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U.S. Senator John McCain is interviewed during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
U.S. Senator John McCain is interviewed during the 2017 “Congress of Tomorrow” Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela

Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was the first elected Republican to hit hard on the turmoil in President Trump’s White House, and the continuing questions about Russian influence.

“General Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus,” said Mr. McCain, who has emerged as one of the few Republican antagonists that Mr. Trump has not silenced.

“General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections,” he continued.

Republicans largely silent

As scandal swirled around President Trump’s new White House, Republicans in Congress beyond Mr. McCain were almost silent on the resignation of Mr. Flynn and its implications.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin chose to focus on Mr. Flynn’s decision to mislead Vice President Mike Pence on the contents of his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.

“You cannot have a national security adviser misleading the vice president and others,” he told reporters Tuesday.

But Mr. Ryan deflected when asked about calls for congressional inquiries into the episode. “I’m not going to prejudge circumstances surrounding this,” he said. “I think the administration will explain the circumstances that led to this.”

He again praised Mr. Trump, without identifying Mr. Flynn by name. “As soon as this person lost the president’s trust, the president asked for his resignation,” Mr. Ryan said, “and that was the right thing to do.”

In fact, the Justice Department informed the White House a month ago that Mr. Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with the ambassador.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of California, a Trump loyalist, released one of the few statements from the Republican side of the aisle, and it offered no criticism:

“Michael Flynn served in the U.S. military for more than three decades. Washington, D.C., can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America’s gratitude and respect for dedicating so much of his life to strengthening our national security. I thank him for his many years of distinguished service.”

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was no more forthcoming. “Mike Flynn served his country with distinction,” he said in a statement. “The President needs a National Security Adviser whom he can trust and I defer to him to decide who best fills that role.”

One exception, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, who threw his not very heavy weight behind a bipartisan commission.

Amid turmoil, military leaders grow worried

General Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, told a military conference on Tuesday that the upheavals in Washington are rippling through the American military.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil,” he said. “I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.”

General Thomas insisted Special Operations Forces are “staying focused” despite all the controversy in Washington.

Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Conway: Flynn listened to “leader calls” as recently as Monday

Although the White House was warned a month ago that Mr. Flynn had been untruthful about the nature of his contacts with Moscow, he was allowed into security briefings as recently as Monday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on the “Today” show on Tuesday.

The Justice Department had warned the White House weeks ago that Mr. Flynn’s dissembling put him at risk of blackmail from Russian intelligence, but he was kept by the president’s side.

“That’s one characterization,” Ms. Conway said when confronted with those circumstances.

The Kremlin washes its hands of Flynn

Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States are not in question, nor is his trip to Moscow to fete the Russian propaganda network RT — sitting next to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — but Moscow said Tuesday that his resignation was a domestic matter unconnected to the Kremlin.

 

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