Trump’s ex-national security adviser Flynn said questioned by FBI days into job
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Trump’s ex-national security adviser Flynn said questioned by FBI days into job

General, who resigned Monday, could face charges if found lying over Russia contacts, according to New York Times

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Flynn said the administration was putting Iran 'on notice' after it tested a ballistic missile. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Flynn said the administration was putting Iran 'on notice' after it tested a ballistic missile. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed ex-senior White House aide Michael Flynn on his phone calls with the Russian ambassador days into his job, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The contents of the interview were unknown. But the Times said that if Flynn, who resigned from his position as President Donald Trump’s top national security aide late Monday, had not been truthful with the agents about those conversations, he could face charges.

Citing current and former government officials, the Times said that after the FBI interviewed Flynn on January 26, the justice department’s top official at the time, acting attorney general Sally Yates, reported to the White House that there were significant differences between what intelligence officials knew of the calls and what Vice President Mike Pence had said publicly.

Yates reportedly told the White House that the discrepancies left Flynn potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (L) and US President Donald Trump (R) upon arrival at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, February 06, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)
Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (L) and US President Donald Trump (R) upon arrival at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, February 06, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Trump asked Flynn to resign on Monday after the retired army general admitted having misled Pence on whether his discussions in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak involved US sanctions on Moscow.

Pence insisted in television interviews in mid-January that Flynn hadn’t spoken about sanctions with Kislyak. But last week, it came to light that transcripts of those calls show the topic was broached.

This file photo taken on February 1, 2017 shows then-US National Security Adviser Mike Flynn (R) walking past Press Secretary Sean Spicer as he makes his way to the lectern during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM)
This file photo taken on February 1, 2017 shows then-US National Security Adviser Mike Flynn (R) walking past Press Secretary Sean Spicer as he makes his way to the lectern during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM)

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Flynn had lost Trump’s confidence.

“The level of trust between the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change,” Spicer told journalists.

Flynn is the third Trump aide to step back amid questions about his ties to Russia since the mogul began his improbable White House bid.

His departure follows those of election campaign manager Paul Manafort and Carter Page, an early foreign policy advisor to the candidate.

The unprecedented early resignation of a key member of staff has rocked an administration already buffeted by leaks, infighting and legal defeats.

Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to insist that “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?”

The White House also insisted that Trump — despite repeatedly professing admiration for Vladimir Putin and suggesting sanctions could be lifted — “has been incredibly tough on Russia.”

In a new hardening of the US line on Russia, Spicer added that “President Trump has made it very clear he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.”

The State Department meanwhile expressed concern that Russia is in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, after reports that Moscow had deployed an operational ground-launched cruise missile unit.

Inquiries and missteps

The White House’s efforts are likely to do little to assuage concerns on Capitol Hill about Russia’s influence in US politics.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have now called for an investigation into what occurred, although they differ sharply on the scope and powers.

“This. Is. Not. Normal.” said Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, insisting “Trump owes Americans a full account” of his administration’s dealings with Moscow before and after the 2016 election.

From left to right, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO) stand during a news conference on Capitol Hill following a policy lunch on February 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)
From left to right, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO) stand during a news conference on Capitol Hill following a policy lunch on February 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)

The US Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said it was “highly likely” that Flynn would have to testify before an intelligence panel, potentially heaping pressure on Trump.

The CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies have already investigated Moscow’s influence over the 2016 vote, concluding the Kremlin tried to sway it in Trump’s favor.

Various committees in the Republican-controlled Congress are looking into Russia’s election-related hacking and the Trump campaign’s links to Moscow.

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