The Defence Intelligence Agency has suspended former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s security clearance, CNN reported, pending a review of his communication with the Russian ambassador to the US while he was still a private citizen in December.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake also reported that Flynn’s clearance has been suspended.
Top Democrats including Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Elijah Cummings had been calling for Flynn’s security clearance to be revoked following revelations that he discussed US sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, before President Donald Trump was sworn in.
“We have asked for and demand an independent investigation of what Flynn’s discussions were with the Russian ambassador and all others,” Schumer told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “His security clearance ought to be withdrawn until that independent investigation is completed.”
Security clearance can be suspended or revoked at any time, but the decision can be appealed.
Flynn resigned four days after The Washington Post and The New York Times reported, together citing nearly a dozen current and former officials, that he had spoken with Kislyak about sanctions before Trump was sworn in, despite Flynn’s repeated denials that anything sensitive was discussed on the calls.
The White House was apparently briefed on the content of these calls on January 23, when Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general — backed by the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the director of national intelligence — reportedly warned the president that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Kremlin, which knew about the secret conversations.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was not informed of the DOJ’s warning until February 9, was reportedly “incensed” at Flynn for misleading him about the calls, The New York Times reported on Monday. Pence had defended Flynn in an interview with CBS on January 15, saying he “didn’t discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
Intelligence officials began looking into potential contact between Trump’s transition team and Russian officials in December when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to retaliate against sanctions introduced by the Obama administration. Officials discovered that Flynn called Kislyak the day President Barack Obama imposed the new penalties and gave him “the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time.”
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