In a sudden turn of events on Monday, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn officially resigned his post in Trump's Cabinet, following controversy over a phone call he had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The news follows closely on the heels of reports that Trump and senior White House officials knew of Flynn's alleged conversations with the ambassador regarding Russian sanctions weeks ago. In a statement to the press on Monday evening, the White House said it had appointed retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr. as acting national security adviser, according to ABC News.
"General Kellogg is a decorated veteran of the United States Army, having served from 1967 to 2003, including two tours during the Vietnam War, where he earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with "V" device, and the Air Medal with "V" device," the White House wrote. "He served as the Commander of the 82nd Airborne from 1997 to 1998. Prior to his retirement, General Kellogg was Director of the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Directorate under the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
The White House also released the full text of Flynn's own letter of resignation, in which the departing national security adviser admitted to having shared "incomplete information" with Vice President Pence and White House officials on the nature of his calls with foreign leaders.
Flynn first came under criticism after news broke that he had discussed existing Russian sanctions with Kislyak prior to his official confirmation, a move that, as The New York Times pointed out, constituted a major breach of protocol. Though Flynn initially denied having discussed the sanctions with the ambassador — leading Pence to deny the claims as well on several daytime news shows in the subsequent weeks — it was reported earlier on Monday that the Justice Department had briefed the White House on the possibility of Russian officials being able to blackmail Flynn as far back as January. Then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired from her post earlier this month for refusing to enforce Trump's travel ban due to concerns over constitutionality, reportedly relayed the message to the White House, according to CNN.
The full text of Flynn's letter can be found below:
In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.
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 President, and they have accepted my apology.
Throughout my over thirty three years of honorable military service, and my tenure as the National Security Advisor, I have always performed my duties with the utmost of integrity and honesty to those I have served, to include the President of the United States.
I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.
I am also extremely honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.
As I step away once again from serving my nation in this current capacity, I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty, the friendship of those who I worked with throughout the hard fought campaign, the challenging period of transition, and during the early days of his presidency.
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 U.S. history, and I firmly believe the American people will be well served as they all work together to help Make America Great Again.
Michael T. Flynn, LTG (Ret)
Assistant to the President / National Security Advisor
Politico reported on Monday that Trump had allegedly been hesitant to force Flynn's resignation, because the general had been "loyal to him during the campaign, and he appreciated his strength and intelligence."
Flynn's resignation is effective immediately.