Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn resigned from his position as the National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump on Monday night amid controversy over his contacts with Russia, the White House announced in a press release.
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn said in his resignation letter. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”
The controversy surrounding Flynn, centered around a call he was made to the Russian ambassador on the same day in December that President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia, grew on Sunday and Monday.
Questions had been raised for several weeks that Flynn violated the Logan Act by discussing sanctions with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during that call, which was possibly recorded by the FBI as part of its surveillance of Russians in the U.S.
Flynn and other members of the administration initially denied that he discussed sanctions during the call. Vice President Mike Pence denied the accusations during an interview with CBS in January.
“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence told CBS News.
Flynn has now admitted he did not properly brief Pence before that interview. Some reports emerged Monday that Flynn said he did not intend to mislead Pence, but claimed he did not remember what he said during the contact with Russian authorities.
Heading into Monday morning, Flynn had no expectation he was going to resign or be fired, CNN reported.
About 4 p.m. Monday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that Trump had “full confidence” in Flynn.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer backed off Conway’s comments in a scrum with reporters about 5 p.m., NPR reported.
“The president is evaluating the situation. He’s speaking to the vice president — to Vice President Pence, relative to the conversation the vice president had with Gen. Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is, our national security,” Spicer told reporters.
About 8:30 p.m., CNN reported that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired over her refusal to defend Trump’s travel ban executive order, warned the White House that Flynn had misled the administration about his contacts with Russia and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
And about 10:45 p.m., Flynn submitted his letter of resignation, CNN first reported.
You can read Flynn’ full resignation letter below:
In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.
Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.
Throughout my over thirty three years of honorable military service, and my tenure as the National Security Advisor, I have always performed my duties with the utmost of integrity and honesty to those I have served, to include the President of the United States.
I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.
I am also extremely honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.
As I step away once again from serving my nation in this current capacity, I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty, the friendship of those who I worked with throughout the hard fought campaign, the challenging period of transition, and during the early days of his presidency.
I know with the strong leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the superb team they are assembling, this team will go down in history as one of the greatest presidencies in U.S. history, and I firmly believe the American people will be well served as they all work together to help Make America Great Again.
Retired Lieutenant General Joseph “Keith” Kellogg was appointed Monday night by Trump to be the acting National Security Adviser following Flynn’s resignation.
“General Kellogg is a decorated veteran of the United States Army, having served from 1967 to 2003, including two tours during the Vietnam War, where he earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with ‘V’ device, and the Air Medal with ‘V’ device,” the White House said. “He served as the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division from 1997 to 1998. Prior to his retirement, General Kellogg was Director of the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Directorate under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
Kellogg had been serving as the chief of staff to the National Security Council. He is expected to be one of the contenders to replace Flynn on a permanent basis.
Other contenders are expected to included retired General and former CIA Director David Petraeus and Navy Vice Admiral Bob Harward, Time reports.
NBC reports that Harward is the favorite to be picked to fill the position full-time.
Petraeus is expected to be at the White House for meetings on Tuesday, Politico reports. He would bring his own controversy to the Trump administration, as he was convicted for mishandling classified information in 2015.
The position is appointed by the president and does not require approval from the Senate.
Along with the question of who will replace Flynn, many are asking what President Trump and other administration officials knew and when they knew it.