Here’s where things stand heading into day 26 of the Trump administration:
Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser, after the controversy surrounding him turned into a mini-quagmire for the new Trump administration.
Keith Kellogg, a decorated retired Army lieutenant general, will serve as acting national security adviser.
In his resignation letter, Flynn defended his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, saying he intended to “facilitate a smooth transition” and was trying “to build the necessary relationships” for the new administration. He said he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information.”
We learned last week that Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration and then allowed Vice President Mike Pence to publicly deny it.
Now we know that the Justice Department believed Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail based on his denial to Pence and others and actually warned the White House about its concerns late last month.
It’s unclear what White House counsel Donald McGahn did with the warning from Justice. It’s also unclear whether Flynn was acting with the knowledge of other Trump staffers when he spoke to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration. But the drip-drip of information about Flynn’s actions was instructive in its own way, revealing more about the internal dysfunction that plagues the brand-new White House.
For example, Trump advisers didn’t have a unified message about Flynn amid intensifying questions about his job status: Before Flynn’s resignation Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was “evaluating the situation” with Flynn shortly after Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that Flynn had Trump’s “full confidence.”
As our colleagues wrote, chaos and upheaval are now standard operating procedure in the West Wing, and internal conflict is rife.
SENSITIVE DELIBERATIONS ON FULL DISPLAY AT MAR-A-LAGO
Trump loves his private club in Palm Beach, Fla. — so much that he dealt with an international incident on Saturday night in full view of its members.
The president was eating dinner on Mar-a-Lago’s terrace with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Saturday night when news arrived that North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile, its first such action since Trump took office.
Soon, as our colleague wrote, “Trump and Abe turned their dinner table into an open-air situation room,” huddling with aides and looking at documents by the light of mobile phones. Nearby, club members snapped photos of the scene, and at least one posted them to Facebook.
This highly unusual situation was criticized by security experts, The Post reported:
“The two leaders could have discussed classified documents within earshot of waiters and club patrons. Those cellphones-turned-flashlights might also have been a problem: If one of them had been hacked by a foreign power, the phone’s camera could have provided a view of what the documents said.”
On the same evening, a club member also posed for a photo with the Army officer he said carried the “nuclear football,” leading to a spate of awkward questions for the Pentagon.
FROM CAPITOL HILL: CAN DEMOCRATS DEFEAT PUZDER?
Senate Democrats still haven’t been able to block any of Trump’s Cabinet picks — just Monday night, Steven Mnuchin was confirmed as treasury secretary and David Shulkin was confirmed as veterans affairs secretary.
Now, Democrats’ efforts are likely to focus on fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, after four Republicans said they were on the fence about supporting him.
Those four — Susan Collins (Maine), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — could kill Puzder’s nomination if they oppose him in committee. Before that vote takes place, however, Puzder must testify at his confirmation hearing, scheduled for Thursday.
He’s expected to face questions about several different controversies, our colleagues wrote, including workplace violations at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants, “sexually suggestive ads featuring bikini-clad models eating burgers, and his opposition to wage regulations. Puzder has also been accused of domestic abuse — an accusation that was later recanted — and has acknowledged hiring an undocumented worker for his home.”
Keep up with the confirmation process for Trump’s Cabinet with our frequently updated schedule here.
TRUMP HOSTS TRUDEAU, TALKS TRADE
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House on Monday, ostensibly to talk about issues facing women in the workforce. The event made little news — Trump said there will be “tweaking” of U.S. trade terms with Canada — but it gave the new president a chance to showcase a new persona, that of world leader.
“His demeanor is remarkably different in these moments,” our colleague wrote of Trump at the news conference with the 45-year-old Trudeau, whose good looks have spawned memes. “It appears as though he has been cast by a Hollywood director to play the very serious role of President of the United States.”
Follow the author @eliseviebeck.