Michael Flynn, who is Donald Trump’s embattled national security adviser, has resigned from his post after less than one month in office following reports that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.
Mr Flynn had been embroiled in controversy since it was revealed that he had a conversation with a Russian diplomat about sanctions prior to the US President’s administration taking office.
The resignation came late at night, at around 11 PM, Washington DC, after further news reports revealed that the White House had been warned last month by then acting attorney general Sally Yates – before she was fired for advising justice department lawyers that the travel ban was “not lawful” – that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice Presdent, and they have accepted my apology”, wrote Mr Flynn in his resignation latter.
Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to the president, had earlier said Mr Trump had “full confidence” in Mr Flynn, before it emerged the President was “evaluating” the adviser’s position.
The contact of Mr Flynn with Russia has been described as “potentially illegal” due to 1799 Logan Act, which bans private US citizens from negotiating with countries with which the US is in dispute.
If he talks were found to be illegal it raises serious questions over whether Mr Trump, who has called for closer ties with Russia, was aware that they took place.
It comes as the White House struggles to quell dissent and mistrust within the National Security Council, where many civil servants feel their advice is being ignored – and have even taken to calling the new administration “the regime”.
In the resignation letter, Mr Flynn said that he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the US during the transition and gave “incomplete information” about those discussions to Vice President Mike Pence.
The vice president, apparently relying on information from Mr Flynn, initially said the national security adviser had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Mr Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.
Mr Trump named retired Army Lieutenant General Joseph Keith Kellog as the acting national security adviser. Mr Kellogg had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff and advised Trump on national security issues during the campaign.