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Story highlights

Trump said Flynn was simply "doing his job" by discussing issues like sanctions with Russia's ambassador

Trump learned about Flynn's conversation with the ambassador on January 26

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump said Thursday he didn’t direct his former national security adviser Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador – but said he would have if he thought Flynn wasn’t going to.

Trump repeatedly made clear during a news conference that he asked for Flynn’s resignation because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about that conversation, not because he took issue with Flynn’s discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador.

That’s because Trump said Flynn was simply “doing his job” by discussing issues like sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

“Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would’ve been OK with me if he did it,” Trump said. “I would’ve directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it.”

Trump’s comments about Flynn marked the first time the President has explained at length why he asked Flynn for his resignation earlier this week after just 24 days in the position as Trump’s top foreign policy adviser.

Trump repeatedly stressed that it was Flynn’s failure to tell Pence that his discussion with the Russian ambassador included talk about sanctions imposed against Russia for that government’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election that prompted Flynn’s sudden exit.

“He didn’t tell the vice president of the United States the facts and then he didn’t remember and that just wasn’t acceptable to me,” Trump said.

Trump did not, however, explain if he would have asked for Flynn’s resignation had The Washington Post not publicly reported on Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Trump learned about Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador on January 26, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, but did not ask for Flynn’s resignation until days after The Washington Post report surfaced in the last week.