A defiant President Donald Trump on Thursday insisted that he asked Michael Flynn to resign because of Flynn's statements to Vice President Mike Pence. The president also denied that he told his key national security advisor to discuss sanctions with a Russian official.
"He didn't tell the vice president of the United States the facts and then he didn't remember, and that's just not acceptable," Trump told reporters at the White House at his first solo news conference as chief executive.
"I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence."
Trump added that he had no problem with Flynn making the calls because he was "doing his job."
Flynn resigned Monday as national security advisor following revelations that he made contradictory statements to Pence about whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States. However, when press secretary Sean Spicer later said that the White House was warned on Jan. 26 that Flynn may have misled Pence, it raised questions about why it took more than two weeks for him to resign.
Trump maintained that he asked Flynn to resign only because of the statements he made to Pence, not because they were made public in a Washington Post report.
"I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it," he said.
"With all that being said, I think he's a fine man."
He stressed that he did not think Flynn did anything wrong by talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Trump also denied that he directed Flynn to talk about sanctions and played down any connections Flynn had with Moscow.
Flynn's resignation has prompted renewed concerns about what contacts Trump aides had with Russian officials during and after the campaign and what he knew about it. Congressional Democrats and some Republicans have called for a deeper investigation into the circumstances that led to Flynn's resignation.
The sanctions were imposed by President Barack Obama after an intelligence report concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed Moscow's efforts to sabotage the 2016 election.
Trump defended his administration's handling of the situation, instead blaming media outlets and the officials who leaked details of Flynn's calls to them. Trump appeared to contradict himself by calling the leaks "real" and the reporting "fake."
Trump and his administration have often used the term "fake news" to describe stories that cast Trump in a negative light. The Washington Post and New York Times, whom Trump has attacked for their reporting about Flynn, have stood by their stories.