Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared on the Today Show on Tuesday morning after the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is exiting the administration following reports that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.
During Conway’s segment, Today Show host Matt Lauer sought to nail down the timing of Flynn departure. His resignation late Monday came after—only hours earlier—Conway told MSNBC that President Donald Trump had “full confidence” in the embattled general. The chronology is also complicated by a Washington Post story published Monday night that says the White House knew as early as last month that Flynn might not have been 100% truthful in how he characterized a conversation with the Russian ambassador.
Lauer was hunting for answers, but Conway provided few. She provided few details as to why Flynn was kept in his role even after the Justice Department raised concerns that he had not told Pence the truth.
When asked if Trump would have kept Flynn on had the general not offered his resignation, Conway dodged the question, saying that “misleading the vice president” was what had become “unsustainable.”
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That prompted Lauer to cite the timeline laid out by the Post; that the Justice Department last month raised concerns about Flynn’s truthfulness, going as far as to say the general could be blackmailed by Russians.
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“That’s one characterization,” Conway said, “but the fact is, General Flynn continued in that position.” She said Flynn was still in high-level briefings and discussions as recently as yesterday, and repeated that “the situation” had become “unsustainable.”
“That makes no sense,” Lauer said. “That’s not true,” Conway replied.
Lauer asked if Flynn still had the trust of the president despite the Justice Department’s concerns.
“Matt, I’m telling you what the president has said,” Conway said, “which is that he’s accepted General Flynn’s resignation and he wishes him well and we’re moving on.”
Lauer also floated the idea that Flynn was speaking on behalf of the incoming administration when he made the call to the Russian ambassador, during which the general reportedly discussed the United States’ recent sanctions against the country. That suggestion, Conway said, “would be a mistake.”
In one of the most pointed exchanges of the interview, Lauer reiterated that the White House knew about that Flynn’s misleading of Pence last month. “And yet yesterday you went on the air and said that General Flynn had the complete and full confidence of the president,” he said.
Conway again cited Flynn’s decision to resign Monday night and Trump’s acceptance of it. “The president is very loyal…and at this stage he accepted the resignation and at this time he’s moving on.”
“But loyalty is one thing; keeping a guy in a position of national security advisor who has communicated with Russians and then misled the administration about the contents of that communication is entirely a different thing, wouldn’t you agree?” Lauer asked.
Conway then clarified that Flynn’s more recent failure to accurately recall his own remarks—along with his earlier mischaracterization to Pence—factored into his exit.
Flynn held the job of national security advisor for just 24 days. His short tenure, which follows a decorated career in public service, calls into question Trump’s judgement that Flynn was the right person for the job in the first place.
Conway said Flynn was “loyal” and “worked very hard.” And she downplayed the suggestion that based on his lengthy military career, Flynn should have known his call to the Russian ambassador would be wiretapped, reiterating that it was his misleading of Pence and his inability to recall what happened on the phone call that mattered most.