National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned from his post on Feb. 12 amid allegations that he held a phone call with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before President Trump’s inauguration. The phone call between Flynn and the ambassador featured a discussion about the sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama. The sanctions were a response to the belief that interference on behalf of Russian officials took place in the 2016 presidential election. The response of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was to declare an official suggestion to President Putin to condemn 35 United States officials currently based in Russia as “persona non-grata.” President Putin did not respond to the sanctions imposed by the United States.
The issue of exactly what was discussed on the phone call between General Flynn and the ambassador was asked in a press conference held by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer remained adamant in the fact that sanctions were not discussed and the conversation was a “logistical” one. Spicer was not the only member of the new administration who went on record denying that sanctions were part of the conversation. Vice President Mike Pence on both “Face of the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” stated that he could “confirm” that the conversations General Flynn participated in at the time then-President Obama elected to impose sanctions on Russia did not regard the actions of the current administration. A third high profile member of the incoming administration, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also denied on “Meet the Press” that in speaking to General Flynn the subject of Sanctions was not part of the phone call with the Russian Ambassador.
On Jan. 23, the first official White House briefing was held, and Press Secretary Spicer once again remained firm in the fact that only a single conversation took place and the issue of newly imposed sanctions were not a part of the exchange. On Jan. 26, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates revealed to White House Counsel that despite denial on General Flynn’s behalf, intelligence agencies had determined that sanctions had indeed been discussed in the conversation between Flynn and the ambassador. During this period, specifically Jan. 24, the FBI interviewed Flynn in regard to the topic of the conversation. During the interview, Flynn denied discussing sanctions, an action that is felonious. It was later revealed that Flynn mislead White House officials. The decision of whether or not to prosecute Flynn rests with the Justice Department. President Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation on Feb. 13, as not only legal issues would prevent Flynn from carrying out his duties, but also the threat of blackmail was present at the time the call was mischaracterized by Vice President Pence on national television.
President Trump stated in a news conference on Feb. 16 that Flynn had not been mistaken in engaging in a dialogue with the Russian Envoy.