WASHINGTON – The disclosure on Friday that senior officials of the Donald Trump transition team led the negotiations of Advisor Michael Flynn with Russia a year ago raises the most serious questions about whether Trump himself knew or ordered Flynn contacts.
Trump and top members of his administration have denied all year that they knew that Flynn was getting involved in diplomacy with Russia in the weeks leading up to Trump's inauguration. Federal law prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.
But Flynn's admission that senior transition officials gave him orders in December cast doubt on the Trump government's efforts to portray Flynn's diplomacy as a dishonest operation, experts told BuzzFeed News. Vice President Mike Pence, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer denied earlier this year that Flynn would discuss the sanctions last December with Russia's ambbadador to the United States. UU
"It seems unlikely the story that we" It is known that Flynn lied to Pence and Priebus, "said former Special Advisor to the Department of Defense, Ryan Goodman, now a professor at the faculty of law at the University of New York. "It seems like an organized attempt by Trump's affiliates to deceive the public and the media."
Harvard Law School professor Alex Whiting said the role of senior transitional officials in the direction of Flynn Raises doubts about whether Trump could have hampered justice when he tried to stop the Justice Department investigation into the 2016 elections and protect Flynn.
"It's hard to believe that both Trump and Pence were unaware of Flynn's interventions with the Russians. "Whiting, a former federal prosecutor, said in a POLITICO publication," Remember that Trump did everything possible to try to close Flynn's investigation, "Whiting added. Now we can know why. "
Trump dismissed Flynn as his national security adviser in February when it was revealed that Flynn had lied to Pence. Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to federal prosecutors investigating Russia's meddling and the possible involvement of Trump's badociates.
In pleading guilty to Special Advisor Robert Mueller, Flynn admitted that he spoke with senior transition officials moments before calling Russian Ambbadador Sergey Kislyak in late December and urged him not to escalate after Obama punished Russia for the electoral interference. A senior transitional official, identified in media reports as KT McFarland, told Flynn that the transition team "did not want Russia to intensify the situation," according to court documents.
McFarland, a veteran national security expert, has been nominated as an ambbadador in Singapore.
In a separate instance last December, Jared Kushner called Flynn and told him to call on members of the United Nations Security Council to defeat a resolution that criticized Israeli settlement policy, BuzzFeed News reported. Kushner is Trump's son-in-law and a principal adviser.
Flynn's talks with Kislyak and McFarland took place on December 29, 2016. A day earlier, Obama announced that he was expelling Russian diplomats and imposing other sanctions. Russia initially responded on December 29, saying it would retaliate with the expulsion of 35 Americans from Moscow.
But on December 30, 2016, after Flynn spoke with Kislyak, Putin backed off. "We are not going to expel anyone," Putin said in a statement.
Hours later, Trump praised the Russian president in a tweet: "Great movement in the delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!"
Trump's tweet suggests he knew of Flynn's efforts with Kislyak, said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent in New York, who currently teaches at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.
"Trump does not tend to give praise to people unless somehow it reflects well on him." He uses the praise as a reward for the people who encourage him or make him look good, "Rangappa told BuzzFeed News.
"If you think a rogue campaign staff was giving policy orders without the real knowledge of the president-elect and the vice-presidential candidate, that's a lot to swallow," Rangappa added.
Trump reaffirmed that narrative on Saturday. He said in a tweet: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI, he has pleaded guilty to those lies, it's a shame because his actions during the transition were legal, there was nothing to hide!"
Pence had said in interviews days before Trump took office that Flynn's conversations with Kislyak did not involve US sanctions. UU Pence told CBS "Face the Nation" that Flynn, whom Trump had named a national security adviser, "did not discuss anything having to do with the US decision to expel diplomats or impose censorship on Russia."
At the same time, Priebus, the new chief of staff, told NBC "Meet the Press" that Flynn spoke with Kislyak about arranging a telephone conversation after Trump's inauguration and about an upcoming conference on Syria. . "Those were the only issues that came up," Priebus said, adding: "The issue of sanctions or measures taken by the Obama administration did not appear in the conversation."
Spicer, the former press secretary, echoed Priebus's statement in his first White House report and said he had "talked to General Flynn about this again last night."
Flynn's agreement to cooperate with Mueller increases the pressure on Trump.
"I think they are looking at everyone, even the president of the United States," said the former US attorney. UU Preet Bharara on CNN. "The next question is, who was Jared Kushner talking to? Was he talking to his father-in-law, who happens to be the president?"