It took them a whole day, but by Tuesday afternoon it seemed like the White House had settled on a consistent — if not entirely plausible — account of the events leading up to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered what turned out to be the official line, saying that Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation due to the “eroding level of trust” between them. Flynn resigned the night before after the Washington Post was able to confirm that he had discussed lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia with a Kremlin representative prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration and then lied about it.
Spicer’s account directly contradicted the version of events given by White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway earlier in the day when she said that Flynn had resigned of his own volition. But on Fox News that night, she stuck to the Spicer script.
Now it’s the president himself who is off message, as is his wont. At a Wednesday press conference, he described Flynn as a “wonderful man” and made no reference to the “eroding level of trust” supposedly engendered by Flynn’s actions.
“I think it is very, very unfair what happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated,” said Trump at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It was an odd remark coming from a man who, according to the White House, fired Flynn in retaliation for a pattern of dishonesty. And there wasn’t much in the way of follow-up.
The question of whether Flynn resigned or was fired is important because it all comes back to one central question: What did the president know, and when did he know it? Right now, the administration would have people believe that Flynn’s dealings with Moscow were an aberration — certainly not part of a pattern of collusion between Trump’s team and the Russian government, as some of his critics have alleged.
But if that’s the case, then why — despite everything that has happened — is Trump still rushing to the defense of that “wonderful man” Michael Flynn?