• Politics

The First Casualty of the White House

5 minute read

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was the first official casualty of President Trump’s tenure at the White House, tendering his resignation amid escalating questions over his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn turned in his resignation late Monday night, after senior White House officials huddled with the President and aides to the Vice President. Flynn had misled Vice President Pence on whether he had discussed sanctions on his call with the ambassador, putting his credibility within the Administration—and outside it—in doubt. Trump was initially disinclined to part with Flynn, but ultimately was persuaded by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon that his presence was not only a distraction, but was also hampering Trump’s ability to carry out foreign policy. The Russia controversy was hardly Flynn’s first sin in the White House, and the knives have been out for him within the Administration since long before Inauguration Day.

Flynn’s status at the White House was the subject of mixed messages all day Monday, with Kellyanne Conway telling reporters that Trump had his full confidence at 4 p.m., before White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced, at the president’s direction, that Trump was “evaluating” his National Security Advisor. A senior administration official confirmed Monday evening that the Department of Justice warned White House Counsel Don McGahn a month ago about uncovering new information about Flynn and his contacts with the Russian ambassador—suggesting that it could expose him to blackmail. That revelation put new fuel on the fire and forced Flynn’s exit by 10pm Monday.

But there are several major unanswered questions about Flynn and the White House’s handling of the matter:

• What did McGahn do with the information from the Department of Justice? Why did the White House wait so long to act?

• Did Trump authorize Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian Ambassador. If not, what did Trump know when?

• Was the blackmail threat simply the revelation that he discussed sanctions on the call or something else?

• Did the president or the White House review the transcript of the Flynn calls with the Russian Ambassador?

• Why did a top White House aide say Flynn had the full confidence of the president one hour before the White House revealed Trump was “evaluating” Flynn’s role?

The White House pushed back late Monday on scrutiny of the president’s decision to carry on with discussions about a statement on North Korea’s Saturday missile launch in full view of the members of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Spicer maintained that Trump nor his aides discussed classified information at the dinner table and that the president was briefed before and after the widely publicized meeting in a secure facility. But the social media firestorm renewed questions about Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago, where he still holds a significant financial stake.

Mnuchin confirmed. Clinton’s Twitter burn. And Rahm meets with Reince.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Michael Flynn’s Early Departure Shows a Rocky Start for Trump White House
Caps a day of mixed messages from the White House [TIME]

Justice Department Warned White House That Flynn Could Be Vulnerable to Russian Blackmail
Russia questions led to his ouster [Washington Post]

The Rise and Fall of a K Street Renegade
A sprawling Washington influence scandal [Wall Street Journal]

That Viral Photo of Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump Is Not What It Seems
Sometimes a picture doesn’t tell the whole story [TIME]

Social Media Photos Show the Risks of the ‘Winter White House’
The Mar-a-Lago situation patio [TIME]

Sound Off

“They were reviewing the logistics for the press conference. At the time they had the suggested that the press conference was going to be at the Hampton Inn and so they were reviewing it and the president was basically saying, we’re going to have it here. And that’s it.” — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the North Korean conversations at Mar-a-Lago captured by nearby diners

“General Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus. As our nation confronts the most complex and diverse array of global challenges since the end of World War II, it is imperative that the President select a new National Security Advisor who is empowered by clear lines of authority and responsibility and possesses the skills and experience necessary to organize the national security system across our government. General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections.” — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Flynn’s resignation

Bits and Bites

White House Grants Press Credentials to a Pro-Trump Blog [New York Times]

Oprah gives tape with Puzder abuse allegations to Senate [Politico]

Congress to Grill Janet Yellen Amid Uncertainty Over Trump’s Economic Plans [Associated Press]

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Meets With Trump Aides Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus [TIME]

Judge Grants Injunction Against Trump’s Travel Ban in Virginia [Associated Press]

Senate Confirms Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary [Associated Press]

Hillary Clinton Snarked on Twitter at the Resignation of Trump Advisor Michael Flynn [TIME]

More Must-Reads from TIME

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