It wasn’t the crime — or at least the appearance of one — that brought Gen. Michael Flynn down. It was the coverup.
President Donald Trump asked his short-lived national security adviser to resign on Monday night after concluding he could no longer trust him, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday afternoon:
“The issue here was that the president got to the point where General Flynn’s misleading the vice president and others on the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation.”
Flynn came under fire before the president took office after reports surfaced that he discussed current sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which critics called inappropriate and potentially illegal. But the controversy intensified over the last week because Flynn maintained publicly for weeks he did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak, and later said he couldn’t remember if he did so or not.
Had he just copped to it, he might still be employed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because Spicer said in his briefing Tuesday it would have been a dereliction of duty for Flynn not to talk to foreign officials about their concerns to prepare for his role running the National Security Council.
As soon as the Justice Department alerted Trump’s team in January that Flynn could have overstepped his legal bounds during that conversation, Spicer said, the president ordered his legal team to get to the bottom of it. Spicer said that immediately upon ordering that review, Trump “instinctively” believed Flynn had done nothing wrong in talking to Kislyak, and that he was proved right.
It’s still unclear, given that review, why it took so long to determine that Flynn lied.
The legal issue isn’t going away, either. Despite the White House’s findings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Intelligence Committee is likely to probe the matter now.