Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s counselor, struggled Tuesday to defend her assertion that former national security adviser Michael Flynn enjoyed “the full confidence of the president” just hours before Flynn offered his resignation.
On NBC’s “Today” show, Conway was grilled by host Matt Lauer, who asked her if she was out of the loop inside the White House.
“No, not at all,” Conway said. “Both were true.”
[ Timeline: The rise and fall of Michael Flynn ]
In an appearance on MSNBC Monday afternoon, Conway had suggested that Flynn had Trump’s full backing despite a growing firestorm over Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
The Washington Post reported Monday night that Flynn had discussed American sanctions against Russia in the wake of Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election, which may have violated the law. According to multiple reports, Flynn initially told Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, then later claimed he did not recall the discussion.
Shortly after Conway’s “full confidence” remark, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump was evaluating Flynn’s role.
Hours later, Flynn resigned as national security adviser.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
“By night’s end, Mike Flynn had decided it was best to resign,” Conway said on the “Today” show. “He knew he had become a lightning rod, and he made that decision.”
Lauer challenged Conway’s timeline of events.
“Had he not resigned, the president would have continued with him as national security adviser even though he misled the vice president and the administration?” Lauer asked.
“That is what became unsustainable, actually,” Conway replied. “I think misleading the vice president really was the key here.”
“You’re saying that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Lauer said. “But the White House knew about that last month.”
According to the Post, the Justice Department warned the White House in January that Flynn had misrepresented his discussions with the Russian ambassador — and that Flynn was vulnerable to future blackmailing by the Kremlin.
Conway pointed out that Flynn continued in his role as national security adviser, participating in the daily briefings and sitting in on Trump’s meetings with world leaders.
“As time wore on, the situation became unsustainable,” Conway said.
“Kellyanne, that makes no sense,” Lauer shot back.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Conway was asked again about the Justice Department’s warning that Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador put him at risk for blackmail.
“I can’t reveal what the White House knew or didn’t know,” Conway replied. “And who in the White House did or didn’t know.”
For his part, Trump tweeted Tuesday that the “real story” was all the leaks coming from his administration.
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
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