Brussels (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence said Monday he was disappointed that Michael Flynn gave him “inaccurate” information about his contacts with Russia before he resigned as national security adviser.
But Pence defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the resignation as proper and timely and said he had “great confidence” in the administration’s security plans.
“I would tell you that I was disappointed that .. the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate,” Pence told a press conference in Brussels.
On February 13, the White House said Trump had accepted Flynn’s resignation amid allegations the retired three-star general discussed US sanctions strategy with Russia’s ambassador to Washington before Trump’s inauguration.
Pence had publicly defended Flynn, saying he did not discuss sanctions, putting his own credibility at risk.
In his resignation letter, Flynn — who once headed US military intelligence — admitted to “inadvertently” misleading Pence about the substance of the call.
“I fully support the president’s decision to ask for his resignation,” Pence said when asked if the administration kept him out of the loop on Flynn’s contacts.
“It was the proper decision, it was handled properly and in a timely way. I have great confidence in the national security team of this administration going forward,” Pence said.
Flynn’s unprecedented early departure poured fuel on demands for a full independent investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s inner circle and the Kremlin.
US media reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House that Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the contents of his talks with ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and that it could make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
The Kremlin has previously denied that Flynn and Kislyak discussed the lifting of US sanctions.
Flynn — who has previously met Russian President Vladimir Putin — was a vocal supporter of a softer policy on Russia after ties plunged over Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine and allegations of interference in the US election.
The Kremlin is hoping that Trump will follow through on his pledge to improve relations with Russia and may eventually wind back damaging sanctions that have battered its economy.
EU and NATO leaders who have been meeting Pence on his European trip have expressed concern the Trump administration is less committed to transatlantic ties and is taking a softer line on Russia.