To add more fuel to an already roaring fire at The White House this week, The New York Times reports that Michael Flynn made it clear that he was under investigation for secretly working for Turkey as a lobbyist during the campaign. According to the report, Flynn informed the transition team about a month after learning from the Justice Department himself:
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…
The White House declined to comment on whether officials there had known about Mr. Flynn’s legal troubles before the inauguration.
This revelation adds to an already alarming amount of warnings about Michael Flynn joining the Trump administration, including those from Former Attorney General Sally Yates and President Obama. It also isn’t the first time that Flynn’s need to register as a foreign agent was brought to the attention of the Trump team. Trump’s campaign chose to do nothing at that time according to reports from early March and his transition also seemed to take the same strategy according to this new report:
The op-ed [Flynn wrote] 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.
The story becomes clearer by that point, with Flynn’s conversation with Pence that would lead to his dismissal and Yates warning that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Still, it seems that Trump’s push for the presidency has featured a soft spot for Michael Flynn and turned away from some of his more negative aspects.
On top of all that, it would seem that Flynn’s status with Turkey filtered its way in actual policy decisions. According to McClatchy, Flynn reportedly stopped a U.S. military plan against ISIS that also happened to be opposed by the Turkish government:
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.
The conversation with Susan Rice is the most serious allegation according to McClatchy and they even add some members of Congress are referring to it as treason in “private conversations.” What is clear is that Flynn’s motivations and goals were questionable at best during his involvement in the Trump campaign. Even if the details don’t stretch as far as reported, Flynn’s status was tarnished and the questions were there — a poor position for someone with access to the country’s secrets.
President Trump must have truly enjoyed Flynn, though. Knowing all of these things and still asking James Comey to reportedly shut down the investigation of Flynn shows either a lapse of judgment or the loyalty the president seems to cherish. It’ll be interesting to see where it all plays out from here.