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House Speaker Welcomes Flynn Resignation, But Congress Has More Questions

House Speaker Paul Ryan, flanked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas (left) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, meet with reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP
House Speaker Paul Ryan, flanked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas (left) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, meet with reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

House Speaker Welcomes Flynn Resignation, But Congress Has More Questions
House Speaker Welcomes Flynn Resignation, But Congress Has More Questions GUEST:Mikhail Alexseev, political science professor, San Diego State University

Our top story on midday edition on the same day that we learned national security advisor Michael Flynn has resigned over secret contacts with Russia and diplomats before President Trump took office we learned that Russia has secretly just -- deployed a new class of cruise missile and violation of a 30-year-old arms treaty. Now even some top senators are calling for an investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia. Joining me is Mikhail who is an internationally recognized authority on post Soviet Russia. Woke up to the program Mikhail. We are learning today that Russia is deploying a new goes -- a new class of cruise missile that is forbidden by the treaty. We learned this while the top national security team at the White House is in disarray. What kind of leverage does this give Russia. I think it Russia if you look at the official media and look at the private statements by officials ever since Donald Trump is elected president there has been a sense of jubilation. Part of it is I believe that they feel that they can advance their longer-term strategic goals more easily with Trump being in charge and the confusion that may arise from figuring out what to do with Russia and handling the strategic challenges that Russia presents. In the meantime advancing Russia's military capabilities and promoting influence in the Soviet space and excluding the United States from European affairs more and more. What you think is we should expect Russia to try to push this advantage in Ukraine or other areas of the world? I am extremely troubled about Ukraine. The reason why we have seen escalation of violence recently I think it has a lot to do with these changes. The reasons why Russia is developing missiles and have positioned some of their nuclear weapons in the enclave [Indiscernible] is to deter any possible military assistance that the West may render the Ukraine which is pretty much the only thing that can stop massive Russian advance and take over the country if they decided to do so. It is speculated that Michael Flynn's objective in contacting the Russian ambassador in Washington was to assure him that recently imposed sanctions against Russia would be removed under a Trump administration. Does Russia's reaction to the sanctions indicate in any way that they may have gotten those assurances? I believe that the mood in Moscow is that whether assurances were given or not or and what form that Trump would be manipulative pull enough with Russia offering more leverage on fighting Isis in the Middle East as a trade-off the United States would be more likely to ease or lift the sanctions. Russian diplomats must have known that this type of communication was not allowed with members of an incoming administration. Why would they tempt scandal and do that? Why did they annex Crimea? That was not allowed by any in a -- international agreement including the one that Russia signed in the memorandum that guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons. There have been a pattern of behavior on the Russian part internationally increasingly so since Putin's reentering -- If the resignation turns into a full-blown scandal and that scandal undermines or even friends the presidency. How do you think Russia would react? Russia would probably try to generate as much support for Trump to stay in office in whatever shape or form. They may try to do something to make Trump look good in the Middle East. They also can withhold or provide some information to the media whether it is true are fake that deals with various access of interactions between members of the Trump administration and Moscow. At the same time it may not matter much to Moscow because in the crisis and disarray they can advance it easily. I have been speaking with Mikhail Alexseev a professor at San Diego State. Thank you so much.

Addressing the resignation of President Trump's national security adviser, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Michael Flynn had lost the president's trust and he was right to ask for Flynn's resignation.

Flynn resigned Monday night following reports that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia prior to Trump's inauguration — and then misled then-Vice President-elect Pence about that conversation.

"National security is perhaps the most important function or responsibility a president has," Ryan told reporters in a weekly briefing. He added, "I think the key is this: That as soon as this person lost the president's trust, the president asked for his resignation, and that was the right thing to do."

Before the resignation, press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was "evaluating the situation" with regards to Flynn — comments that contradicted remarks a short time earlier when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC the president had "full confidence" in Flynn. The White House has not said that Trump asked for Flynn's resignation. Trump did not answer questions about Flynn when asked by pool reporters at an education listening session on Tuesday morning.

Many Republicans are making it clear that Flynn's resignation is not the end of the story for them.

In a statement, Republican Sen. John McCain thanked Gen. Flynn for his "many years of distinguished service to our country," but called the resignation "a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus." He called on the president to find a replacement who is "empowered by clear lines of authority and responsibility and possesses the skills and experience necessary to organize the national security system across our government."

Flynn has temporarily been replaced by retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee should talk to Flynn "very soon."

"I think everybody needs that investigation to happen," Blunt in an interview with KTRS radio, CNN reports. "And the Senate Intelligence Committee, again that I serve on, has been given the principle responsibility to look into this, and I think that we should look into it exhaustively so that at the end of this process, nobody wonders whether there was a stone left unturned, and shouldn't reach conclusions before you have the information that you need to have to make those conclusions."

Senate Democrats have called for a "full classified briefing by all relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice and the FBI, as soon as possible and certainly before Thursday, February 16." Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Elijah Cummings of Maryland called Flynn "unfit" to be national security adviser and said he should have been dismissed weeks ago.

"We in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks," their joint statement said. "We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security."

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