Sources in the White House are saying that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has apologized to Vice President Mike Pence in connection with Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. Pence is reported to have accepted Flynn’s apology, which was not made public.
Fox News cites a “West Wing source” for its reporting on the apology. The source also denies rumors Gen. Flynn will be fired from his position at the NSA. According to the source, Flynn is still part of President Trump’s “inner circle.”
CNN reported in January that Gen. Flynn, who had been criticized for his ties to Russia in the past, had been in text and telephone contact with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, while Barack Obama was still president. The two men had a phone call on Dec. 29, the same day that President Obama ordered additional sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian diplomats in connection with Russia’s interference in the election. At the time, Trump transition officials denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russians.
Pence had defended Flynn in an interview with Chris Wallace on Jan. 15. “I talked to Gen. Flynn yesterday,” Pence said. “The conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to new US sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats.”
Flynn’s story unraveled because the FBI intercepted his communications with Kislyak as part of routine surveillance of Russian diplomats. Analysis of the intercepted communications showed that Flynn actually did discuss the sanctions in spite of what he had told the vice president and the media.
Flynn’s public position has gone from one of adamant denial that sanctions were discussed to one of uncertainty. Through a spokesman, Flynn told the Washington Post, that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
The revelation that Flynn lied to the vice president cuts to the core of the National Security Advisor’s integrity and credibility. Also troubling for Flynn, Gregg Miller of the Washington Post pointed out on NPR that the contacts with the Russians may have been illegal under a 1799 law that prohibits unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments.
It is extremely unlikely that the Trump Administration would prosecute Gen. Flynn for his contacts with the Russians, which were possibly authorized by the president himself. It is far more likely that Flynn will either be fired or kept on a short leash for the near future.
President Trump has remained uncharacteristically quiet on the subject, both on Twitter and though his surrogates. “It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind,” Trump advisor Steven Miller said on “Meet the Press,” when asked about Flynn. President Trump “did not give me anything to say.”