President Donald Trump defended former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, saying on Feb. 16 that he did not instruct Flynn to speak on the phone with Russian officials about sanctions -- but he would have encouraged it.
"I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him, because that's his job," Trump told reporters during a White House press conference, according to The Huffington Post.
The president confirmed that Flynn was "fired," rather than resigning on his own terms, "because of what he said to [Vice President] Mike Pence -- very simple."
"What he did wasn’t wrong," added Trump.
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Flynn stepped down on Feb. 13, after reports from the Justice Department surfaced publicly, saying that Flynn misled Pence and other administration officials regarding the nature of his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before he officially joined the White House team, reports CNN.
"I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way," Flynn wrote in his resignation letter, according to CNN. "I know with the strong leadership of President Donald J. 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 retired general informed Pence and others that he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak, when in fact he had. Flynn could face legal trouble for this, particularly if he gave equally misleading information to the FBI when they questioned him in his first days in office.
But Trump said that there is a much graver issue at hand than Flynn's interactions with the rest of the White House.
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"What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourself inside this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally," Trump told the press, according to the Post.
Indeed, he said that neither he nor any administration members had dealings with the nation during the election.
"Russia is a ruse," said the president. "I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people in Russia."