WASHINGTON — President Trump suggested on Twitter on Friday that he would have fired Michael T. Flynn as an adviser sooner had he known Mr. Flynn was under federal investigation.
It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this but, if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019
The tweet came a day after a few new details about Mr. Flynn’s cooperation with prosecutors emerged in newly unsealed portions of court documents. The court papers noted that some of Mr. Trump’s advisers tried to influence Mr. Flynn’s cooperation, which has long been known; but they revealed that at least one unnamed person with ties to Congress did the same. Mr. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, becoming the first senior White House official to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.
Mr. Trump’s assertion belies many of the facts that have emerged about Mr. Flynn’s entanglements with Russia and with investigators. Here is a breakdown of his tweet and what the facts show.
‘It would have been impossible for me to know this’
Mr. Trump was warned just after the election and in the first days of his presidency that keeping on Mr. Flynn, who was a campaign adviser, could be troublesome. And during the transition, Mr. Flynn told a top Trump aide that he was under federal investigation.
He was first warned about Mr. Flynn two days after the election, when Mr. Trump met in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama, who cautioned his successor not to give Mr. Flynn a senior post on his national security team. (Mr. Obama had fired Mr. Flynn in 2014 as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency after repeated clashes over his management.)
But even if Mr. Trump did not interpret Mr. Obama’s comments as a warning, Mr. Flynn himself told the transition team’s lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, weeks before inauguration that he was under federal investigation for paid lobbying work he did secretly for Turkey while he was working on the presidential campaign.
Then, six days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told Mr. McGahn, by then the White House counsel, that Mr. Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail because he misled the vice president about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the transition period.
‘With me being one of two people who would become president’
Mr. Trump’s advisers have complained that the F.B.I. never disclosed to him during the campaign that some of the people closest to him were under investigation for their ties to Russia.
Mr. Flynn was among four Trump campaign aides whose contacts with Russians were being scrutinized during the election. At the time, F.B.I. officials believed that if they told Mr. Trump they were investigating his associates, he may have told those people, potentially jeopardizing their investigation. Bureau officials were also skeptical of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, in part, because in July 2016, he called for the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Mr. Flynn became ensnared in another investigation when the Justice Department started investigating his lobbying work for Turkey after he published an opinion piece in the Hill newspaper on Election Day.
‘Why was I not told’?
Not told what? Although the F.B.I. kept Mr. Trump in the dark, there were many other warning signs about Mr. Flynn.
On Nov. 10, 2016, Mr. Obama cautioned Mr. Trump against making Mr. Flynn a member of his national security team.
On Jan. 4, 2017, Mr. Flynn told Mr. McGahn that he was being investigated by the F.B.I.
On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general told Mr. McGahn that there were discrepancies between what Mr. Flynn had discussed with the Russian ambassador during the transition and what he told the vice president.
On Feb. 13, Mr. Flynn was forced out.