Trump knew Flynn talked sanctions with Russia, but didn’t tell Pence

The president reportedly withheld crucial information from his vice president.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

On Thursday night, Fox News’ John Roberts reported that President Trump was in fact fully briefed about Michael Flynn’s pre-inauguration communications with the Russian ambassador.

That means we now know that Trump was informed about Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Vice President Mike Pence and apparently decided not to inform him. Earlier this week, a Pence spokesperson told the Washington Post that Pence learned about the scandal through “media accounts.”

Citing an unnamed source, Fox reports that “Trump was given a comprehensive summary of the contents of his former-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador prior to Flynn’s resignation.” White House officials haven’t told a consistent story about whether Flynn resigned or was fired.

During TV interviews in January, Pence said Flynn told him the sanctions — which the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December for meddling in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf — were not discussed during his pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn reportedly said the same thing to the FBI. But the Washington Post reporting that led to Flynn losing his job as Trump’s national security adviser revealed that Flynn wasn’t telling the truth — he did indeed talk about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Fox’s report indicates Trump knew Flynn was meddling in the Obama administration’s foreign policy but kept him on staff and gave him access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets anyway — without telling Pence.

During a news conference Thursday, Trump characterized Flynn’s departure as a firing. He said he dismissed Flynn not because of what he did, but because he didn’t initially tell Pence the truth about his communications with Russia.

“I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence,” Trump said. But the Fox report indicates Trump also did not tell Pence the truth.

Trump also commended Flynn for communicating with Russia before the inauguration. “I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it,” he said. “I didn’t direct him, but I would’ve directed him because that’s his job.”

Fox’s report about Trump withholding information from Pence about Flynn’s communication with Russia comes on the heels of two reports that the Trump campaign was in “constant contact” with Russian intelligence before the election.

Reports of Russia-connected hackers hacking the Democratic National Committee first started circulating in June. In July, Trump himself encouraged them, saying during his final pre-election news conference: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s server.

In January, news emerged of an unconfirmed intelligence dossier containing allegations that Russian officials are in possession of compromising information about Trump and his campaign. We know now that some of “conversations between foreign nationals” detailed in the dossier have been confirmed by intelligence officials.

Justice Department officials warned the White House that Flynn wasn’t being truthful about what was discussed during his pre-inauguration calls with the Russia ambassador in late January, in part because of fears that he might be vulnerable to blackmail, the Washington Post reported. But Flynn was kept aboard for another two weeks.

The U.S. intelligence community has already made public its findings that Russia used cyberattacks and other methods to meddle in the election on behalf of Trump.

During Thursday’s news conference, Trump repeatedly dodged questions about his campaign’s communications with Russia. But despite all the unanswered questions about possible collusion between a foreign adversary and team Trump, Republican members of Congress have so far been reluctant to pursue a robust investigation.