Political Editor- LeNora Millen
Former President Obama warned Donald Trump last November, just two days after the election not to hire Mike Flynn as his national security adviser, according to a former senior Obama administration. Trump ignored the advice — later firing Flynn in February for misleading the White House about contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Obama delivered the warning, which was first reported in an NBC exclusive, after meeting with Trump for 90 minutes in the Oval Office—two days after the election, according to a former White House official.
Obama did not initially plan on discussing his concerns about Flynn, according to a former Obama White House official, however, advised Trump that he should “think twice” about hiring the retired Army three-star general during their discussion about hiring personnel.
The revelation about Obama’s warning to Trump, materialized as former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Flynn’s contacts with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak and concerns she raised with the Trump White House in January.
A holdover from the Obama administration’s Justice Department, Yates was acting attorney general for ten days after Trump took office. She was fired after stating that the Justice Department would not defend Trump’s executive order seeking to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Yates testimony is expected to provide specific details about the warnings that she gave the White House counsel about Flynn discussing sanctions imposed by the Obama administration with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and later misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about his conversations.
Flynn was fired from his position as National Security Advisor 18 days after Yates’ visit to the White House after media reports about the existence of a transcript of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak. The transcripts were recorded as part of routine U.S. intelligence monitoring of foreign officials’ communications.
Trump sends out an early morning tweet on the day that Yates’ was set to testify,
“General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that,” he tweeted Monday morning.
Trump also urged lawmakers to ask Yates about leaked information about Flynn.
“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel,” he tweeted, referring to Yates’ conversation with White House counsel Donald McGahn.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee, fired Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency—the Pentagon’s spying arm, for what some officials cited as poor management, often described as contentious and other unspecified issues.
Clapper could face questions about statements made in a March television interview. At the time, he said that he saw no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies before he left office. Clapper has since attempted to clarify his response to the March interview. Clapper stated that he cannot determine what the other intelligence agencies may have discovered in their investigations, and because of the sensitive nature of classified information, he cannot speak for what the other agencies may have uncovered.
Yates’ testimony could give clarity to how she communicated concerns about Flynn possibly being blackmailed or compromised by the Russians. Details about her statement to the White House counsel, which was described by White House officials as a general “heads-up” about Flynn’s contacts with Russia and not a specific warning, will be addressed. Yates’ denies that her concerns about Flynn far surpassed, a general “heads-up.”
Flynn and Kislyak were in touch in late December, and on the 29th, the same day that the Obama administration levied sanctions in response to a determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government had interfered in the U.S. election in an effort aimed, in part, at helping Trump win.