WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said he first learned that he was wrong about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s discussion about sanctions with the Russian ambassador "sometime after Jan. 27" — after then acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House Counsel Don McGahn about Flynn’s calls.
“It was our legal counsel who got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn’t adding up with his story,” he said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.”
In an appearance on “Meet The Press” on Jan. 15, Priebus repeated what Vice President Pence said on the same day — that he was unaware of Flynn discussing the subject on the phone. “I have talked to General Flynn,” Priebus said at the time. “None of that came up. The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama did not come up in the conversation.”
On Sunday's "Meet The Press," he said the White House's legal department immediately went into a review of the situation after the warning from the Department of Justice, and later concluded that Flynn didn't break any laws. "But then we started thinking about whether or not Michael Flynn was being straight with us. And that's when we started asking a lot of questions and sort of deposing Michael Flynn and figuring out what he knew or what he didn't know," Priebus said.
"He maintained the fact that he never talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions. But still, something wasn't adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn't believe that it was illegal.” Eventually, he said, the president asked for Flynn's resignation over an issue of trust.
"Something wasn't adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn't believe that it was illegal.”
The FBI interviewed Flynn about his conversations with the Russian ambassador on Jan. 24, and Priebus denied that the agency has spoken with anyone else in the administration on the matter. “Not that I know of, Chuck,” he said. “I think the answer is no to that. I would know.”
Priebus would not answer about whether or not he believes Flynn was being honest with the FBI about conversations with the ambassador, or whether that was one of the issues that came up while Flynn was deposed.
“That's a different issue for the F.B.I. to answer,” Priebus said. “I mean, I'm just not in a position to answer it. Certainly we've talked about that issue with leadership at the F.B.I. But I'm not in a position to talk about that with you. But listen, we've talked about this. I think we've laid it out very clearly. And now it's up to the D.O.J. and the F.B.I. to take it any further, if that's what they do.”
Priebus also said that he could not answer questions about whether he has seen transcripts of Flynn’s calls, but that he is “fully aware of the situation.”
Priebus also pushed back on suggestions that Pence is not clued in to the administration’s latest developments, claiming, “the vice president is in the loop on everything," and was only alerted to developments around Flynn's discussions after the legal department had concluded their review.
NBC News has reported that the vice president was only told about the Department of Justice’s warning late on Feb. 9 — almost two weeks after the White House first received notice. That also happened to be the same day that the Washington Post first published their story about Flynn discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
Priebus also pushed back hard on reports that people within the Trump campaign were in contacts with Russian agents during the campaign. “We don’t know of any contacts with Russian agents,” he said, calling a New York Times story on the matter “total baloney.”
Priebus also denied multiple reports about friction within President Trump’s inner circle, saying, “we don’t have problems in the West Wing. You read about all these stories … we’ve really jelled as a team and we get along great.”