International Desk: US President Donald Trump knew for weeks that national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the White House about his contacts with Russia but did not immediately force him out, an administration spokesman said on Tuesday.
Trump was informed in late January that Flynn had not told Vice President Mike Pence the whole truth about conversations he had before Trump took office with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
Pence learned of the “incomplete information” that he received from Flynn when news reports surfaced late last week, spokesman Mark Lotter said on Tuesday.
Flynn quit on Monday after Trump asked for his resignation, and the president hopes to pick a new national security adviser by the end of the week, Spicer said.
The departure was another disruption for an administration already repeatedly distracted by miscues and internal dramas since the Republican businessman assumed the presidency on Jan. 20.
The New York Times reported late on Tuesday that members of Trump’s campaign and other associates had contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the Nov. 8 presidential election, although US officials told the newspaper they had not uncovered any evidence that Trump’s associates colluded to disrupt the election.
US lawmakers, including some leading Republicans, called for a deeper inquiry into not just Flynn’s actions but broader White House ties to Russia. Trump has long said that he would like improved relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Trump only moved against Flynn because of news media attention, not concern about any wrongdoing.
“The reason they lost faith or trust in General Flynn only last night when they knew for weeks that he had been lying was that it became public,” Schiff told MSNBC.
A timeline of events outlined by Spicer and a US official showed that Trump had known for weeks about Flynn misleading the vice president.
Trump, a former reality TV star whose catchphrase was “You’re fired!” has often boasted of his eagerness to get rid of subordinates. He was not quick to fire Flynn, a strong advocate of a better relations with Russia and a hard line against Islamist militants.
The Justice Department warned the White House in late January that Flynn had misled Pence by denying to him that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a potentially illegal act, a US official said.
Flynn did talk about sanctions with the diplomat, whose calls were recorded by US intelligence officials, the official said. But Pence went on television in mid-January and denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Flynn in his early days as Trump’s national security adviser regarding his conversations with the Russian ambassador, a White House official confirmed.