Obama Warned Trump Against Naming Flynn to Key Security Post
(VOA): Former U.S. President Barack Obama personally warned then President-elect Donald Trump against naming retired Army General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, but Trump picked Flynn anyway, only to fire him after 24 days on the job. Obama issued his warning against Flynn's hiring in a 90-minute meeting with Trump at the White House on November 10, two days after the real estate mogul pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in U.S. political history by defeating former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama had fired Flynn as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 because of his disruptive management style. White House spokesman Sean Spicer, confirming media reports of Obama's warning to Trump, said it was no secret that Obama "wasn't exactly a fan" of Flynn, who as a Trump political surrogate had assailed Obama's performance as president. But Spicer questioned why the former president's administration didn't strip Flynn of his 2016 security clearance. "Why did the Obama administration let Flynn go to Russia for a paid speaking engagement and receive a fee?" Spicer said. "There were steps that they could have taken that — if that was truly a concern." WATCH: Obama ‘Wasn’t’ Exactly A Fan of Flynn’s,’ Spicer Says Flynn was paid more than $30,000 for a Moscow trip in 2015, where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Kremlin-sponsored RT (formerly Russia Today) television network. The former president's warning against hiring Flynn came to light hours before a Senate panel Monday was set to probe further into Russian meddling in the presidential contest and connections between aides to Trump and Moscow interests, even as Trump disparaged the effort. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, "Every American should be concerned" about Russian interference in the 2016 election. "Russia is up to no good when it comes to elections all over the world," Graham said. Blame game Trump, not wanting to give credence to any Russian link that undermines the legitimacy of his election victory, blamed the Obama administration in a comment on his Twitter account for approving "the highest security clearance" for Flynn. Trump, after picking Flynn for the high-level White House posting, fired him for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington. Trump said "the Fake News [mainstream U.S. media] seldom likes talking about" Flynn's security clearance granted by the Obama administration. While Flynn had the clearance, investigators say he failed to disclose the Russian payment and another one for more than $500,000 to represent Turkey. He accepted the payments, the investigators say, after specifically being warned when he retired from the military to not take money from foreign governments. Early warnings about Flynn Sally Yates, who was briefly acting attorney general, the country's top law enforcement official, in the early days of the Trump administration before the new president fired her, is testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about concerns she had about Flynn. Yates had been a key Justice Department official under Obama and is expected to answer questions about warnings she gave the incoming administration about discussions Flynn was having with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington. The calls were captured on routine U.S. intercepts of Kislyak's conversations. Yates feared that, as a result of Flynn's denial of his contacts with Kislyak in discussions with Pence and others, Flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail. Trump, in another tweet, said the Senate panel ought to ask Yates "under oath, if she knows how classified information [the intercepted Kislyak calls] got into newspapers soon after she explained it" to White House lawyers. Spicer said the tweet "speaks for itself" and did not contend that Yates leaked the information. Ex-intel chief to weigh in In addition, James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, is expected to testify. He was instrumental in the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia sought to boost Trump's chances of winning the election by hacking into the computer of the campaign chief for his opponent, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks subsequently released thousands of emails in the weeks before the election that showed embarrassing behind-the-scenes Democratic operations aimed at helping Clinton win her party's presidential nomination. Clinton last week partly blamed her upset loss to Trump on the release of the emails before the November election. Trump continues to downplay the congressional investigations of Russian meddling and a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country's top law enforcement agency, into whether Trump campaign aides criminally colluded with Russian interests to help him win. Last week, he again rejected the official view that Russia hacked into the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, saying that it "could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups." In a tweet, Trump said, "The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election."
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