly hacking into Democratic campaign email accounts. Flynn spoke with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on that same day.
Flynn would later deny discussing the sanctions. But on Monday night, he was apologetic, especially where Pence was concerned.
“In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Adviser, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors,” Flynn said in a written statement released by the White House. “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.”
Flynn’s critics suggested that if he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, he was in violation of a never-used law from 1799, the Logan Act. That law forbids citizens from negotiating with foreign states.
The arcane law is a useful tool for liberals. They cited it in 2015 when they wanted 47 Republican senators prosecuted for writing an open letter to Iranian leadership. But they forgot it in April 2007 when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Syrian regime, to defy President George W. Bush.
Ultimately, the Logan Act and other Democratic criticisms did not matter. What mattered was Flynn may have incorrectly briefed Pence, sending the vice president onto Sunday morning talk shows on Jan. 15 with incorrect information. And Trump surely noticed that his day with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was marred by the media’s quest to talk to about Flynn.
At one point after the joint press conference with Trudeau, reporters berated a conservative reporter who did not ask Trump about Flynn, but rather used her question to ask about general national security issues.
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Trump reportedly did not fire Flynn. Instead, he gave him time. But the signs were read by reporters every hour. They were mostly right: Not once did Trump or Pence come to Flynn’s defense over the weekend or on Monday, after Friday’s report that there may be transcripts of the Dec. 29 call.
By Monday night, a panel on Fox News suggested Flynn might soon be gone.
Signing off late Monday night, Flynn was still an ardent Trump supporter.
“[T]his 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,” Flynn wrote.