As the White House confirmed National Security Adviser (NSA) Micheal Flynn was indeed under the scanner, President Donald Trump himself faced criticism for conducting his administration’s first response to the North Korean missile test in full public view, at a dinner he had hosted for the visiting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Trump went into a huddle with his top officials right there in the dinning room of his Miami resort Mar-a-Lago, with aides turning on their cellphone flashlights to compensate for the dim lighting. The resort’s other guests and members were there too, and one of them posted a pictures of the huddle with a breathless post on Facebook, “HOLLY MOLLY … it was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when news came that North Korea had launched a missile …”
Former White House officials and experts were not so impressed. Former president Barack Obama’s official photographer posted a picture of his boss in a huddle with his aides during a 2011 crisis while he was on an official visit to El Salvador, pointedly, away from public view.
But Trump chose to ignore the blowback, probably because he had other problems on his hands, specially one with the potential to severely dent his presidency, just three weeks in office: the controversy swirling around his National Security Adviser, the man who was at his elbow in Mar-a-Lago Sunday night and who has now admitted to lying to senior officials, including the vice-president, about his interactions with Russians.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement on Monday, “The President is evaluating the situation. He’s speaking to the vice president 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.”
Flynn, a retired Lt General with long years in defence intelligence, spoke to the Russian ambassador to the US multiple times on December 29, the day Obama announced a slew of sanctions against Russia for allegedly meddling in the presidential election.
When the interactions were reported — US intelligence routinely monitors all foreign embassies communications including and specially the Russian (and the Indian missions) as do all host countries — he claimed, one, he spoke only once to the embassy and, two, the sanctions were not discussed.
Flynn had been disingenuous on both counts, and with the senior-most officials in the administration, including vice-president Mike Pence, who were fielded by the White House to defend the embattled NSA in interviews and interactions on all major television news networks.
They feel particularly aggrieved now, thus the reference to Pence in Spicer’s statement, which, on a day marked by twists and more twists, came just an hour after another White House aide Kellyanne Conway stated on a major television network the president had full confidence in his national security adviser.
She was shown up wrong just a short while later, exposing what has been described as anything from a new administration’s teething issues to palace intrigue to an impending staff shake-up Trump is known to order when he is unhappy with the course of events, as he did several times during his campaign.
There have been reports Trump was not happy with his chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former Republican party boss, which the president disputed vigorously on Monday telling reporters he — Priebus — was doing “not a good job, a great job”.
Trump hasn’t been as generous with his press secretary, Spicer who has been the target of withering spoofs by an iconic comedy show that is understood to have deeply upset the president among other reasons.