President Trump’s decision to remove national security adviser Michael Flynn in less than a month from his presidential inauguration has rekindled concerns about his former ties with Russia and motivated Democrats and some Republicans to call for a further inquiry.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on Tuesday it is “highly likely” the Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate the past conversations that occurred between national security adviser Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), a ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), a ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a joint statement on Tuesday about retired General Flynn in which they voiced their criticism about the way President Trump failed to dismiss Flynn earlier and was reported to have confidence in him just hours before he officially resigned.
“Just a few hours before he resigned, Kellyanne Conway said Mr. Trump had ‘full confidence in Flynn.’ The reality is General Flynn was unfit to be the National Security Advisor, and should have been dismissed three weeks ago. Now, we in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks. We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security.”
Rep. Conyers and Rep. Cummings added that this new disclosure “warrants a full classified briefing by all relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice and the FBI, as soon as possible and certainly before Thursday, February 16.”
Telephone intercepts showed that national security adviser Flynn spoke to Russian Ambassador Kislyak about U.S. sanctions imposed by former U.S. President Obama before Trump was inaugurated and may have violated the Logan Act which prevents private citizens from conducting foreign affairs without the permission or involvement of the U.S. government.
A Washington Post story last week revealed that national security adviser Flynn denied having a conversation with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions but later disclosed through a spokesman that he couldn’t recall.
White House Spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday that the White House’s Counsel Office had previously conducted an extensive review on multiple occasions of General Flynn and determined that there was nothing illegal done and the basis for his removal centered around lack of trust.
“So, on the first, again, as I made clear, there’s nothing that the General did that was a violation of any sort. He was well within his duties to discuss issues of common concern between the two countries. I will say it again: What this came down to is a matter of trust” White House Spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday.
A New York Times story on Tuesday evening cited 4 current and former American officials who reported that intercepted phone calls and phone records showed that members of Trump’s campaign staff and Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the presidential election and around the same time Trump was speaking glowingly about Russian President Vladimir Putin, a cause of concern for American intelligence and law enforcement.
On December 16,2016 the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement concluding it was their belief that the Russian hacking activities of the U.S. election process were carried out under the authorization of “only Russia’s senior-most officials.”