August 17, 2017

White House: Trump ‘evaluating’ controversy on Michael Flynn

y33President Donald Trump is “evaluating the situation” on his national security adviser’s contact with a Russian envoy, the White House says.
Michael Flynn came under scrutiny amid reports he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the US about sanctions before Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Vice-President Mike Pence publicly denied the allegations on behalf of the retired Army lieutenant general.
Mr Flynn has since told the White House that sanctions may have come up.
It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy, and the calls happened late last year, before Mr Flynn was appointed to the administration.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday afternoon: “The president is evaluating the situation.
“He is speaking to Vice-President relative to the conversation the VP had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is – our national security. ”
Mr Flynn has apologised to Mr Pence over the reports that he misled administration officials about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
Mr Spicer’s statement come soon after White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said Mr Flynn had “the full confidence of the president”.
“It’s a big week for General Flynn. He’s the point of contact for many of these foreign visits,” she told MSNBC.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Mr Flynn and Mr Kislyak did not discuss lifting sanctions.
Mr Flynn is known to have spoken with Mr Kislyak several times by phone in December.
With the support of Vice-President Pence, Mr Flynn denied that he and Mr Kislyak had discussed US sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and alleged hacking of the US Democratic Party.
But nine current and former officials later told the Washington Post the issue had been discussed.
A spokesman for Mr Flynn subsequently backtracked, telling reporters the adviser now said he “couldn’t be certain” he had not discussed the sanctions, prompting speculation that he may have misled the vice-president.
Mr Pence and Mr Flynn reportedly spoke twice on Friday when he privately apologised to the vice-president, according to an administration official.
What is the president’s view?
Mr Trump has yet to publicly comment on the controversy, but was with Mr Flynn over the weekend at his club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago.
Mr Flynn appeared in the front row at President Trump’s news conference on Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Mr Trump was not asked about Mr Flynn by the two reporters he called on, and evaded follow-up questions about the controversy as he left the room.
Citing administration officials, the Associated Press reported that the president was troubled by the situation, but did not say whether he planned to ask Mr Flynn to step down.
Asked if the president was aware that Mr Flynn could discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Mr Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, said: “No, absolutely not. No way.”
Adviser under fire
Mr Flynn was an ardent supporter of Mr Trump during the campaign, and he has become a close ally of both the president and the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
He has encouraged tougher policies on Iran and a softer policy on Russia, but questions have been raised about his perceived closeness to Moscow.
He attended a banquet last year held in honour of the Russian government, where he sat two seats away from Vladimir Putin.
A top aide on Mr Flynn’s team, Robin Townley, was this week denied security clearance by the CIA, preventing Mr Townley from taking up a post in Africa for which Mr Flynn had recommended him.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday called for Mr Trump to fire Mr Flynn, tweeting that he “cannot be trusted to serve America’s best interests and national security instead of Russia’s”.
She joined at least two other top Democrats who have demanded that Mr Flynn be fired if the allegations are true.
Mr Flynn’s son has also attracted unwelcome attention – and reportedly a personal rebuke from Mr Trump.
The son tweeted about the so-called Pizzagate fake news story, which alleged a pizzeria was the nexus of a paedophile ring involving Hillary Clinton and one of her aides, John Podesta.

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