President Trump continues to defend former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn because he “does not want to smear a good man,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday.
Speaking at the regular White House press briefing, Spicer defended the Trump Administration’s handling of Flynn, who was fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
“It’s not question of defending Mike flynn or not,” he said. “I think Mike Flynn is somebody who honorably served our country in uniform for over 30 years. And I think as he’s noted, Lt. General Flynn was asked for his resignation because he misled the Vice President. But beyond that I think he did have an honorable career, he served with distinction in uniform for over 30 years, and the president does not want to smear a good man.”
But Spicer repeatedly downplayed testimony by former acting attorney general Sally Yates, who told a Senate committee Monday that she told the White House counsel 18 days before Flynn resigned that Flynn was “compromised” and could be blackmailed by Russia. Spicer said Yates merely gave the administration “a heads up” on Flynn, claiming without citing any evidence that she is a “strong supporter” of Hillary Clinton and calling her “someone who is not exactly a supporter of the president’s agenda.”
(Trump fired Yates, an Obama appointee, in January after she refused to defend his travel ban in court—though this didn’t occur until four days after her initial meeting with White House counsel Don McGahn on Flynn.)
Flynn was eventually fired after weeks of crippling leaks to the press about his conduct and his ties to Russia. According to the White House, Trump fired Flynn for misleading Pence about the nature of his contacts with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. He also failed to list more than $150,000 in 2016 income on his initial personal-financial-disclosure form, including a financial relationship with Russian state-backed outlet RT.