Before being fired last month by President Trump, then acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that national security adviser Michel Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
It is now believed that Flynn communicated with not only Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, but other Russian officials inside the Kremlin including President Vladimir Putin to discuss the possibly lifting sanctions against Russia imposed by former president Barack Obama.
When questioned, Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence that they did not discuss the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia. This is now confirmed by multiple sources to be untrue as evidence suggests that Flynn likely made promises that Trump would quickly review the sanctions. It was later discovered that Flynn even used encryption technology for some of his communications.
Yates was not alone in her concern over Flynn’s communications with Russia. James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared Yates’s concerns and encouraged her to inform the White House.
According to The Washington Post, the three feared that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position” and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled.
Troublingly, there is no evidence to suggest that Pence – or anyone in the Trump administration – was ever unaware of Flynn’s actions. Given the nature of Trump’s relationship with Putin, it is not hard to believe that Flynn could have been acting under Trump’s direct orders.
In reality, Pence is likely putting on a show for the American people and was never in the dark on such covert actions to appease Russia.
This theory is supported by the fact that the White House has taken no actions against Flynn, who would have been fired by any other administration immediately had such information come to light.
The White House tried to ignore the scandal for as long as possible, though the media hounded the White House enough that Sean Spicer was forced to address the scandal Monday morning.
“The president is evaluating the situation,” Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “He’s speaking to Vice President Pence relative to the conversation the vice president had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is: our national security.”
The White House examined a transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, saying that that it appeared no confidential information was discussed but that they two did, in fact, discuss the sanctions, though officials say he made no explicit promises of lifting them.
We must note, however, that given that an unknown number of conversations took place using encryption, it is not confirmed that the topic was never broached or that Flynn did not make more direct promises to the Kremlin.
From the transcripts alone it appears that Flynn was trying to convince Russian officials that the Obama administration, not the U.S., was an adversary of Russia and urged the country not to retaliate against Obama’s sanctions for Russian apparent meddling in the 2016 election.
This was seemingly successful as Putin announced there would be no retaliation and that he looked forward to building a relationship with Trump. A relationship that for all intents and purposes seems to be fairly strong.
Even if Flynn did not discuss lifting the sanctions, the conversations alone pose a massive problem for Flynn and administration, which already appeared to be in the pocket of Russia.
The leaked dossier, that has now been partially confirmed by US intelligence already proves Russia likely has blackmail material on Trump directly, and now they are either using it or are now gaining more information to use against the White House, and the United States, at a later date.
The FBI is now digging into the encrypted conversations and trying to uncover just what the Trump administration is attempting to cover up and find out just how much Trump and Pence knew about the conversations, and how much of their hand was directing such talks.
What the American people deserve to know now is just how deep these ties to Russia go and just how much the Trump administration owes Putin.
Dan Arel is a bestselling author of The Secular Activist; and Parenting Without God. He is an award-winning journalist and host of the Danthropology Podcast.