Day No. 26
THE BIG STORY: The exit of Gen. Michael Flynn from the Trump White House stands as evidence that, for as much as President Trump is defying norms and conventions, there are political laws that still apply to him and his closest aides. Now that Flynn is gone, the Trump team will learn that firings don’t necessarily quiet Washington conflagrations. Flynn’s ouster raises multiple new questions, starting with some big ones: When did the president know his conversation with the Russian ambassador included talk of sanctions? Did Trump ask him to have that conversation? What other negotiations did Flynn have during a period where he was publicly compromised by being on record with a falsehood? Will Republicans join Democrats in demanding a thorough investigation? And – perhaps the biggest: Who else on the Trump team had off-the-books communications with the Russians during the campaign and transition period? This is a story that has tentacles that spread throughout some of the biggest and most suspicious storylines of Trump’s still-brief political career. The Russia story is Trump’s bear to bear.
THE SLEEPER STORY: The Facebook account has since been deleted, and the pictures themselves – the president and his top aides smiling at a pleasant dinner with the prime minister of Japan – are innocent enough. But the idea that they were discussing the details of a North Korean missile launch, inside cellphone camera range (if not quite earshot) of members of the Mar-a-Lago Club – is head-scratching. “Trump turned his table into an al fresco situation room,” The Washington Post reported. Even if that’s not exactly what it was – we don’t know what, specifically, was discussed – the idea that this is the new normal is astounding. After a campaign where email security and hacking was kind of a big deal, this is kind of nuts. And isn’t the White House contention that only “logistics” was discussed in public on Saturday night reminiscent of initial explanations for the Flynn phone call?
TLDR: Gen. Michael Flynn resigned last night after misleading both the vice president and the public about the true nature of his phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. He initially denied discussing sanctions, but he did and after mounting pressure last night his time as National Security Advisor ended. In his resignation, he wrote that he "inadvertently briefed" Pence with "incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador," adding he has apologized to both the president and the VP.
PHOTO OF THE DAY: It's clear the Trump White House does things differently...and that's an understatement, but the open air dinner with the Japanese prime minister at Mar-a-Lago would have probably raised eyebrows even if North Korea wasn't being discussed. Even if they were just discussing press conference logistics as the White House says, it was in full range of flashing cell phone cameras as this photo shows. You can see Trump smiling while the whir of aides goes on behind him.
--FLYNN APOLOGIZED TO PENCE FOR MISLEADING HIM ABOUT RUSSIA CALL: OFFICIAL: Embattled National Security Adviser Michael Flynn called Vice President Mike Pence Friday to apologize for misleading him about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States, according to a senior White House official. The news came as White House aide Kellyanne Conway defended Flynn in an appearance on MSNBC Monday, saying that he “enjoy[s] the full confidence of the president.” ABC’s ADAM KELSEY has more: http://abcn.ws/2l9gWql
--TRUMP COUNSELOR KELLYANNE CONWAY SAYS MICHAEL FLYNN'S JOB HAD BECOME 'INCREASINGLY UNSUSTAINABLE:' Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said today that she "did not know" whether the president and vice president were made aware three weeks ago that former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned Monday night, had misled the public and was possibly susceptible to blackmail because of his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador. Flynn resigned because his job had become "increasingly unsustainable," Conway said on "Good Morning America" today, notes ABC’s MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN. http://abcn.ws/2lLmZ25 FULL INTERVIEW here: http://abcn.ws/2l41ARx
--HARWARD, PETRAEUS UNDER CONSIDERATION TO REPLACE FLYNN AS NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: In the immediate aftermath of national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation, ABC News has learned that retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward and former CIA Director David Petraeus are two of the potential candidates to replace him, ABC’s ADAM KELSEY reports. Harward formerly served as the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Petraeus, a retired four star Army general who served as CIA director from 2011-2012, under President Barack Obama, was previously the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and of CENTCOM. http://abcn.ws/2kO1fE7
--DEMOCRATS CALL FOR MORE INQUIRIES AFTER MICHAEL FLYNN'S RESIGNATION: Democratic lawmakers reacted quickly after White House national security adviser Michael Flynn announced his resignation late Monday, calling for more inquiries into Flynn's dealings with Russia. The news prompted a flood of statements from Democrats in Congress pressing for more information, note ABC’s J.J. GALLAGHER and KARMA ALLEN. http://abcn.ws/2lKG03y
--TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Trump starts off his morning with a parent-teacher conference listening session. Then for lunch, president hosts New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Mrs. Christie. At 2 p.m., the president signs H.J. Res. 41, which voids a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring “resource extraction issuers to disclose payments made to governments for commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.” In the afternoon, President Trump meets with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office.
--HAPPENING ON THE HILL: While the Senate is confirming President Trump’s cabinet at a historically-low pace, Trump got two of his nominees through the Upper Chamber last night – Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary and David Shulkin for Veterans’ Affairs, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON notes. Today, the Senate will consider the president’s choice for Small Business Administrator – Linda McMahon – a former GOP Senate candidate (lost to Blumenthal) and driving force behind the WWE.
SPEED READ with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY
COURT BLOCKS TRUMP'S IMMIGRATION ORDER INDEFINITELY. A Seattle federal district court has issued a preliminary injunction on President Trump's controversial immigration executive order, which temporarily banned most immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries and also shut down the refugee program for 120 days, report ABC’s JAMES HILL, MEGHAN KENEALLY and JULIA JACOBO. The injunction, by Judge James Robart, effectively extends the temporary restraining order he issued earlier this month into an indefinite nationwide block of Trump's immigration order. Robart rejected calls from the Trump administration to postpone the district court case while the 9th Circuit considers a request from one of its judges for a rehearing of last week's decision, which denied a motion to lift the restraining order. http://abcn.ws/2lIgLiC
TRUDEAU SAYS IT'S NOT HIS JOB TO 'LECTURE' TRUMP ON SYRIAN REFUGEES. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau glossed over their differing views on Syrian refugees and the security implications of immigration during their joint press conference at the White House Monday afternoon. When asked if he was confident about the safety of the U.S.-Canada border, Trump said, "You can never be totally confident." Trump later said that there are "many, many problems" that he has learned about in more detail since assuming office, notes ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY. http://abcn.ws/2lCZZFn
HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF KELLY RESPONDS AFTER IMMIGRATION RAIDS SPARK OUTRAGE. The U.S. immigration agency arrested more than 640 people from California to Georgia to New York last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement Monday. Kelly said the arrests were part of a series of enforcement operations across the country targeting "public safety threats" as well as "individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws." Those arrested included some who had re-entered the country after being deported and others whose deportation had been ordered by an immigration judge, ABC’s GENEVA SANDS writes. http://abcn.ws/2kMrJ98
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SAYS HE AND PRESIDENT TRUMP SEE 'EYE TO EYE.' Before boarding his plane to Washington D.C., Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac in Tel Aviv that he and the new U.S. president see "eye to eye." After three weeks of sending mixed messages, Netanyahu and President Trump will finally meet Wednesday. "Trump and I see eye to eye on the dangers emanating from the region but also on the opportunities," Netanyahu said Monday. "And we'll talk about both.” ABC’s MOLLY HUNTER has more: http://abcn.ws/2lcGhiO
A LOOK AT NORTH KOREA'S MISSILE LAUNCHES AND TECHNOLOGY. In the wake of North Korea's most recent ballistic missile test the Pentagon is strongly condemning the North Korean program as "a clear grave threat to our national security." North Korea has continued to test a variety of mid-range and long range ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions barring the development of such technologies. North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency described the missile launched Sunday as a Pukguksong-2 missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, explains ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ. http://abcn.ws/2kMI1yS
UK PM THERESA MAY REJECTS PETITION BARRING TRUMP STATE VISIT. British Prime Minister Theresa May formally rejected on Tuesday an online petition that called for President Donald Trump to be barred from making an official state visit to the U.K. The petition amassed more than 1.8 million signatures as of Tuesday morning, arguing that a state visit by Trump "would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen." ABC’s KARMA ALLEN has more. http://abcn.ws/2kFz7kd
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
NEW VIDEO FROM SAVE MY CARE: Ahead of House Speaker Paul Ryan's weekly press conference, Save My Care, a grassroots coalition of health care advocates and consumers, has released a new video this morning - "Speaker Ryan's Alternative Facts On Health Care." “Paul Ryan keeps sounding a false alarm on the Affordable Care Act,” the video argues. WATCH: https://youtu.be/D9Wdvz4uBV4
@matthewjdowd: Kellyanne Conway's appearances on tv this morning only made matters worse. It has made the story even bigger and with more questions.
@peterbakernyt: Unless memory fails, that’s got to be a land speed record for a national security adviser resigning — just 24 days into an administration.
@mollymotoole: A rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington tonight: Mike Flynn has been fired by two presidents, Democrat and Republican.
@bensherwood: Special happy bday to the unstoppable and intrepid @MarthaRaddatz @ABC