Sunday 18 February 2018

Trump 'knew about Flynn's talks with Russia'

Exit: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photo: AP
Exit: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photo: AP

Ruth Sherlock in Washington

DONALD TRUMP was aware that his national security adviser had not told the truth about his interactions with Russia weeks before he was forced to resign, it emerged last night, as Republicans asked the president to explain his relationship with Moscow.

Michael Flynn was forced to leave his post after less than one month in office following reports that he had failed to brief truthfully Mike Pence, the vice president, about conversations he had with Moscow's ambassador in Washington.

Mr Flynn is accused of discussing the lifting of sanctions on Moscow with the Russian ambassador in Washington before Mr Trump had taken office, an act that prompted an FBI investigation into whether he had violated US law.

Mr Trump finally asked for Mr Flynn's resignation on Monday, but Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, revealed yesterday that the president was briefed on January 26 that Mr Flynn's account was thought to have been misleading.

The claims seem at odds with Mr Trump's assertion last week that he was unaware of a news report about Mr Flynn's actions.

John McCain, the influential Republican senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has called for a fuller explanation from Mr Trump. "General Flynn's resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration's intentions toward Vladimir Putin's Russia," he said.

President Donald Trump pulls out a chair for former principal Aimee Viana prior to a parent-teacher session in the White House yesterday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
President Donald Trump pulls out a chair for former principal Aimee Viana prior to a parent-teacher session in the White House yesterday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Leading Democrats demanded a special investigation into possible links between the administration and Russia, including whether Mr Trump had any knowledge of the discussions Mr Flynn had on US sanctions with the Kremlin's ambassador in Washington.

The Flynn affair comes after US intelligence agencies gave consideration to a report by Christopher Steele, a British ex-spy, which suggested that the Kremlin may have information that could be used to blackmail Mr Trump.

Senate intelligence committee leaders are already looking into allegations of links between Russia and the US presidential campaigns - including Mr Trump's - following reports that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election.

Mr Flynn's contact with Russia has been described as "potentially illegal" due to the 1799 Logan Act, which bans US citizens from negotiating with countries with which the US is in dispute.

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Sally Yates, the then-acting US attorney general, told the White House late last month she believed Mr Flynn had misled them about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador, US officials told the 'Washington Post' on Monday. Ms Yates was later fired for opposing Mr Trump's temporary travel ban.

The FBI interviewed Mr Flynn about the call around the same time, in a revelation that could expose him to criminal charges if it emerges he misled investigators. The Army has also been investigating whether Mr Flynn received money from the Kremlin during a trip to Moscow in 2015, defence officials told the 'New York Times'.

In his resignation letter, Mr Flynn said he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the US during the transition and gave "incomplete information" about them to Mr Pence.

Mr Trump named retired Lt Gen Keith Kellogg as acting national security adviser.

Meanwhile, senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway upset a fair few people when she made a sales pitch for Ivanka Trump's line of products on live television. Not only did the White House rebuke her, she was also accused of violating federal ethics law.

However, according to a report, Ms Conway also enraged the very person she sought to protect - Ms Trump herself.

Ms Trump is reported to have reproached Ms Conway for endorsing her brand on air.

A source close to the president told 'Politico' the First Daughter "scolded" Ms Conway for "dragging her brand into an ethics mess and told her not to mention it again on TV".

According to the unnamed source, this was linked to a conversation that Ms Trump reportedly had with her father weeks before the saga about keeping her business out of politics - a chat Ms Conway is said to have been unaware of.

Ms Conway, Mr Trump's former campaign manager, sparked controversy after she weighed in on Nordstrom department store's decision to stop selling Ivanka Trump-branded products. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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