Defence Intelligence Agency director US Army Lt-Gen Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Worldwide Threats in Washington in this file photo from 2014. Picture: Reuters
Defence Intelligence Agency director US Army Lt-Gen Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Worldwide Threats in Washington in this file photo from 2014. Picture: Reuters

Washington — US President Donald Trump began his fourth week in the White House on Monday by hosting Canadian leader Justin Trudeau — and ended the day accepting the resignation of top aide Michael Flynn.

The stunning departure of Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, was due to allegations the retired three-star general discussed US sanctions strategy with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak before taking office.

Here are five takeaways from the day: Flynn’s resignation came late on Monday after a day of speculation about his future, especially after the White House said Trump was "evaluating" his contacts with the Russian government.

The top aide — whose past encounters with Russian President Vladimir Putin have already drawn criticism — was accused of discussing the Obama administration’s election-hacking-related sanctions with ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn initially claimed he did not discuss sanctions, prompting Vice-President Mike Pence to publicly come to his defence.

But Flynn later admitted that he "inadvertently briefed" Pence with "incomplete information" about his calls with Kislyak.

Trump named retired Lt-Gen Joseph Kellogg, who was serving as a director on the joint chiefs of staff, to be interim national security adviser. Social media posts of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe huddling with aides in a public dining room after North Korea’s missile test raised questions about the US administration’s handling of sensitive information.

The conversation was captured on camera from close range by a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday.

One caption of the now removed posts by Facebook user Richard DeAgazio read: "The president receiving the news about the missile incident from North Korea on Japan with the prime minister sitting next to him."

When the president is away from the White House, many crisis conversations take place in what is known as a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) — a facility normally out of bounds for individuals without security clearance.

The White House said that Trump was briefed in such a room "prior to dinner" and that no sensitive information was shared at the table.

"There is no one in that picture around him or whatever that isn’t part of the US delegation or the Japanese delegation, they were reviewing the logistics for the press conference," said White House spokesperson Sean Spicer.

After striking up a much-flaunted "bromance" with president Barack Obama, Canada’s youthful liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau, visited Washington to woo the US’s septuagenarian Republican president with whom he has little in common.

While Trump and Trudeau appeared to tone down the harsh rhetoric on trade between the two neighbours, they made it clear they did not see eye-to-eye on Trump’s controversial efforts to ban refugees and travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

During a joint appearance at the White House, Trump defended his immigration decree as "common sense" and demurred when asked if Canada’s open door policies posed a threat for the US.

Trudeau, meanwhile, said his country would "continue to pursue our policies of openness towards refugees without compromising security".

Trump’s daughter Ivanka got a plum spot at the US’s highest table, taking place next to the Canadian premier Trudeau at a White House meeting with the president, and businesswomen from both countries.

The appearance by Ivanka, who opened the discussion after both leaders had spoken, comes amid questions over the separation of Trump family businesses from the official roles of the president and his relatives.

Trump is the first president in modern times to refuse to release his tax returns or divest from his business interests — choosing instead to put his sons in charge. Ivanka also has significant business interests that have become the focus of government ethics watchdogs.

Trump last week tweeted that his daughter had been treated "so unfairly" by Nordstrom, an upscale department store chain that dropped her fashion brand, and a key Trump aide is facing possible investigation after pitching Ivanka’s clothing on television.

Homing on Trump’s reported penchant for getting his information from morning television shows, popular TV satirist John Oliver is taking out cable news ads in the Washington area to "educate" the president on what he needs to know to avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

"We wanted to try and sneak some useful facts into his media diet," Oliver said as his HBO show Last Week Tonight returned for a new season, airing a clip of a cowboy with some sage if patronising words of advice.

"It might seem like a show of strength to kill the families of terrorists, but according to the Geneva Conventions, it’s actually a war crime," says the character.

AFP

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