National Security Adviser Mike Flynn has the full confidence of the president, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told NBC News Monday, appearing to signal that Flynn is safe in his job despite his changing account of whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December.
But moments later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president is evaluating the situation and is having conversations with the vice president about his discussions with Flynn on the matter.
The mixed messages left Flynn's status unclear.
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He has been in the "hot seat" since Friday, when the Washington Post first reported that nine current and former officials had seen intelligence reports asserting that he discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, despite his assertions to the Post, to Pence and to Spicer that the subject didn't come up.
A senior intelligence official confirmed to NBC News that Flynn discussed the Obama sanctions, which were imposed to punish Russia for a campaign to interfere in the election in part to help Trump.
The intelligence official said there had been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal.
Through a spokesman, Flynn amended his account to NBC News and others, now saying that he couldn't be sure the topic of sanctions didn't come up.
Conway's comments came after Flynn called Vice President Pence to apologize for misleading him about his communications with the Russian ambassador, two senior administration officials told NBC News.
Speaking to MSNBC anchor Steve Kornacki, Conway declined to confirm Flynn's apology to Pence, who said on national television that Flynn did not discuss the Obama administration's sanctions on Russia when he spoke on the phone with Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak.
"I won't reveal that," she said. "That's a conversation between the Vice President and him."
Democrats reacted with fury to the news that Flynn broached the subject of sanctions before he took office.
Many said that any discussion of sanctions between Flynn, then a private citizen, and the Russian government would have been improper, even if it was legal. A 1799 law called the Logan Act forbids private citizens from negotiating disputes with U.S. adversaries, but it has never been enforced.
One of the calls between Flynn and the ambassador took place the day the sanctions were imposed over Russia's election hacking and leaking, and Democrats feared that Flynn was sending a message that the Russians should expect those sanctions to be lifted.