WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday night following reports he misled the administration over his private talks with a Russian official.
The resignation came as multiple media reports surfaced that the Justice Department warned the Trump administration last month that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
A White House official also confirmed the Justice Department warning.
Flynn resigned late Monday night and his statement read, in part:
“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 Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.
…”I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.”
The Justice Department concern was raised after Flynn claimed he did not discuss with the Russian ambassador the U.S. sanctions being imposed by former President Barack Obama’s administration in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the November election. Flynn was not yet in government.
The message was delivered by then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Other top intelligence officials, including James Clapper and John Brennan, were in agreement the White House should be alerted about the concerns.
The Washington Post first reported the Justice Department message.
Trump fired Yates at the end of January after she told Justice Department attorneys not to defend his executive order suspending the refugee program and temporarily restricting travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim nations. Implementation of the travel ban has since been stalled by the courts and the Trump administration is weighing its options.
A representative for Yates said she no comment.
The Flynn resignation comes less than a month into the job, making him one of the shortest-serving senior presidential advisers in modern history.
Gen. Keith Kellogg will be the interim national security adviser, multiple sources told CNN. He most recently served as National Security Council chief of staff.
A senior administration official said Kellogg, retired Gen. David Petraeus and former Vice Admiral Bob Harward are possible replacements for Flynn.
Flynn is a retired lieutenant general who was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama until he was forced out.
He has been at the center of mounting controversy over the past several days in regard to his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Following initial reports in early January that Flynn was in contact with Kislyak and spoke to him about U.S. sanctions, Vice President Mike Pence offered a robust defense of the incoming national security adviser. He said in nationally televised interviews that he had spoken with Flynn and that Flynn had assured him he had not spoken about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
But reports of an investigation showed Flynn potentially misled Pence and criticism of the controversial former military man grew. Flynn
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday the President had “full confidence” in Flynn. But about an hour later, things had changed.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer offered a much more limited commitment from the President towards Flynn, saying Trump was “evaluating the situation.”
An administration official said new information came to light between Conway’s comments and the Spicer statement.
Another source said Conway “did not go out there on her own” to say the President had full confidence in Flynn, and that “new information came to light in real time.”
Spicer’s statement said Trump was “speaking to the vice president relative to the conversation the vice president had with Gen. Flynn, and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is: our national security.”