They spent months cultivating the man who became Trump’s National Security Adviser.
Agents of the Russian government believed they had enough influence over Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — then an adviser to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign — that they bragged about how they could use Flynn to influence Trump himself, CNN reported on Friday night. Flynn later became President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, before being forced out after it was learned that he had met privately with a Russian diplomat and lied about it.
A former member of the Obama administration told CNN that Russian communications regarding Flynn provoked a “five-alarm fire” in the U.S. intelligence community during the 2016 campaign. It now appears that Moscow had been cultivating Flynn for months before he became a member of the Trump administration.
Although Flynn’s tenure as National Security Adviser lasted only a few weeks into the Trump administration, his abrupt ouster has not quieted down the leaks and speculation regarding his ties to Russia. He is now one of the central figures in an unfolding scandal that has sparked multiple congressional investigations and led to the appointment of a special counsel.
Multiple news outlets have now confirmed that Trump associates had been made aware of Flynn’s ties to Russia before the president was even inaugurated. Earlier this month, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told Congress she had warned the Trump administration about Flynn more than two weeks before he was finally pushed out.
Even before that — in November — the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, then the head of Trump’s transition team, and informed him that Flynn was under the sway of another authoritarian foreign power: Turkey. Flynn lobbied for Turkey’s Erdogan government and only disclosed that he had done so retroactively; later, as a member of the Trump administration, he delayed a plan to invade the ISIS capital of Raqqa. The invasion was opposed by Turkey.
Pence has continued to maintain that he was unaware of Flynn’s international freelancing. But the evidence is piling up that, even at the time, the ex-National Security Adviser’s unsavory ties were all but impossible to ignore. The question is why he received a high-ranking national security post in the administration despite those unsavory ties — and why, even after he was removed from that post, the president rang him up and told him to “stay strong.”
Three months after Flynn was kicked out of the White House, Trump’s Flynn problem seems to be only just beginning. As of this week, the former National Security Adviser still has yet to comply with a congressional subpoena; meanwhile, White House lawyers are reportedly researching impeachment (they’ve denied this report) and examining how to undermine the special counsel who is investigating Trump’s associates.
Russian officials reportedly boasted during the campaign they could sway Trump by using Flynn was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.