Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn steps down over Russia contacts

The embattled adviser resigned after less than a month in office following reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his communication with a Russian official.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives before a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Trump at the White House on Monday.

After weeks of confusion and speculation over reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia, Michael Flynn has resigned from his position as President Trump's national security adviser. 

"I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology," Flynn wrote in his resignation letter Monday, as reported by CNN. "I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way." 

Lt. Gen. Flynn's resignation came three days after congressional Democrats called for an investigation into conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Mr. Trump's inauguration, during which the two allegedly discussed US sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration – a serious breach of diplomatic protocol.

Such conversations are a possible violation of the Logan Act, a rarely-enforced law barring US citizens from interfering in foreign diplomacy. But Flynn's denial that he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, a claim that the vice president repeated in television interviews as recently as this month, was his ultimate downfall, administration officials say. 

"General Flynn’s decision to step down as national security adviser was all but ordained the day he misled the country about his secret talks with the Russian ambassador," Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Monday, as reported by The New York Times. He added that the situation is still under investigation by the House committee. 

The move follows weeks of mixed communications from the Trump team regarding Flynn's conversations with the Russian envoy and his relationship with the White House. Counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday that Trump had "full confidence" in Flynn, while press secretary Sean Spicer said on the same day that the president was still "evaluating the situation" and consulting with Pence. 

Administration officials insist that Flynn resigned and was not fired by Trump. Still, senior Russian lawmakers said on Tuesday that his resignation reflected efforts to undermine relations between Russia and the United States. 

"It's obvious that Flynn was forced to write the letter of resignation under a certain amount of pressure," said Leonid Slutsky, the head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee, as reported by the government-run RIA news agency. "The target was Russia-U.S. relations, undermining confidence in the new U.S. administration." 

Flynn's tenure as national security adviser lasted less than a month, making him one of the shortest-serving senior presidential advisers in modern history. Possible replacements reportedly include former CIA Director David Petraeus and Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a retired US Navy SEAL, a senior administration official said.

In the meantime, the president has named retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff, as the acting national security adviser. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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