- James Woolsey, the former CIA director who has been cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller, had a “lengthy conversation” with President Donald Trump over dinner last weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
- Woolsey, who served on the board of Michael Flynn’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said.
- Mueller’s team has interviewed Woolsey about that meeting, and Woolsey has been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau’s Russia investigation in May.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey dined with President Donald Trump last weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida – where, a report said, they had a “lengthy conversation” at the main dining table surrounded by several of Trump’s friends, associates, and political allies.
A tipster told Politico’s Playbook about the conversation, which raised eyebrows given Woolsey’s centrality to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Woolsey, who served on the board of Flynn’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said.
Woolsey apparently notified Vice President Joe Biden through a mutual friend about the meeting, which he thought could have been an illegal discussion, Woolsey’s spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said earlier this year.
Franks confirmed late last month that Mueller’s team had interviewed Woolsey about the meeting. He said Woolsey and his wife had been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau’s Russia investigation in May.
“Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI regarding the September 19, 2016, meeting Ambassador Woolsey was invited to attend by one of General Flynn’s business partners,” Franks said in a statement at the time. “Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel.”
Franks released another statement responding to Politico Playbook’s tip on Monday. “Ambassador Woolsey has served 4 Presidents,” the statement said. “He has never communicated the contents of his conversations with any of them to a third party and doesn’t intend to start now.”
Woolsey’s participation in the September 19, 2016 meeting and another one the next day with two Turkish businessmen – during which he reportedly pitched a $US10 million contract to help discredit Gulen – may have landed him on the FBI’s radar even before Trump won the presidency.
Now, Mueller has reportedly gathered enough evidence against Flynn and his son to charge them with crimes related to their previously unregistered lobbying work for Turkish government interests.
Legal experts have speculated that Mueller may be leveraging the threat of an indictment against Flynn and his son to get them to cooperate with the investigation into whether Trump’s campaign team – for which Flynn was a top surrogate – colluded with Russia, and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing James Comey as FBI director in May.
Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in early February after reports surfaced that he had spoken several times during the transition with Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak, about US sanctions on Russia.
Franks was not immediately able to comment on what Woolsey and Trump discussed over dinner last weekend. But the conversation is likely to be of interest to investigators scrutinizing Flynn – to whom Trump has reportedly remained loyal – and examining why Trump asked Comey shortly after Flynn resigned if the FBI would consider dropping the investigation into Flynn.
“Whenever a subject of a criminal investigation talks to a witness, the prosecution will ask questions about what was discussed during that meeting,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. In this case, he said, the subject is Trump and the witness is Woolsey.
Woolsey abruptly resigned as a senior adviser to Trump’s transition team in January, one day before Trump was set to receive a briefing from US intelligence officials on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The Washington Post reported at the time that Woolsey became uncomfortable after he was cut out of intelligence talks between Trump and Flynn and that he was taken aback by Trump’s plans to restructure the CIA.
“The campaign was over, and I didn’t want them to keep saying that I was a senior adviser on the transition because I really wasn’t,” Woolsey told Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News anchor, in his first post-resignation interview. “I was not really called upon to go to meetings or participate in work on the transition.”
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