Tags: Donald Trump | Michael Flynn resignation | national | security | adviser | White House

Leon Panetta: Trump 'Hopefully Misspoke' on Gen. Flynn, Russia

CNN's "The Situation Room"

By    |   Thursday, 16 Feb 2017 08:11 PM

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that President Donald Trump "hopefully misspoke" when he told reporters he had no problem with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talking about U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before his inauguration.

"That's a statement by the president that, hopefully, the White House will correct," Panetta, who also served as CIA Director under President Barack Obama, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

"Although a national security adviser who is serving a new president — and he was not in that position, but obviously had been designated as such — has the right to talk to ambassadors and to make contact with others.

"But to talk about steps on sanctions that would undermine the policy of the existing administration at the time comes very close to the line of violating the Logan Act," Panetta said.

"And so for that reason, I think the president, as they say in Washington, hopefully misspoke."

At his White House news conference, President Trump said he had no problem with Flynn talking with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December and he did not direct the retired Army general to talk with the Kremlin official.

"I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him, because that's his job," Trump said. "I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him if he didn't do it."

Panetta told Blitzer that Flynn debacle proved the Trump administration needed somebody "who understands how the White House is supposed to operate.

"Every person who was picked for his staff has no experience in government or in the White House," he added. "The reality is that there is no one who has the background to try to understand the processes and procedures that ought to be in place in order to serve the president of the United States.

"I would feel a lot more comfortable if they brought somebody in, a Republican from past administrations, who understands how the White House is supposed to work.

"Unless there is discipline, unless there is a strict chain of command, unless there is a process put in place that provides thoughtful consideration of the options that should go to the president, you're going to have a hit-and-miss operation that could result in a serious crisis at some point."

This also is key to strengthening Trump's relationship with the intelligence community, Panetta said.

"The president's first duty is to protect our country," he told Blitzer said. "He cannot protect our country without good intelligence about what our adversaries are up to.

"You have to rely on information about what our adversaries are up to, what threats exist."

"I don't disagree that right now I think that relationship between the president and our intelligence agencies is not good," Panetta added. "There is a lot of distrust.

"My hope is that good people will come in and re-establish the trust that is so important to the president of the United States if he's going to be able to protect this country."

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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that President Donald Trump "hopefully misspoke" when he told reporters he had no problem with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talking about U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before his inauguration.
national, security, adviser, White House
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2017-11-16
Thursday, 16 Feb 2017 08:11 PM
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