Russian officials bragged in conversations during the 2016 presidential race that they had cultivated such a strong relationship with former Trump adviser Michael Flynn that they could use him to influence then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday.
The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn, who was tapped to become Trump’s national security adviser, current and former governments officials said.
“This was a five-alarm fire from early on,” one former Obama administration official told CNN. They added, “the way the Russians were talking about him.”
Another former administration official said Flynn was viewed as a “potential national security problem.”
The conversations picked up by US intelligence officials indicated the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, sources said. That relationship developed throughout 2016, months before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn’s changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump’s first national security adviser.
“We are confident that when these inquiries are complete there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia,” a White House official said in a statement. “… This matter is not going to distract the President or this administration from its work to bring back jobs and keep America safe.”
Flynn resigned from his White House post in February after reports surfaced that the Justice Department warned the Trump administration in late January that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.