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Ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Embroiled In Russia Controversy


The last few days have been full of developments related to President Donald Trump and Russia. Yesterday we learned former FBI Director Robert Mueller will oversee the Justice Department's investigation, an investigation that involves a huge cast of characters.


We're going to take a moment now to looks at one of the men at the center of the controversy, Michael Flynn. He was part of the Trump campaign, and he served as White House national security adviser until the president fired him three weeks into the administration.

Just in the last day, there have been several revelations about Flynn, and NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre joins us to walk through them. Hi, Greg.


SHAPIRO: Let's first talk about a development that just came this morning. Is Flynn going to cooperate with the congressional investigation into his Russia ties?

MYRE: Well, word was circulating that he wasn't going to show up for this subpoena. But since then, we've heard from Richard Burr, the head of the Senate intelligence committee, and he says they're still waiting to hear from Flynn's lawyers. Now, Flynn's lawyers have said previously that he has a story to tell but that he wants immunity from prosecution. That hasn't happened yet. So stay tuned.

SHAPIRO: Another development related to Flynn deals with when the Trump team knew that he was being investigated for his foreign ties. What is the latest there?

MYRE: Well, this New York Times story today says that the Justice Department sent Flynn a letter on November 30 saying he was being scrutinized for possible lobbying on behalf of Turkey. So presumably Flynn could have gone at any point after that, told the Trump transition team about this. They said that subsequently, Flynn did tell the transition team on January 4 that he was the subject of investigation.

Now, the White House apparently ignored this. Flynn joined Trump when he was sworn in on January 20. He lasted less than a month. And he was fired not because of contact with Turkey but because of lying to Mike Pence about contacts with Russia.

SHAPIRO: The bottom line here seems to be that they gave Mike Flynn access to all of the country's secrets in this high-profile national security role knowing that he was under investigation by the FBI. And Vice President Mike Pence was in charge of the transition. White House counsel Don McGahn was the top lawyer for the transition. Does this imply they should have known that he was a security risk before he was offered the job?

MYRE: Someone should have known. There were certainly red flags there. Just stepping back one second, Obama fired Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for mismanagement. Two days after the election, Obama tried to warn Trump, suggesting, we don't think you should hire Mike Flynn. Trump went ahead and did that. This was one of his first big picks. So the lights were flashing, and Flynn and his supporters seemed to be saying this was just payback from the Obama administration. There was a dispute. They didn't get along. The Obama team was trying to keep him from getting a job.

SHAPIRO: Aside from Flynn's questionable contacts with Russia, we know that he was being paid to lobby for Turkey. And today there are reports suggesting that when he was in the White House, Flynn might have been acting in Turkey's interests potentially rather than American interests. What are the details here?

MYRE: This is a report by McClatchy which says that Flynn came down as opposing a proposed U.S. military operation in Syria. This was a tough call. There were people who fell on both sides of this. Not an easy decision, but Flynn took a position that was in line with the Turkish position. And the fact that he had received this large payment and then apparently taken this position as reported today does raise questions.

SHAPIRO: Greg, Flynn is not the only figure in this investigation. He's perhaps not even the most important. So explain why he seems to be at the center of so many of these breaking news stories right now.

MYRE: The short answer is he's had more contact with Russian officials than anybody else in the Trump campaign or administration. Reuters has a report out today that there's 18 previously undisclosed contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the last seven months of the campaign last year. At least six of these were phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. One of the things they apparently discussed was a back channel so that Trump and Putin could communicate without going through the national security apparatus. This certainly raises questions about the nature of these contacts and what they were trying to do.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Greg Myre, thanks a lot.

MYRE: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.
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