What the Trump administration knew about Michael Flynn, and when they knew it

I have said from the beginning the White House cover story that Gen. Michael Flynn was fired for “misleading” Trump transition team chairman Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia and his being an undisclosed foreign lobbyist for Turkey smelled to high heaven of bullshit.

Then acting attorney general Sally Yates notified White House counsel that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI, and the White House did nothing for 18 days. It only became an issue after the Washington Post reported the story. If not reported by the media, Flynn would still be in his job.

Now we learn that the Trump transition team was informed by Gen. Michael Flynn himself that he was under investigation by the FBI even before Donald Trump named him as his mational securty adviser.

There is no credible scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence,  the Trump transition team chairman, was not also fully apprised of the facts by Trump transition team lawyers. Both Trump and Pence knowingly hired a man they knew was under investigation by the FBI and was compromised by his foreign entanglements. Mike Pence has some splainin’ to do under oath.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House:

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

Mr. Flynn, who was fired after 24 days in the job, was initially kept on even after the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that he might be subject to blackmail by the Russians for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington.

After Mr. Flynn’s dismissal, Mr. Trump tried to get James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to drop the investigation — an act that some legal experts say is grounds for an investigation of Mr. Trump for possible obstruction of justice. He fired Mr. Comey on May 9.

* * *

In congressional testimony, the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, has confirmed the existence of a “highly significant” investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russian operatives to sway the presidential election. The pace of the investigations has intensified in recent weeks, with a veteran espionage prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, now leading a grand jury inquiry in Northern Virginia that is scrutinizing Mr. Flynn’s foreign lobbying and has begun issuing subpoenas to businesses that worked with Mr. Flynn and his associates.

The New York Times has reviewed one of the subpoenas. It demands all “records, research, contracts, bank records, communications” and other documents related to work with Mr. Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group, the business he set up after he was forced out as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

The subpoena also asks for similar records about Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and is chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. There is no indication that Mr. Alptekin is under investigation.

Signed by Dana J. Boente, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the subpoena instructs the recipient to direct any questions about its contents to Mr. Van Grack.

Mr. Van Grack, a national security prosecutor based at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, has experience conducting espionage investigations.

* * *

The investigation stems from the work Mr. Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Mr. Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Mr. Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Mr. Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

When he was hired by Mr. Alptekin, Mr. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government. Only in March did he file a retroactive registration with the Justice Department because his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said that “the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

* * *

On Nov. 8, the day of the election, Mr. Flynn wrote an op-ed in The Hill that advocated improved relations between Turkey and the United States and called Mr. Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah.”

Days later, after an article in The Daily Caller revealed that the Flynn Intel Group had a contract with Inovo, a Trump campaign lawyer held a conference call with members of the Flynn Intel Group, according to one person with knowledge of the call. The lawyer, William McGinley, was seeking more information about the nature of the group’s foreign work and wanted to know whether Mr. Flynn had been paid for the op-ed.

Mr. McGinley now works in the White House as cabinet secretary and deputy assistant to the president.

The Justice Department also took notice. The op-ed in The Hill raised suspicions that Mr. Flynn was working as a foreign agent, and in a letter dated Nov. 30, the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn that it was scrutinizing his lobbying work.

Mr. Flynn hired a lawyer a few weeks later. By Jan. 4, the day Mr. Flynn informed Mr. McGahn of the inquiry, the Justice Department was investigating the matter.

Mr. Kelner then followed up with another call to the Trump transition’s legal team. He ended up leaving a message, identifying himself as Mr. Flynn’s lawyer. According to a person familiar with the case, Mr. Kelner did not get a call back until two days later, on Jan. 6.

Around the time of Mr. Flynn’s call with Mr. McGahn, the F.B.I. began investigating Mr. Flynn on a separate matter: phone conversations he had in late December with Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Current and former American officials said that, on the calls, Mr. Flynn discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia for disrupting the November election.

Reuters adds today, Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.

* * *

The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what U.S. intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election in favor of Trump over his Democratic challenger, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Those discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said.

Members of the Senate and House intelligence committees have gone to the CIA and the National Security Agency to review transcripts and other documents related to contacts between Trump campaign advisers and associates and Russian officials and others with links to Putin, people with knowledge of those investigations told Reuters.

So members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees know a great deal more than they are able to state publicly about this investigation. This is a significant percentage of members of Congress.

In addition to the six phone calls involving Kislyak, the communications described to Reuters involved another 12 calls, emails or text messages between Russian officials or people considered to be close to Putin and Trump campaign advisers.

One of those contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician, according to one person with detailed knowledge of the exchange and two others familiar with the issue.

It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation, the sources said. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Medvedchuk denied having any contact with anyone in the Trump campaign.

* * *

Beyond Medvedchuk and Kislyak, the identities of the other Putin-linked participants in the contacts remain classified and the names of Trump advisers other than Flynn have been “masked” in intelligence reports on the contacts because of legal protections on their privacy as American citizens. However, officials can request that they be revealed for intelligence purposes.

McClatchy News adds today, Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed – after being paid as its agent:

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon’s plan to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.’s most effective military partners. Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months.

If Flynn explained his answer, that’s not recorded, and it’s not known whether he consulted anyone else on the transition team before rendering his verdict. But his position was consistent with the wishes of Turkey, which had long opposed the United States partnering with the Kurdish forces – and which was his undeclared client.

Trump eventually would approve the Raqqa plan, but not until weeks after Flynn had been fired.

Now members of Congress, musing about the tangle of legal difficulties Flynn faces, cite that exchange with Rice as perhaps the most serious: acting on behalf of a foreign nation – from which he had received considerable cash – when making a military decision. Some members of Congress, in private conversations, have even used the word “treason” to describe Flynn’s intervention, though experts doubt that his actions qualify.

But treason or not, Flynn’s rejection of a military operation that had been months in the making raises questions about what other key decisions he might have influenced during the slightly more than three weeks he was Trump’s national security adviser, and the months he was Trump’s primary campaign foreign-policy adviser.

“Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to downplay the red flags, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the administration was repeatedly warned about Flynn’s foreign involvement.” And they were OK with that until the media reported it.

One Response to What the Trump administration knew about Michael Flynn, and when they knew it

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    But WhatAboutObama? WhatAboutClinton?

    Huh? Huh? Amirite?