President Trump asked Michael Flynn to resign as national security adviser because of eroding trust —not because he violated the law, the White House said Tuesday.
In a briefing dominated by questions about Flynn, press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly said the former national security adviser had done nothing wrong in talking to counterparts around the world, including from Russia.
He said Trump had fired Flynn not because of those conversations, but because Trump felt that his trust in Flynn had “eroded.”
“There is not a legal issue but rather a trust issue,” Spicer said, adding the circumstances surrounding Flynn’s talks with Russia created a “critical mass and an unsustainable situation.”
Spicer’s comments indicated Flynn’s ouster was driven by Trump’s frustration that the adviser had misled Vice President Pence and others and not the fact he discussed sanctions with Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak.
While Monday’s briefing was intended to tamp down the controversy surrounding Flynn, it highlighted lingering questions about Trump’s posture toward Russia and why he didn’t act sooner to address the crisis.
In his own resignation letter on Monday, Flynn apologized for giving an inaccurate assessment of his conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the United States to Pence, then the vice president-elect.
Flynn’s conversation with Pence led the vice president to go on television and say that Flynn had not discussed the issue of sanctions on Russia with the ambassador.