by Brooke Winters
President Trump asked his former national security advisor Michael Flynn to resign on Feb. 13 after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Conflicting accounts of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian official resulted in his resignation after just 24 days on the job, the shortest tenure of any national security advisor.
Last month, the Justice Department warned the Trump administration that Flynn had not been entirely truthful in recounting his conversation. Then-Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump last month, also informed the Trump administration that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to blackmail.
Flynn has been accused of discussing sanctions with Kislyak in December 2016 during the presidential transition period. Some senior U.S. officials interpreted Flynn’s communications as inappropriate, possibly conveying that Russia could expect a cut back on sanctions once the Trump administration took over. On Feb. 8, Flynn himself denied any discussions of sanctions with the Russian official. The next day, a spokesman for Flynn said he “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
The FBI began investigating Flynn’s telephone records once concerns arose about the content of his conversation with Kislyak. Transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversation with the Russian official from December revealed discussions of sanctions.
In his resignation letter, Flynn reveals he made several phone calls with various foreign officials, which he states are standard practice. He also wrote, “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, 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’s communications with Russia have also revealed disconnect within the Trump administration. President Trump was informed on Jan. 26 about Flynn’s pre-inauguration talks with Kislyak, while Vice President Pence was briefed about the issue on Feb. 9.
This issue has stirred up criticisms of the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia. In an interview with CNN, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I think Congress needs to be informed of what actually Gen. Flynn said to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions.”
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “Let’s be clear right now, there are way more questions than answers on President Trump’s relationship with Russia.”
In response to this scandal, President Trump tweeted, “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N. Korea etc?” In a different tweet, Trump claimed, “This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”
Drew student Max Lozynskyj (’19) offered his thoughts on the recent controversy. He said, “Obviously, it’s against the law. What’s even more significant is that you have an American acting almost as a foreign agent. Predisposed so favorably to Russia while other discussions are going on not only undermines the United States but also threatens the Republic’s security.
He also said, “At the time, sanctions were put in place by President Obama and then a representative of the president-elect was undermining that by making other deals with Russia. It’s obscene.”
Lozynskyj went on to say that, “Additionally, communications with Russia started before the election which might lead one [to] believe that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s interference. We don’t know all the facts yet but an investigation is certainly necessary.”
As of Thursday evening, CNN reported that the FBI is not planning to file charges against Michael Flynn, however, a broader investigation into his relations with Russia is still ongoing.