When Did Trump Know About Michael Flynn’s Russia Contacts?
Michael Flynn was out of a job Monday after The Washington Post revealed that he had potentially broken the law in a conversation with the Russian ambassador before the inauguration. It's not just any job, but the position of national security adviser — definitely not where you want someone potentially under foreign influence. But when did Trump know about Flynn's Russia phone call? Apparently, he knew weeks before the American public — and even the vice president — found out. The precise contents of those phone calls, however, have not been released.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Tuesday that Trump had been briefed on the contents of Flynn's call in late January, but the president did not inform Mike Pence, nor did he do anything about it. The issue is that Pence's spokesman Mark Lotter confirmed that the vice president found out when the press reports first surfaced, Reuters reported. He was left out of the loop for about two whole weeks. According to a CNN source, "It's not that he was being left out. It was a legal review." But still it seems unusual.
Spicer also detailed how Flynn resigned, and why. If Trump knew about all this weeks ago, the delay is curious. "The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask Gen. Flynn for his resignation," Spicer told reporters. “There’s nothing that the general did that was a violation of any sort. What this came down to was a matter of trust."
The New York Times published a different account based on several sources in the White House. They claimed Trump decided in a "flash" to get rid of Flynn, and only when there was a news alert covering the controversy. "Yeah, it's time," the president reportedly said. That would explain why Flynn and Kellyanne Conway didn't hint at any impending departure or resignation. Perhaps there was no plan to do so until Trump allegedly changed his mind.
The situation has broader implications given the ongoing look into Trump associates and their connections with Russia. On Tuesday, The New York Times published another piece on the FBI investigation that is looking into at least three Trump associates who have been investigated about potential contact with Russia in the year leading up to the presidential election in November.
The real question is how Republicans in Congress are going to react. Will there be a congressional inquiry into Flynn or other Trump contacts like his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort? Democrats will want to investigate, but they could be stymied if Republicans resist, given their majority in both houses.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told The Times that he is dead set on finding answers. He said if anything there are now more questions on "how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when."