White House aide declines to back Flynn over Russia contact

Posted On Monday, 13 February 2017 10:53

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A top White House official declined in several interviews over the weekend to defend national security adviser Michael Flynn, amid controversy over his alleged contacts with Russia. Mr Flynn reportedly discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the weeks before the inauguration. He denied talking about this issue but later said he could not be certain.
Any discussion of sanctions could have violated laws against private citizens engaging in foreign policy. Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump's top policy adviser, declined to say when asked in a number of interviews whether Mr Trump backed Mr Flynn. Mr Miller said it was not his place to comment on the "sensitive matter" concerning Mr Flynn, who was an early supporter of Mr Trump but whose position in the administration is thought to be under scrutiny.
Asked if the president still had confidence in Mr Flynn, Mr Miller responded: "That's a question for the president." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Mr Flynn and Mr Kislyak did not discuss lifting sanctions. The controversy comes as Mr Trump faces his first major national security challenge, following the test by North Korea on Sunday of a ballistic missile. Mr Flynn would ordinarily be closely involved in determining the US response to such a test.

How the controversy unfolded

Mr Flynn is known to have spoken with Mr Kislyak several times by phone in December. Both Mr Flynn and US Vice-President Mike Pence denied that the two men 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 that the issue had been discussed. A spokesman for Mr Flynn subsequently backtracked, telling reporters that 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.
What has the president said?

Mr Trump, who spent the weekend at his club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, has yet to comment publicly. Mr Flynn was with Mr Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. The president is expected to face questions on the issue during a joint press conference with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, on Monday. Citing administration officials, the Associated Press reported that the president is troubled by the situation and uncertain as to whether he will ask Mr Flynn to step down. Several other White House officials, as well as Mr Miller, declined over the weekend to comment on the situation.

A confidante 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. But questions have been raised about Mr Flynn's closeness with Russia. He attended a banquet last year held in honour of the Russian government, where he sat two seats away from Vladimir Putin.

News source: BBC

Read 508 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 March 2017 10:08

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