Michael Flynn abruptly resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Monday night, hours after it was learned that the Justice Department informed the White House that it believed he could be subject to blackmail.
Retired Army Gen. Keith Kellogg, a top policy adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign, was appointed acting national security adviser, the White House said in a statement announcing Flynn’s replacement.
Flynn’s status was considered perilous after it was disclosed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, a senior U.S. official told NBC News.
“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,” Flynn said in his resignation letter.
The senior U.S. official confirmed part of a report in The Washington Post, which quoted current and former U.S. officials Monday as saying Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, delivered the message to White House counsel Donald McGahn.
The Post reported that Yates was privy to FBI monitoring showing that Flynn discussed sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — even though Flynn told administration officials that he hadn’t. Pence repeated the misinformation in national television appearances.
Trump fired Yates as acting attorney general late last month after she directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend his executive order on immigration.
A senior intelligence official confirmed to NBC News last week that Flynn discussed the sanctions, which the Obama administration imposed to punish Russia for its campaign to interfere in the presidential election.
The intelligence official said there had been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal.
But all day Monday, the only clear thing about Flynn’s status was that it is unclear.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told NBC News on Monday that Flynn still had the full confidence of the president, appearing to signal that Flynn’s job is safe.
But moments later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president was “evaluating the situation” and was talking with Pence about his discussions with Flynn.
Spicer confirmed reports that Flynn had called Pence to apologize.
Trump pointedly declined to answer reporters’ questions about Flynn on Monday afternoon, saying only, “We just put out a statement.”
By contrast, he was effusive in his praise for White House CHief of Staff Reince Priebus, saying: “Reince is doing a great job. Great. Not a good job. A great job.