Kellyanne Conway: Flynn ‘Either Forgot, Couldn't Fully Recall, or Outwardly Misled’

By Susan Jones | February 14, 2017 | 8:53am EST
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appear at the joint press conference between President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo)

( - "The president is a very loyal person, and he has a team here that serves him very admirably," Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday morning, after Gen. Mike Flynn resigned as national security adviser for failing to disclose the full content of his pre-inauguration telephone calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

"And that really was the linchpin here, is that he either forgot, couldn't fully recall, or outwardly misled the vice president and others when he was characterizing a conversation he had had with the Russian ambassador. And I think that the situation became increasingly unsustainable and he decided to resign."

Although Flynn was part of Trump's inner circle all through the day on Monday, Conway said the situation "became unsustainable" as the day progressed and reports about a transcript of Flynn's phone calls surfaced, based on leaks.

"I think some people are high-fiving themselves today that somehow they got their wish. Folks, this is national security and intelligence, and that means it affects us all. And so, it's just -- we need to move on as a country," Conway said.

She noted that President Trump has appointed an acting national security director, and he will meet with his team today to discuss options for a permanent replacement. People in line for the job include retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, retired Gen. David Petraeus, and retired Gen. Keith Kellogg.

Host Steve Doocy raised the issue of leaks from the intelligence community, noting that someone told major newspaper that transcripts existed of Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador. "Just the fact that there are these leaks inside the permanent government is troubling," Doocy said.

"Well, you may be the only outlet talking about that this morning, so thank you for shining a light there," Conway responded. "I'll let the public make their own decisions based on what you just said." She added that "leaks are always disturbing," especially when they have to do with security or intelligence information.

She again made the point that it wasn't the actual phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador that caused a problem, but "the particular characterization of the contacts between General Flynn and others as he related them to the highest officials in the land." (Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday it wasn't the lie that got Flynn in trouble, it was public exposure of that lie.)

Conway said Trump, in asking her to appear on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, also requested that she refer to comments made last night by Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer, who called the Flynn situation "a cover-up without a crime."

According to Krauthammer, it was "perfectly reasonable" for the incoming national security adviser to speak with the Russian ambassador about sanctions. "This idea that this was illegal is preposterous," Krauthammer added. (Critics note that one of Flynn's conversations took place on the day the Obama administration announced sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. election.)

Conway noted that Flynn has a three-decade-plus record of service as an intelligence officer and a military officer "that should not be overlooked."

She would not or could not say if Trump objected to Flynn talking about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous intelligence sources, reported on Monday that (former) Acting Attorney General Sally Yates "informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail."

Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence that he and the Russian ambassador did not discuss sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration. "Vice President Pence went on national TV, as did others in the administration, frankly, based on information that was provided that was either incorrect or incomplete," Conway said on Tuesday.

According to the Washington Post: "In the waning days of the Obama administration, James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared Yates’s concerns and concurred with her recommendation to inform the Trump White House. They feared that 'Flynn had put himself in a compromising position' and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, according to one of the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."

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