President Donald Trump continues to have confidence in his embattled National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a top White House official said on Monday.
“Gen. Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president,” White House counsel Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC.
Though she revealed little else about the state of the relationship, Conway said that Flynn would continue to be an active presence and player in crafting Trump’s foreign policy, despite a whirlwind of scandal that surrounds him.
At issue are Flynn’s phone conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States prior to the November election. Flynn had denied that, on those calls, he had discussed the possibility of Trump removing U.S. sanctions on Russia in response to that country’s meddling in the 2016 elections. Late last week, it emerged that the topic was indeed broached, multiple independent sources told The Washington Post. The New York Times reported that there are transcripts of the phone call.
Flynn reportedly acknowledged that the issue might have been discussed but that he could no longer recall. He also reportedly apologized to Vice President Mike Pence, whom he had initially told that sanctions weren’t discussed ― a position Pence reiterated on national television. Conway would not confirm whether that apology to Pence took place.
“Gen. Flynn has said he can’t recall and that he had about 30 phone calls with, I guess, leaders at the time,” Conway said. “And since then, 70, I’m told. Different leaders. And I’ll just leave his comments at that.”
Though Conway’s statement gives Flynn a bit of cover, inside the White House, there is mounting concern about Flynn’s position and role. Aides told The Huffington Post that staff is “trying to prepare options” ― including potential replacements ― should the general ultimately have to resign or be fired. Among those being discussed as replacements is retired Gen. David Petraeus.
“This raises serious questions about whether Donald Trump is saving General Flynn’s job out of fear that his National Security Advisor would start cooperating with the multiple investigations into his campaign’s potential collusion with the Russian government,” DNC senior adviser Zac Petkanas said in a statement responding to Conway’s interview.
Roughly half an hour after Conway’s statement expressing support of Flynn, White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated that Flynn’s position remained tenuous.
“The president is evaluating the situation,” Spicer told reporters. “He’s speaking to Vice President Pence relative to the conversation the vice president had with Gen. Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is: our national security.”
This post has been updated with comments from Spicer.