Pressure is mounting on President Donald Trump amid revelations he knew for weeks that his national security adviser misled the White House about his contacts with Russia.
Only now, however, has Trump forced Michael Flynn to quit over claims he discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.
Yet aides insist Flynn did nothing illegal.
“There is nothing that the general did that was a violation of any sort. He was well within his duties to discuss issues of common concern between the two countries,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told journalists on Tuesday.
“We got to a point, not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where the level of trust between the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point we felt he had to make a change.”
An early and enthusiastic supporter of Trump, Flynn says he still has full confidence in the President.
But Flynn is portraying himself as a scapegoat.
While I accept full responsibility for my actions, I feel it is unfair that I have been made the sole scapegoat for what happened. (1/2)— Michael Flynn (@GenMikeFlynn) 14 février 2017
But if a scapegoat is what's needed for this Administration to continue to take this great nation forward, I am proud to do my duty.— Michael Flynn (@GenMikeFlynn) 14 février 2017
The ‘scapegoat’ image has been seized upon by Democrats, demanding a full investigation into the affair.
“Do you know what a scapegoat is? That means in a community when people want to absolve themselves of guilt, they get a goat and they heap all of the ills onto the goat and they run the goat out of town,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“So, the inference to be drawn from his statement is that other people have blame that should be shared in all of this.”
Gen Flynn’s resignation is not the end of the story, it is merely the beginning & the American people deserve to know the truth.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) 14 février 2017
Some leading Republicans also want an inquiry into broader White House ties with Moscow as well as Michael Flynn’s actions.
The Justice Department warned the White House in late January that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence by denying to him that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a potentially illegal act, a US official said.
Flynn did talk about sanctions with the diplomat, whose calls were recorded by US intelligence, the official said. But Pence went on television in mid-January and denied that Flynn had discussed sanctions.