Thu | Jun 20, 2019

White House declines to publicly defend embattled Flynn

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump passes Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford (left) and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as he arrives via Air Force One at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, on February 6. Trump stopped for a visit to the headquarters for US Central Command and US Special Operations Command before returning to Washington.

PALM BEACH, Florida (AP):

A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances yesterday to publicly defend embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about United States sanctions before President Donald Trump's inauguration.

The uncertainty comes as Trump is dealing with North Korea's apparent first missile launch of the year and his presidency, along with visits this week from the leaders of Israel and Canada.

Trump has yet to comment on the allegations against Flynn, and a top aide dispatched to represent the administration on the Sunday news shows skirted questions on the topic, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the "sensitive matter."




Pressed repeatedly, top policy adviser Stephen Miller said that it wasn't up to him to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

"It's not for me to tell you what's in the president's mind," he said on NBC. "That's a question for the president."

The White House said in an anonymous statement on Friday that the president had full confidence in Flynn. But officials have been mum since then amid fallout from reports that Flynn addressed US sanctions against Russia in a phone call late last year. The report, which first appeared in The Washington Post, contradicted both Flynn's previous denials, as well as those made by Vice President Mike Pence in a televised interview.

Trump has been discussing the situation with associates, according to a person who spoke with him recently. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

New Jersey's Govenor Chris Christie, who led Trump's transition planning before the election, said that Flynn would have to explain his conflicting statements about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

"General Flynn has said up to this point that he had not said anything like that to the Russian ambassador. I think now he's saying that he doesn't remember whether he did or not," Christie said on CNN. "So, that's a conversation he is going to need to have with the president and the vice president to clear that up so that the White House can make sure that they are completely accurate about what went on."