While discussions were going on in back rooms in Washington for nearly three weeks, the Trump Administration was busy trying to keep the press off the trail of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn until they could sort out the details.
The White House was aware that Flynn had spoken to the Russians about US sanctions nearly three weeks before Flynn resigned. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted that the Department of Justice had briefed them about discrepancies in Flynn’s statements and intelligence intercepts with Russia that indicated he had, indeed, spoken to Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak about sanctions.
On Jan. 26, White House Counsel Donald McGahn informed the president that, then acting Attorney General Sally Yates had informed him Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russia and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the issue. Senior Strategist Stephen Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus were there for the discussion also, according to a person who the Washington Post said, spoke with them on condition of anonymity.
For several days afterward, Trump, Bannon, Priebus and McGahn were the only staff members who were aware of Flynn’s breach.
Flynn managed to keep his head above water for two weeks by constantly denying that he had spoken to a Russian diplomat about the sanctions put in place by the Obama Administration. Finally, suspicions about Flynn deepened when he stopped categorically denying the accusations and told the Washington Post he had “no recollection” about his discussions with Kislyak. On Monday, Flynn resigned.
When asked why the White House waited nearly three weeks after their briefing with the Department of Justice before acting, Spicer said the Trump Administration had been trying to determine if Flynn had broken trust with the president, and “other issues.” Spicer declined to define what the “other issues” were.
During his weekend vacation in Florida, Trump, Priebus, Bannon and others decided they should ask for Flynn’s resignation. However, Flynn indicated he had himself chosen to resign due to the cumulative effects of negative press coverage.