White House de­clines to pub­licly de­fend Flynn

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JILL COLVIN PALM BEACH, FLA. —

A top White House aide sidestepped re­peated chances Sunday to pub­licly de­fend em­bat­tled na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn fol­low­ing re­ports that he en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions with a Rus­sian diplo­mat about U.S. sanc­tions be­fore Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion.

The un­cer­tainty comes as Trump is deal­ing with North Korea’s ap­par­ent first mis­sile launch of the year and his pres­i­dency, along with vis­its this week from the lead­ers of Is­rael and Canada.

Trump has yet to com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions against Flynn, and a top aide dis­patched to rep­re­sent the ad­min­is­tra­tion on the Sunday news shows skirted ques­tions on the topic, say­ing it was not his place to weigh in on the “sen­si­tive mat­ter.”

Pressed re­peat­edly, top pol­icy ad­viser Stephen Miller said it wasn’t up to him to say whether the pres­i­dent re­tains con­fi­dence in Flynn.

“It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the pres­i­dent’s mind,” he said on NBC. “That’s a ques­tion for the pres­i­dent.”

The White House said in an anony­mous state­ment Fri­day the pres­i­dent had full con­fi­dence in Flynn. But of­fi­cials have been mum since then amid fall­out from re­ports that Flynn ad­dressed U.S. sanc­tions against Rus­sia in a phone call late last year.

The re­port, which first ap­peared in The Wash­ing­ton Post, con­tra­dicted both Flynn’s pre­vi­ous de­nials, as well as those made by Vi­cePres­i­dent Mike Pence in a tele­vised in­ter­view.

Trump has been dis­cussing the sit­u­a­tion with as­so­ci­ates, ac­cord­ing to a per­son who spoke with him re­cently. The per­son spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie, who led Trump’s tran­si­tion plan­ning be­fore the elec­tion, said Flynn would have to ex­plain his con­flict­ing state­ments about his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak to Trump and Pence.

“Gen. Flynn has said up to this point that he had not said any­thing like that to the Rus­sian am­bas­sador. I think now he’s say­ing that he doesn’t re­mem­ber whether he did or not,” Christie said on CNN. “So, that’s a con­ver­sa­tion he is go­ing to need to have with the pres­i­dent and the vice-pres­i­dent to clear that up, so that the White House can make sure that they are com­pletely ac­cu­rate about what went on.”

The com­ments came as the White House con­tin­ues to weigh its op­tions fol­low­ing a le­gal blow last week to Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion or­der sus­pend­ing the na­tion’s refugee pro­gram and bar­ring cit­i­zens of seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries from en­ter­ing the U.S.

Miller, one of the ar­chi­tects of the or­der, main­tained in a round of Sunday show in­ter­views that the pres­i­dent has sweep­ing ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity when it comes to bar­ring for­eign­ers he deems pose a risk to the coun­try. He said Trump will do “what­ever we need to do, con­sis­tent with the law, to keep this coun­try safe” and slammed judges who’ve stood in his way.

“This is a ju­di­cial usurpa­tion of the power. It is a vi­o­la­tion of judges’ proper roles in lit­i­gat­ing dis­putes. We will fight it,” Miller said in an in­ter­view on “Fox News Sunday.”

SU­SAN WALSH, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

White House strate­gist Stephen Ban­non, mid­dle, and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, right, pre­pare to board Air Force One on Sunday.

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