House Speaker Welcomes Resignation Of National Security Adviser Flynn

Feb 14, 2017
Originally published on February 14, 2017 10:21 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Michael Flynn has resigned as national security adviser, but many questions remain, like, what did White House officials know of Flynn's contacts with Russia, and when did they know about them? The most likely place to get some answers in public is on Capitol Hill. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports Democrats and Republicans want a complete investigation.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Look; Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he gets it. This isn't a time to get partisan. He urged his GOP colleagues to consider if the shoe were on the other foot.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Now, I can only imagine what Republicans would say if the Obama administration had reached out to Iran or Iraq or any other government to say, just be patient; we're going to change some policies of the Bush administration. We would all be pretty upset.

CHANG: And Graham says there are now two central questions lawmakers need answered about Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador before Trump's inauguration.

GRAHAM: What I'd like to know is, did General Flynn make this phone call by himself? If he was directed, by who because the one president at a time policy I think has served the country well.

CHANG: And there's one obvious person who can testify about those questions.

GRAHAM: Best way to find out is to have General Flynn tell us.

CHANG: Other Senate Republicans like Bob Corker of Tennessee said an exhaustive investigation was the only way both sides could heal and move on.

BOB CORKER: I think it's good for the American people to understand in a fulsome way everything that's happened. And...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What...

CORKER: And...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sir is...

CORKER: ...I really do - and to get it behind us. I mean, you know, this going to go on forever if we don't address it somehow.

CHANG: The tone many Republicans struck in the upper chamber was a tad out of sync with the tone in the lower chamber, where House Speaker Paul Ryan wasn't talking of fresh investigations. Instead he applauded the White House for pushing Flynn out so promptly.

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PAUL RYAN: I think it's really important that as soon as they realized that they were being misled by the national security adviser, they asked for his resignation.

CHANG: Actually, the White House acknowledged today that it knew for weeks Flynn might have misled others about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The Justice Department, then led by an official held over from the Obama administration, gave the White House Counsel warning about all of this on January 26. And the White House said President Trump was immediately informed. This timeline is what Democrats will be focusing on in the probes to come. Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

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ADAM SCHIFF: So others in the administration were aware that the national security adviser of the United States had misled other administration officials, who had in turn misled the American people.

CHANG: At least four congressional committees are already nibbling away at the question of how Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but the latest Flynn fallout raises more concerns, like, who else from the Trump administration or campaign had contact with Russian officials? Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spoke of more drama to come.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: General Flynn's resignation is not the end of the story. It is merely the beginning. It is not the last chapter of this saga but only the first.

CHANG: But this saga is going to get a little mundane for a while, at least on the Hill. Lawmakers will be squabbling over what form the investigation on Flynn should take and what committee should lead the probe. Democrats are already clamoring for an independent commission to look into all of this, much to the annoyance of the other side.

JOHN MCCAIN: This - it's been less than 24 hours since he quit. Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

CHANG: Republican John McCain of Arizona, who's been critical of how the administration has handled national security, says he's got even bigger questions about what's going on inside the White House.

MCCAIN: Who's in charge? Who's making policy? Who's making decisions? I don't know of anyone outside of the White House that knows.

CHANG: And without answers to those questions, McCain says, how does Congress oversee anything the president or his team does? Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.