The Trump administration installed Michael Flynn as the national-security adviser despite knowing the retired general was under FBI investigation for undisclosed lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The paper cited two sources who said Flynn informed White House counsel Don McGahn on January 4 that the FBI was looking into his work for Turkey, for which he was paid more than $500,000 through a Netherlands company. The White House, buffeted by a string of scandals and the Wednesday announcement of a special counsel investigating the Trump campaign, did not immediately comment.
It’s the latest bizarre revelation about Flynn, who was fired just 24 days into his job, after it became known publicly that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. A grand jury in Virginia recently issued subpoenas for records pertaining to Flynn. In addition to the FBI, the House Oversight Committee is also investigating Flynn, and its chairman and ranking member have said publicly that they believe Flynn broke the law by failing to seek permission to receive money from Turkey and also from Russia, for a 2015 trip.
The Times reports help flesh out the timeline of what the Trump administration knew about Flynn, but it makes the decision to hire Flynn—despite an express warning from President Barack Obama not to do so—even more baffling. It also raises questions about the administration’s process in firing Flynn.
Flynn is the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but was fired by Obama in 2014. He began lobbying for Turkey in August, at which point he was already a high-profile surrogate for Trump, having spoken at the Republican National Convention in July. Flynn had once been a strident critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but he published a column in The Hill on Election Day floridly praising Erdogan. On November 17, Trump announced his intention to appoint Flynn national-security adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
The op-ed attracted attention from Trump lawyers and others, and on November 30, the Justice Department informed Flynn it was looking into his lobbying. Still, Flynn did not hire a lawyer for another three weeks. (Flynn seems to have been quite casual with rules. Despite receiving tens of thousands of dollars to travel to Russia to celebrate the anniversary of the Kremlin-backed RT, he had not disclosed the payments in early 2016, when he reapplied for security clearance.) Then, on December 29, the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russia. Flynn had several conversations with Kisylak that day, and discussed the sanctions.
Finally, on January 4, Flynn told McGahn that he was under investigation, six days after his fateful chats with Kislyak. Some time between then and January 15, he told Vice…