The Senate Intelligence Committee will take center stage again early next week, as its hearings into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia resume. News is breaking over the weekend that will give them fresh material to cover.
The Associated Press is reporting that, during the early weeks of the transition, a member of Trump’s own team became concerned about Michael Flynn and his too-close-for-comfort relationship with Russian officials. According to AP, an intelligence community aide for Flynn, Marshall Billingslea, approached the Obama administration 3 weeks after the election with a suspicious request: “Could the incoming team get a copy of the classified CIA profile on Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States?”
Marshall Billingslea, a former Pentagon and NATO official, wanted the information for his boss, Michael Flynn, who had been tapped by Trump to serve as White House national security adviser. Billingslea knew Flynn would be speaking to Kislyak, according to two former Obama administration officials, and seemed concerned Flynn did not fully understand he was dealing with a man rumored to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies.
“To the Obama White House,” the AP report continues, “Billingslea’s concerns were startling: a member of Trump’s own team suggesting the incoming Trump administration might be in over its head in dealing with an adversary.”
This incident caused the Obama administration so much concern that they delayed updating the Trump transition team on their plan to impose sanctions on Russia for its hacking and cyber misinformation campaign that undermined the 2016 presidential election.
The star witness at this week’s senate hearings will be Sally Yates, the former acting Attorney General who led the Justice Department between the Obama and Trump administrations. It was her office that briefed Trump’s White House counsel with intelligence that suggested that Michael Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail by the Kremlin for his undisclosed communications with Russian officials.
The White House didn’t seem interested, and Flynn stayed in his post as National Security Advisor for another 3 weeks before the President finally fired him – ostensibly for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and letting him go on national TV and repeat that lie.
Today’s AP report now confirms that bright red flags over Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia have been flapping in the wind since the immediate aftermath of the election. How Trump and the head of his transition team, Mike Pence, could have missed them, remains a mystery.
Maybe this week we’ll finally get answers.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.