Republicans continue to shrug off the way former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn apparently broke protocol by discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December. Wednesday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Flynn was just doing his job.
“With respect to Michael Flynn talking to other governments in the transition, that’s his job,” Ryan told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “That’s what he’s supposed to be doing. So it’s entirely appropriate; it’s actually in the job description for incoming national security advisers to talk to other nations, to talk to ambassadors, to start beginning relationships. That’s very much appropriate.”
Ryan thinks the story is simply that Flynn “was not candid or honest with his superiors and that’s grounds for dismissal.”
Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough later asked some follow-up questions, but only about how Flynn lied to the Vice President about the nature of his calls. There was no discussion about the nature of Flynn’s calls and why that would be of primary concern.
Many Republicans have put forth various justifications for not investigating Flynn’s actions or the events that led up to his resignation, but Ryan is perhaps the first to suggest that there was nothing problematic about his calls whatsoever. By focusing on the lying instead, he is downplaying Flynn’s apparent collusion with Russia just as evidence is increasing of ties between Russia and the Trump administration.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump campaign and other associates of then-candidate Trump repeatedly had conversations with Russian intelligence, fueling new speculation about how Russia meddled in the elections to support Trump’s victory. The President dismissed these concerns as “non-sense” Wednesday morning:
This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Ryan said Tuesday that investigating the Trump campaign’s relationships with Russia isn’t a priority for him.
“I’ll leave it up to the administration to describe the circumstances,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to prejudge any of the circumstances surrounding this until we have all of the information.”