White House responds to Gen. Flynn's resignation

ABC News' Amna Nawaz and joins ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Pierre Thomas, Rick Klein, and Matthew Dowd.
19:47 | 02/14/17

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Transcript for White House responds to Gen. Flynn's resignation
Hey everybody I'm on an about life here in New York during us for continuing coverage. Some of the biggest headlines. Upcoming today many of them from the white house of course keeping hearing about. General Mike Lynch resignation last night the former national security advisor we're coming out of white house Press Secretary Sean Spicer a briefing right there Reid face some tough questions. Trying to fill in some of the gaps in the timeline and the details about exactly what happened that led to mr. Clinton's resignation. Rich at a break down what we do know and what questions remain for more on that. We're joined by ABC's political director Rick Klein who has been watching all of this unfold from our Washington DC Perot. Rick we knew mr. Spicer is gonna face of those tough questions trying to fill in some of the gaps there had eighty DO. Well there are several and in several new president formation that we draw from that although we should note there are several gaps as well. First a little liberal vision from the White House that this was in fact the president asking for the resignation. Of Mike Flynn we heard from Kellyanne Conway just this morning that he decided to tender his resignation. We now know that's because the president. Asked for it. We also know that according to the White House this was not illegal issue this was only a trust issue. We also know that president trump himself was told about the several weeks ago by the White House counsel informed by the Department of Justice that's the first time that we know about that piece of the chain. We also know that it's the judgment of the White House that no laws were broken here. So that was seen to close off the possibility at least according to this white house of a prosecution of general plan. There is a 200 year old law on the books that are prevents private citizens from doing direct business. With foreign countries people talked about a potential violation of that act it seems clear that the White House is convinced on this point that there was no such violation. All of that said. We still don't know much about exactly what president trump knew. In real time about the conversations with the Russian ambassador whether he knew at the time that sanctions were being discussed that question really not adequately discussed much on Spicer. Still recovered the biggest questions that remain unanswered right now in that time line why did it take so long between the time that the White House was notified. But there is a discrepancy in stories there at that general plan had misled the vice president and others. And the point at which they took action. They kept referencing this trust issue that's it there's an erosion of trust mr. Spicer also reference a series of other issues that led to that erosion. Do they have to answer those questions eventually. I think so I think that nebulous web of other other issues is a lot to unpack and that what are the other concerns we've heard. A number of reports about problems inside the National Security Council concerns about general things leadership. How did those get to the central issue of trust or was this more about conduct. This is unprecedented have a national security advisor. Essentially fire less than a month into the new administration summer's high profile as general when he was out there on the campaign trail all the time for president trump. One of the biggest names involved in the interests inner sanctum the inner circle here so I do think that it remains a critical question. And I do think that what. President trop as president elect trump knew about the conversations did he know it is national security advisor was on the phone with the Russians discussing sanctions. Was general threat Flynn freelancing. We now know that the president prompted having troubles of what was said but it you know at the time even. Is that raises I think another level to the suspicion and concerns about a potential legal violation there's a reason the country has a principle of one president at time. Was that violated by the president elect himself. In these conversations that general plan was engaged. There's a lot of different branches to touch on in here we want to bring in our colleague Pierre Thomas senior justice correspondent is also keeping an eye on this from Washington DC care. Fill me in here on the investigation. If there is to be one what we know so far and how they work moving forward. Well again this all came about in part beak. After Obama sanctions regarding the election hack. There was silence from wooten in terms of response. And the intelligence community wanted to know what that was about. So they're as a part of practice they monitor the communications of the Russian ambassador here in Washington they want to know what he's doing who he's meeting when an all time. And they came across. This conversation that was recorded. In which Lin and the and bastard discussed the sanctions. Once that became known to them they continued to monitor. The conversations and interviews coming out of the White House which of the incoming White House. And for up top officials kept saying that when did not discuss the sanctions. With the ambassador. Finally after. President trot was inaugurated in office assigned Spicer repeated the same false claim. Press conference and a Sally Yates then acting attorney general decided to weigh in let the White House no heads up. The national security advisors not being completely honest with. And here we know now from our colleagues neighbors looked on Parkinson. Chairman of the house oversight committee has told them that he plans to investigate what happened at mar a log over the weekend but no plans. To investigate general flames ties to Russia if we are to learn any more about exactly what happened in filling some of the details. That we don't yet know how that happened how is that gonna come about. Well the Justice Department is still investigating. This matter and looking in general in terms. Whether. Affiliates or associates. Trop. Had communications. With the question. Government officials and it's so. What was the context of those communications what was at about you also have congressional. Senate investigations underway various levels. Looking at these issues so there's more work to be done. And on the if I could jump in there right I ask it was there. You all would also heard I think an important point from Sean Spicer Jon Karl. Let off the briefing our colleague at ABC and asked specifically does the president stand by its previous statement. About a month ago when he said that no one from the campaign had any content from the campaign again before deliberate. Had any contact with Russian officials and Spicer said that he is no reason to doubt that statement so they are standing by that contention there is reporting out there that general plan. Among others had contacts with people in the Russian government Peter mentions. This Department of Justice investigation that has been on going through the election and beyond we know what the senate intelligence that's investigation but the stance of the trump operation the of the White House is that no one from the campaign. Up to and including general when you presume was in touch with the Russians before the election. I'm back here in New York I'm joined by and that dowdy BC's chief political analyst Matt two and a half weeks. Passed between the time that the president knew about this and the time that they chose to say something about it and take action. We heard the word trust again and again and again you mentioned there's an erosion of trust elsewhere ago. The bigger problem not this what that level of trust that they had between Michael Flynn. And doubt chopped at the level of trust between the administration and the public and then secondarily between the administration. And the press and they did not address that at all all it was was there trust eroded within the administration internally. Once it eroded far enough I guess is what their point is. Then he decided to take action. Never want saying that we misled the public. For this many days and we should have addressed it early out there's no question that I met day when they learned. Of that their facts were wrong that they had gone out there on I guess on January 26 when they get briefed they should have gone out told the public listen. We've been saying this we were wrong. And they didn't do it. And Rick Phil treated jumping here as early as yesterday morning we had Kellyanne Conway out saying that dinner Flynn enjoys the full trust. Art the president and president Tom meanwhile heat there was knowledge in the White House about exactly what had happened before they went public. And industries of the question that if the leaks had not happened we wouldn't know it. If that it I don't think it's a question. Doug the leaks and the what the press reporting that happened over the last 2436 hours is actually what cause this to change because Donald Trump actually do something about. Michael Flynn in this it wasn't that also need that I don't trust him anymore I came guy woke up today your right to. I good got through with my day I have decided it's over it was because of the press reports that action was finally taken. Canton and before we let you go down there in DC just fill us in now where should we be looking next where do you think the next beat big piece in this puzzle will be Felton. But the and we need to know more about these other communications between Clinton and Russian ambassador what was that about. Also a key question going for is where they're communications prior to month's election. By Flynn and others associated with that's the big question going for. Pierre Thomas live from Washington DC for us thank you so much here. Hey let's bring in Jon Karl our chief Washington and White House correspondent with in that briefing room and asked that first question. Other Sean Spicer Don did you get answers that she wanted to help fill in what we don't know. We got some answers but there are still many more questions one of the question question I'm led with was. Whether or not its general plan had any contact we that the Russians with the Russian ambassador or other Russian officials. During the campaign. Because this is something that has been steadfastly denied by the president himself. But there has been suggestions. Has been reporting the Washington Post has as reported there wore contacts that predated the election. All of which would be a very significant question given. Of course the rock and roll in in a hearing with the election. That's a question that we don't fully and answered. Confidently said that he has no reason to believe that happened. I'll put in light of the fact that Flynn mis led. The White House about his conversations after the elections how can they be sure to be administered about conversations before York. Adjunct isn't the bigger picture here all I ask you first and then Matt directly competed jumping here they are they larger issue about the relationship between Russia and this administration our colleague Chris Donovan pointed out earlier. This week marks six month. Since Paul Mann a port was forced to resign because of questions about his ties to the rations as well so it feels that every few days every couple of weeks some new information comes out. About that relationship. Well other is an incredible statement said by the Press Secretary Sean Spicer he said the president has been incredibly. Soft on Russia. I don't I don't I've ever heard anybody quite say anything like or. Asked for specific evidence that was the case he pointed for a speech. By the US ambassador to the UN LE. I I have not heard anything really talk about this president. Either us president president electorate that candidate. On Russia what he terror laws he said this president has been incredibly tough on Russia and even suggested. That he had been tough on Russia. And Rocco Bob. So. You know as we're now all that was all I tried asking. Are you really believe on men and. He can't fouling out with what John just have the president I think has been tougher on the free press of the United States of America that he has been. I'm Vladimir Putin's Russia in my class Paul. Hey Rick playing here what's your take on that they I think that there's other people that mr. trump it's come down hard along the way including members of congress civil rights icon representative John Lewis on MLK weekend they'll at bat. Recap how high they say these things with a straight face now how it that trust between the people who are asking these questions and this administration. Gonna continue. I should also note that the president trump was unbelievably decisive if you licences on Spicer today I saw what we were straining credulity all over the place. I think that to the point that you make about Russia and I think that in the bigger story that this opens the door to. Is the question of the election partly because we know. From various officials in the in the federal government the Obama administration particularly all the way up to the head of the intelligence agencies. The Russians were trying to influence this election any major major way. You add to that. This now confirmed communication between general plan and the Russians after the election. The possibility of communications before hand the issue with palm out of port the issue with Carter paid another advisor to the trump campaign who. Was was fired from that role because of his ties to the Russians. And you have a much larger bear to bear. For the trump administration because they have not fully answered. What he says those communications war he has not been tough on Russia despite what he says he saw statement today from Senator John McCain I thought was remarkable we're seeing a lot from Senator McCain now. And he said he's deeply concerned about the chaos and national security team but he's also concerned about what this communication between Michael plan. And the Russians says about the stance that the truck administration's gonna engage in with flattener food and the end of the day you can replace national security advisors. But that doesn't change the policy with regard to Russia and root it remains ahead scratch or and one of the big unknown questions. Of the campaign was what kind of communication what kind of ties were really talking about this to me opens that the war all over Reagan's all of that. Hey John Carl down there in that white house press briefing them before we let you got it to take on something. From your point if you there we've all seen the SNL skit right Melissa McCarthy has now brought Sean Spicer to new notoriety. Across that the country. It's its relationship like between the white house press corps and secretary Spicer and how how does this work moving forward. Given the kind of statements we are hearing today. Well I can confirm he does to a lot of golf. They you'll occasionally offer reporters on this office. What. Ali what it's it's this is the toughest job in Washington. It's arguably a tougher job than being Perez the United States coming here. In this administration. And be the Press Secretary you're facing. You know it in administration is doing a lot administration has. Several different power centers if president who is very well. Equated with doing his own media strategy often. Access his own communication structure his own spokesperson. If storyline that repeat the lead ships marshaled got a very very tough job. You know so I IE if I don't know what say beyond that I think that he's. Yeah I think he's working on trying to please a very demanding boss and trying to have as good relationships and possibly out of the reporters this room. Fair enough hey Jon Karl thank you so much for making the timeless that to talk to you. Got it. Back here in New York let daddy that he said he went well company. I have only product they seemed to keep relying on this idea that he has legal authority as legal authority nothing that was done with illegal nothing operating unique does is legal with the problem they have is deteriorated. Moral story in the country are. And I think that's the question that we've talked about which is is things. Beginning to would be in frame trust between the public. And the administration you seen his approval ratings have dropped since he took office is on spirit mutual the first this first stage of a presidency. By large east of where he's in the worst position any president and if a president doesn't have moral authority in the country which is seriously deteriorated and this will even cause it to more. That doesn't matter what legal authority at the pub will stop listening. On the same issue of moral authority just as a reminder after the RNC it was general Flynn. During his speech he led the crowd in a lock her up chance talking about Secretary Clinton in reference to or email server saying. That she compromised the nation's security. And here we are presented with a case in which he then attorney general had said this could be compromise to are not I'm art. A good very good Irish Catholic but I am a big believer in karma. And what we have seen over the last 24 hours is karma coming around because he was the won it in and be back criticized by many generals. And many people in the military for leading that chant and saying that even in a political campaign normally. Former generals don't do that don't wait and that way and obviously things have come how come back to him. And he's now out of a job and I think he may be called before a senate hearing her house hearing sometime soon to answer questions related. This and on the on the on that point he he said at the RNC that if he had done 110. Of what Hillary Clinton did he would be in jail I think this question of legal prosecution is a fascinating one I heard in what Sean Spicer said today. A very clear judgment on the White House that nothing illegal happened here that would seem to it to close off. A Department of Justice investigation the attorney general's and a tough spot on this because gas watt. Jeff Sessions. At the RNC wasn't engaged in the same camp but he was right there charging alongside I think that we pressure on him to end of it to two. Name a special counsel special prosecutor potentially for this for this case. And I think. The broader issue of exactly what was said. Between the campaign and the Russians over time still needs probing still needs exploring we don't know the final answer to that I think general plan that went to a karma or something else he's got a regrets the way that that that he was so cavalier in those chance because. He is the one right now that it stands accused of of very bad things up to including illegal things they if you believe certain. Theories of this case. Karma or something else I like that but there is as you mention a bigger issue here about comments that were paid by then candidate trump or his supporters back then. That are now coming back. To manifest themselves in and problematic wait for this administration offered with the ninth circuit decision when they actually cited some of the things. He had said about the Muslim man in targeting people based on religion. In part of their arguments tipped you won't push back against his immigration about swapping out. Attach weakness is there was this great fear that because the Republicans occupy the White House and Republicans occupied at the senate Republicans have the house. And they hold somebody levers of power that there wasn't much anybody could do and that but I think what we've seen over the last 10 days which I am very hopeful that opted as it is the American system works however clunky. And however mistake ridden it can be yet time. Ten days in the last ten days we've had four judges basically see stop the president from doing something. That they believed to have some constitutional questions related is stopped. His executive order related to refugees and sent people in the seven countries and now we see a free press who exerted itself in the last 4448 hours. And basically by doing that. Caused the that national security advisor to have to resign from office and questions being raised about the White House about why do they had they not been more forthcoming with the public. So it's too good things it's still obviously democracy is clunky but I think actually be helpful the American system. Does in the end work and I am so that two yes please check aqueduct and. Matthew Dowd per usual very spot on that went. All three branches of government. Plus the fourth estate involved in this you have the judicial branch with the ruling on the on the travel ban you have. The it is it the legislative branch with congress and their rumblings I mentioned Senator McCain it's congressman shape it's in the investigative committees there they are whirring into action as well. Even the executive branch the bureaucrats. Career officials in the State Department. In the intelligence agencies whoever are the source of some of these leaks that are going over to the press right now and exposing things are on executive actions. Around these transcripts those things are having an effect here and then of course as Matthew said the press's role in this I think without the reporting particularly the Washington Post stories. The last couple days about these conversations between general plan and the Russian ambassador without that you wouldn't have the impetus that for action so yes. For all of the mess of the last month you do have several examples of the American system work. And we are not yet one month they had not yet just like to note that for the record hey Matt Dowd and Rick Klein thank you so much for joining us here. Thanks to all of you out ever joining us to remember you can always go to abcnews.com. For more on those stories. And others thanks to you for joining us I'm on an Abbas in New York we'll see you back here again very soon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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