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Flynn resigns as US national security adviser amid Russia controversy

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Washington: White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US, the media reported. “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologised to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn wrote according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN.

“I am tendering my resignation, honoured to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way,” he wrote. “I know with the strong leadership of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the superb team they are assembling, this team will go down in history as one of the greatest presidencies in US history.” The move comes less than a month into the job, making him one of the shortest-serving senior presidential advisers in modern history. General Keith Kellogg will be the interim national security adviser, sources told CNN.

He most recently served as National Security Council chief of staff. A senior administration official said Kellogg, retired General David Petraeus and former Vice Admiral Bob Harward are possible replacements for Flynn. Flynn stepped down after days of reports that he had spoken to the ambassador in December about American sanctions against Russia, weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.  He previously had denied that he had any substantive conversations with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, and Pence repeated that claim in television earlier this month.

But earlier on Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department last month warned the White House that Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador, the New York Times reported.  As a result, the Justice Department feared that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow. Officials said Pence has told others in the White House that he believed that Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December.  Even the mere discussion of policy – and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Trump took office – represents a remarkable breach of protocol, the daily said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been examining Flynn’s phone calls as he has come under growing questions about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council.  Earlier on Monday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “the president is evaluating the situation.”  Spicer said Trump would be talking to Pence and others about Flynn’s future. In a sign of the internal confusion over Flynn’s status, the statement from Spicer came shortly after the president’s counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, said in an interview on MSNBC that Flynn had the “full confidence of the President”. The White House confirmed on Monday that Flynn had apologised to Pence.

 

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Trump knew exactly what was going on: Giuliani aide

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Washington: An aide to Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has said that the US President “knew exactly what was going on” regarding efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, it was reported on Thursday.

Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnass, who is facing separate criminal charges, made the comments in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday after letters, phone records, notes and flash drives were obtained from him earlier this week, the BBC said in a report.

Documents show that the Ukraine-born Parnas was in regular contact with Giuliani as well as Ukrainian officials, and suggests that the businessman was directly involved in trying to have Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky look into the Bidens.

In the interview, Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements”.

“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the President. Why would President Zelensky’s inner circle or (Interior) Minister (Arsen) Avakov or all these people or (former) President (Petro) Poroshenko meet with me?

“Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” he added.

Parnas further said that the President was lying and knew that unless there was an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was a director of a Ukrainian gas company, military aid to Kiev would be withheld.

He also claimed that the investigation was about digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, some of the materials obtained show Parnas and Giuliani discussing the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the then US ambassador to Ukraine, said the BBC report.

In Wednesday’s interview, Parnas claimed the only motivation to get Yovanovitch removed from her post was because she was in the way of the effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.

Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on December 18, 2019 and is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The two articles of impeachment were sent to the Republican-majority Senate on Wednesday night, paving the way for the starting of a trial against the President.

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