Story by Matthew Parks, Staff writer
During his campaign, many cited concerns over Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia, and this week’s events have done nothing to assuage those fears for many.
After some media controversy, Michael Flynn, security adviser for the Trump Administration, tendered his resignation on Monday after he admitted to omitting information concerning Russia to the vice president in a debriefing.
Flynn claimed in his debriefing that the possibility of lifting sanctions on Russia were not discussed, but transcripts of the call proved otherwise. The administration also received a warning from the Department of Justice that labeled Flynn a security threat, saying they believed he was a potential target for Russian blackmail.
In his resignation letter Flynn wrote, “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”
As the call took place before Trump’s inauguration, Flynn was speaking as a private citizen to the Russian ambassador. Negotiating with foreign government on behalf of the U.S. government as a private citizen is illegal.
Following the initial scandal, Sean Spicer, press secretary, revealed the administration had known about Flynn’s apparent deception for weeks but had yet to do anything about it.
“[We were] reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks trying to ascertain the truth,” Spicer said. “The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”
Spicer did not expand upon what he referred to as the “other questionable instances.”
When asked if Trump had instructed Flynn to speak with the Russian ambassador about sanctions, Spicer said, “No, absolutely not.”
It is, however, unclear why the White House waited so long to act on the information given to them by the Justice Department several weeks ago.
The current frontrunner for Flynn’s position is retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, according to administration officials.
In an unexpected move, Andrew Puzder, Trump’s pick for the secretary of labor, withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday afternoon.
While Puzder has not publicly stated a reason for his withdrawal, he was facing a massive amount of criticism from Democratic senators and some Republicans, as he is a staunch opponent of minimum wage laws, paid leave and other workers’ rights.
There has been no word yet on who Trump will tap to replace Puzder.
On Monday, Steven Mnuchin was confirmed as the secretary of the treasury in a vote of 53 to 47. Mnuchin is a former senior executive at Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund manager.
IMMIGRATION BAN FOLLOW-UP
Following recent confirmation hearings, Trump has slowed the pace of signing executive orders and making policy changes.
Since last Wednesday, Trump has signed only three executive orders, all a part of what he calls an “anti-crime” initiative. Trump said the orders are intended to protect and expand the rights and legal protections for police officers and improve crime rates, especially in inner cities.
Last Thursday, an appeals court voted 3 – 0 in favor of upholding the Seattle judge James Robart’s ruling against Trump’s immigration ban. For now, the order is still blocked and cannot be enforced.
The White House released a statement shortly after the ruling that said the Trump administration will take the fight over the order to the Supreme Court.
“The government has taken the position that the president’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable,” the statement read. “Even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.”
Trump took to Twitter to express his own views.
“SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE,” Trump wrote on the social networking site.
Trump later said in a press conference that he might soon sign “a brand-new order” in regards to immigration bans in order to replace the now-blocked original ban.