Just hours after Kellyanne Conway insisted that President Trump had “full confidence” in National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Flynn resigned, citing his pre-inauguration calls with the Russian ambassador and his “incomplete” briefing of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. That left Conway to explain the sudden shift Tuesday morning, and for once, she was lacking for words.
Today’s Matt Lauer asked Conway whether she was out of the loop on Monday and how she could explain why Flynn was kept around, even though the White House had all the information about his missteps a month ago. “By night’s end, Mike Flynn had decided it was best to resign,” she said. “He knew he’d become a lightning rod and he made that decision.”
But Lauer pressed. “So had he not resigned, the President would continue with him as National Security Adviser even though he misled the Vice President and the administration about the contents of that call?” he asked. Conway said that yes, that had been the dealbreaker, but then she couldn’t explain why it wasn’t a dealbreaker a month ago, when the Department of Justice informed the White House that Flynn had not been honest about his calls with the Russian ambassador and could have been blackmailed by the Russians.
“The fact is that General Flynn continued in that position,” Conway offered, admitting that he was fully performing his duties, including participating in high-level intelligence meetings, even after the DOJ’s warning. “As time wore on, obviously the situation had become unsustainable.”
“That makes no sense,” Lauer said.
The interview continued for another three minutes, and all Conway could say was to reiterate that Flynn had resigned and Trump had accepted that resignation.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
Flynn had said that he couldn’t recall what he said during his phone calls with various foreign leaders, but if he spoke to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, he may have broken federal law. As Lauer pointed out, this wasn’t news to the White House. The only thing that had changed in terms of Flynn’s fate was the relentless scrutiny the administration had received for several straight days because of news about the nature of the call and the fact he misled Pence about it.
Friday night, Trump said he was unaware of reports that Flynn had spoken to the Russian ambassador about sanctions.
Watch—Trump Fri nite claimed he hadn't heard about WP story that Flynn talked sanctions. Story was out for a day—and DOJ told WH last month. pic.twitter.com/WOiT10mJOd
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 14, 2017
Conway’s comments that the situation was “unsustainable” and Flynn was a “lightning rod” seem to suggest that the resignation was not actually a result of any of his actions, but merely the public pressure since the news broke. If there is another explanation, the quite crafty master of spin couldn’t come up with one.
UPDATE: Conway continued her non-spin later Tuesday morning on Good Morning America. Again faced with questions about how the White House knew weeks ago about Flynn’s missteps, she said, “I can’t reveal what the White House knew or didn’t know or who in the White House knew or didn’t know.”
George Stephanopoulos pressed, and she again said, “I’m not here to say who knew what when,” claiming it would be divulging information that is “highly sensitive.” She did not know if Trump or Pence were told weeks ago that Flynn had been compromised.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 14, 2017