Senior officials at the FBI, CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Justice knew as early as January that former national security adviser Michael Flynn could have been vulnerable to Russian blackmail, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Despite officials’ knowledge of the risks associated with Flynn, The Times said, he continued to sit in on meetings during which President Donald Trump was briefed on top-secret intelligence.
It is unclear whether CIA director Mike Pompeo, who briefed Trump on the intelligence while Flynn sat nearby, was aware of officials’ concerns about Flynn.
When lawmakers asked Pompeo during a Senate intelligence committee hearing whether he was privy to concerns regarding Flynn, Pompeo did not answer one way or the other. “I can’t answer yes or no,” Pompeo said. “I regret that I’m unable to do so.” One administration official told The Times that whether or not Pompeo was aware of doubts surrounding Flynn, he did not relay them to Trump.
Flynn has been a central character in congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference during the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign played a role. He was forced to resigned as national security adviser in February, after it emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about contacts he had with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
After his resignation, it emerged that former acting attorney general Sally Yates had warned the White House on Jan. 26 that Flynn could be subject to blackmail from the Russians after he mischaracterized the nature of his interaction with Kislyak to Pence. Flynn did not resign until Feb. 13, which was 18 days after Yates informed the Trump administration of her concerns.
Later, it was reported that Flynn had informed the Trump transition team in early January that he was under FBI investigation for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist when he provided services to the Turkish government. He had relayed the information to transition team member Don McGahn, who currently serves as White House counsel. Yates, too, testified before the Senate judiciary subcommittee that she had informed McGahn first about concerns that Flynn could be compromised.
Yates said that in response to her concerns, McGahn asked her during a meeting the next day, “Why does it matter to D.O.J. if one White House official lies to another White House official?”
Following his resignation, a slew of media reports raised further questions about whether Flynn had violated the law. His lawyer, Robert Kelner, said Flynn was willing to testify before FBI and congressional investigators in the ongoing Russia probes in exchange for immunity. Lawmakers have not taken him up on that proposal.
Last month, Flynn was subpoenaed by the Senate intelligence committee and asked to turn over documents related to his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn’s lawyer said his client intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to the subpoenas, but a person close to Flynn later said the former national security adviser would cooperate with the demands. In early June, Flynn turned over 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence panel.
Flynn and his lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, were also subpoenaed by the House intelligence committee.
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