What happened yesterday between Kellyanne Conway’s statement in the afternoon that Michael Flynn still had the “full confidence” of Donald Trump and his resignation hours later? Conway appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America “at the request of the president,” both she and George Stephanopoulos note, mainly to stress that Flynn’s “erroneous” briefing of Vice President Mike Pence was the proximate cause of his exit as national security adviser.
When asked about other issues surrounding Flynn’s departure — especially whether Trump had been told about a Department of Justice warning about the danger of extortion targeting Flynn — Conway has nothing much else to say:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 14, 2017
Who could have guessed that we would get to the “what did the president know and when did he know it” stage of the Trump administration in week four?
Conway tells Stephanopoulos a couple of times that the situation at the White House is “fluid,” and that he might not have factual information as the basis of his question. That seems to refer to the most pressing question about Sally Yates and her warning to White House counsel Don McGahn about Flynn’s susceptibility to extortion after having provided “misleadling or forgetful” information to Pence. The emergence of that story yesterday appeared (from the outside, anyway) to become a catalyst for Flynn’s eventual resignation.
Were Trump and Pence not told of it until yesterday? That might explain how Flynn went from having the president’s “full confidence” to being out of a job within the space of a few hours. If things really were collapsing behind the scenes, then it would have made no sense to send Conway out to the media to give a Chip Diller “All is well!” statement that was certain to be proven incorrect soon, even if it took a little longer than a few hours on a Monday. But if McGahn did have that report from Yates, he would have had to have received it before Trump booted Yates on January 30th, which means he would have sat on it for at least two full weeks while Flynn sat in on nat-sec meetings of the highest level. That seems … unlikely, given Flynn’s set of responsibilities, in which case we’re back to scratching our heads and wondering just how the new administration thought they could finesse their way out of this with Flynn still in the White House.
The only other explanation was that the story about the Yates letter was entirely erroneous, but that’s also a reach. The White House hasn’t issued a flat-out denial of it, and Conway refuses to address it directly at all in this interview. By this morning, they would have been issuing specific denials had the Washington Post and New York Times gotten it wrong. That may be why Conway sticks to the White House message like glue in this segment and refuses to engage on anything else. After yesterday, that looks like a wise choice.