Trump Aide: Administration Is 'Evaluating The Situation' With Adviser Flynn

Feb 13, 2017
Originally published on February 13, 2017 7:39 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's been a fast-paced and rocky start for the Trump White House. There have been reports of infighting and even talk of a possible staff shakeup after just three weeks. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: You were at the White House for what sounds like a chaotic scene where you - with a group of reporters who were talking with the president? What did he have to say?

KEITH: Yeah, so this was all a surprise to me. I was standing in a hallway with a group of about 10 reporters. We were waiting to get into Sean Spicer's office, hoping to talk to him about national security adviser Michael Flynn and his status in the administration. Flynn had back in December spoken with the Russian ambassador. He in January told administration people, including the vice president, that he had not spoken to the ambassador about sanctions against Russia that the Obama White House was putting into place. Well, then it turns out Flynn did actually discuss those sanctions.

And so we were there trying to talk to Sean Spicer about that, and all of a sudden the president walks by. And so this clump of reporters that I was part of, we go out there and we try to ask the president about this. At first, he is sort of jokingly pointing to a large photo that's hanging on the wall of the inauguration and saying, whoa, where did all those people come from? He was talking about the crowd size. Then the reporters shouted questions asking him if he had confidence in General Flynn.

And notably, the president didn't say one way or another whether he had confidence. He said there's a statement coming out. You know, check the statement. Though at the same time, he was also asked whether he has confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the president said, yes, he's doing a great job.

SIEGEL: Well, have we heard what the statement about Flynn actually said?

KEITH: Yes. So shortly after that Priebus came by, and then moments later Sean Spicer, the press secretary, came. We asked him, what is this statement? We don't have the statement that the president was referring to. And Spicer read it aloud. Here is that statement.

SEAN SPICER: The president is evaluating the situation. He's speaking to the vice president - to Vice President Pence relative to the conversation the vice president had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is - our national security.

SIEGEL: Tam, just one question. There have been reports of a transcript of the conversation that General Flynn had with a Russian ambassador, routine surveillance of a Russian ambassador. Was the president asked if he has seen or asked to see the transcript of that conversation?

KEITH: That question was not asked. This was sort of a quick grab in the hallway and we didn't ask that, so we don't know the answer to that question.

SIEGEL: And this did not come up either in the president's short news conference with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. We're talking about palace, intrigue, questions from the press. Why does any of this matter, Tam?

KEITH: Well, you know, if the press and the White House are talking about who's up and who's down in the president's - in the White House and in the inner circle and whether the national security adviser is - has the confidence of the president, then the White House isn't talking about the policies that they were put into place to enact. And, you know, the - this White House has not sent legislation up to Congress. At this point in President Obama's tenure he was preparing to sign the stimulus, which was a - almost an $800 billion initiative.

SIEGEL: Well, there's been a lot of action, but you're saying no legislation.

KEITH: No legislation yet.

SIEGEL: OK.

KEITH: And that's just one of many things that is sort of unusual this time around.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.