Michael Flynn is the first high-profile official to resign from Republican administration of Donald Trump
Developments on Day 25 of the Trump Administration:
National Security Advisor Resigns
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns, amid furor over his discussion — before Donald Trump became President — of the lifting of sanctions on Moscow with the Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.
Flynn was also assailed by National Security Council staff, through leaks to the media, for his chaotic management of the NSC.
“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 said in his resignation statement
I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way. 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 US history.
Flynn had maintained until Monday that sanctions were not discussed — even declaring this last month to Vice President Mike Pence, who then went on national TV and defended the National Security Advisor.
A US official confirmed that Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House in late January that she believed Flynn had misled them about the phone calls with Kislyak, and that he might be subject to prosecution under the Logan Act, which bans private individuals carrying out official diplomacy. However, she was soon fired over her judgement that Trump’s “Muslim Ban” is legally indefensible.
An “administration source” said the course towards Flynn’s resignation had been set since last Friday, more because of his lying to Pence than because of the discussion of removing sanctions on Russia. White House policy advisor Stephen Miller pointedly refused to back Flynn, or say that he had Trump’s confidence, in a series of interviews on Sunday morning political talk shows.
Still, as late as 4 pm Monday, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway appeared to reverse Sunday’s reticence, saying Trump had full confidence in Flynn. She reacted sceptically to questioning about whether Flynn mislead Pence, “Why do you say he did?” She said Flynn worked with Trump all weekend and was “the point person” both for Trump’s meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his scheduled meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week.
General Keith Kellogg, the NSC Chief of Staff, will serve as interim National Security Advisor. A “senior administration official” said Kellogg, retired General and former CIA Director David Petraeus and former Vice Admiral Bob Harward are possible permanent replacements.
Two White House officials said Harward, a friend of Defense Secretary James Mattis, is the favorite.
Petraeus, who was considered by Trump for Secretary of State before the inauguration, is going to the White House on Tuesday, according to “sources inside and close to the administration”.
“He is making a run” for the job, one source said, but noted “he has a lot of baggage”.
An “administration source” said Trump “hung in there” when it came to Flynn, but there was a “flood of information” that finally made it clear the National Security Advisor had to resign.
Asked if Trump is disappointed, another administration official said: “He’s moving on.”
Representatives John Conyers and Elijah Cummings, the ranking members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, called for a classified briefing for Congress:
We were shocked and dismayed to learn this evening of reports that three weeks ago, US law enforcement officials warned the White House Counsel that General Flynn had provided false information to the public about his communications with the Russian government, but that the Trump Administration apparently did nothing about it.
Canada’s Trudeau Visits Trump
Donald Trump strikes a conciliatory tone with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, proclaiming, “Our relationship with Canada is outstanding.”
Trump pulled back on his threat to substantially modify or even scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, “We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries.”
Trudeau avoided a confrontation over Trump’s “Muslim Ban”:
The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves. My role and our responsibility is to continue to govern in such a way that reflects Canadians’ approach and be a positive example in the world.
Trump sidestepped the issue, speaking instead of his immigration crackdown to “deport criminals from the United States”>
But for many, the defining moment of the visit was when Trudeau successfully resisted Trump’s “domination handshake”, clasping the President’s shoulder and then refusing to give ground with his right hand.
Trump’s handshake, in which he grips the other person’s hand and pulls it toward him, has been highlighted after he used it on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
How Justin Trudeau neutralised the Trumpshake with a clever combination of timing, balance and control pic.twitter.com/ptaxwbgPgV
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 14, 2017
GOP Ensures Congress Will Not Ask Trump for Tax Returns
A Congressional tax oversight committee will not seek Donald Trump’s tax returns despite issues over transparency and conflict of interests, the committee’s Republican chairman says.
“If Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” said Kevin Brady, who heads the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee said. “Privacy and civil liberties are still important rights in this country, and (the) Ways and Means Committee is not going to start to weaken them.”
A Democratic member of the committee, Representative Bill Pascrell, asked Brady to obtain Trump’s returns from the US Treasury so the committee could review them in a closed session.
Pascrell said he continues to hope for action: “Our committee must respond by using its legal authority as Congress has in the past to provide proper oversight. This is Checks and Balances 101.”
The Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation, who also examine individual tax returns, are headed by Senator Orrin Hatch, who has ruled out any subpoena of Trump’s records.
Mnuchin Confirmed as Treasury Secretary
The Senate confirms Steven T. Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs and later a Hollywood producer, as Treasury Secretary Monday evening,
Mnuchin ran a bank, OneWest, that foreclosed on tens of thousands of Americans amid the financial crisis, and Democrats argued that he would not represent the financial interests of ordinary Americans. Mnuchin.
As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin will be responsible for a broad order from Donald Trump to review and possibly scrap the Dodd-Frank Act, brought in to regulate the financial sector after the 2008 meltdown.