President Trump’s young presidency has been haunted by one major thing: The inquiry into whether there was a collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia. And for the past few months, a pattern has emerged with the name “Michael Flynn” coming up over and over again in the investigation.
You might remember the former national security adviser, who resigned in February after just 24 days in the position because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and made public statements that were found to be false. However, he didn’t disappear from the spotlight after his resignation.
First, we need to talk about Flynn’s background to understand why he is such an important character in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Flynn is a retired lieutenant general and served in top-level military intelligence positions, such as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014. (His time there was reportedly cut short because of clashes with top officials in the Obama administration.) After leaving the DIA, Flynn was outspoken on the war on terror, to the point of writing a book about it.
It all boils down to this: The fact that Flynn, who was part of Trump’s campaign team, was in some way in contact with Russia during the 2016 election raises serious questions about whether anyone in Trump’s team was involved in actions that might have influenced the results.
When a foreign power interferes to alter the outcome of the election that on itself is a threat to democracy. If the Trump team actively collaborated with Russia, that would definitely undermine his legitimacy as president. It would also put into question whether any laws were broken and whether anyone in his team is compromised by Russian intelligence.
All of this, of course, has been repeatedly denied by the White House. But as both the Department of Justice and Congress continue their Trump-Russia investigations, we’re bound to keep hearing Flynn’s name.
Ahead, we list everything that’s happened with the former national security adviser in relation to Russia since December 2015. We’ll continue to update this story as more developments come to light.
Timeline of events
May 18, 2017:
Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says Flynn’s lawyers have informed the panel that Flynn will not honor its subpoena. The Republican lawmaker then walks back his comments and says Flynn has yet to indicate how he plans to respond to the subpoena.
Reuters reports that Flynn and other members of the Trump campaign exchanged at least 18 calls and emails with Russian officials between April and November 2016.
May 17, 2017:
The New York Times reports Flynn told Trump’s transition team before the inauguration that the federal government was investigating him for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. But despite this information, Trump appointed him anyway.
May 10, 2017:
Flynn is subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
May 9, 2017:
Federal prosecutors issue grand jury subpoenas to Flynn’s associates.
April 25, 2017:
During an outing at a restaurant in Virginia, Flynn tells a small group of loyalists that he remained in communication with Trump. According to Yahoo News, he said, “I just got a message from the president to stay strong. ”
April 4, 2017:
The Pentagon opens an investigation into Flynn for accepting payments from the Turkey government without the Defense Department’s prior approval.
April 1, 2017:
NBC News reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee rejects Flynn’s immunity request, saying it’s “wildly preliminary” and “not on the table.”
March 30, 2017:
Flynn offers to be interviewed by the FBI and Congress about the Trump campaign and its potential ties to Russia in exchange for immunity.
The New York Times reports Flynn submitted documents acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent representing the Turkish government.
In an interview with Fox News, Vice President Pence says he had no knowledge of Flynn’s role as a paid lobbyist.
February 14, 2017:
Trump reportedly asks FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to a memo written by Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The White House denies this is true.
February 13, 2017:
Flynn resigns in the evening.
February 9, 2017:
The Washington Post publishes a story confirming that Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak discussed the sanctions imposed by President Obama. The report also says FBI counterintelligence agents were conducting an investigation into the phone call.
February 8, 2017:
Flynn denies having discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador in an interview with The Washington Post.
February 1, 2017:
Top Democrats on six House committees send a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis demanding an investigation into Flynn’s relationship with Russia Today (RT), a media outlet controlled by the Russian government.
January 28, 2017:
Flynn joins a call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
January 26, 2017:
The Justice Department, led by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, informs White House counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn misled Vice President Pence and could be at risk of being blackmailed by Russia.
McGahn informs President Trump of the information relayed by Yates.
January 24, 2017:
Flynn is interviewed by FBI agents about the content of his phone call with the Russian ambassador.
January 15, 2017:
In multiple TV interviews, Vice President Pence denies that Flynn discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions with the ambassador. Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, makes a similar statement in an interview with NBC.
January 14, 2017:
Flynn speaks with Vice President Pence and denies discussing the sanctions imposed on Russia with the Russian ambassador.
January 13, 2017:
Press Secretary Sean Spicer tells reporters that Flynn and Kislyak spoke on the phone, but denies that they discussed the sanctions imposed by President Obama.
January 12, 2017:
News organizations report that a call took place between Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak.
The FBI begins investigating Flynn’s phone conversation with Kislyak.
December 29, 2016:
President Obama imposes 35 sanctions on Russian officials in response to Moscow’s apparent interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn discusses said sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Unbeknownst to them, the call was recorded by federal authorities.
At some point in December, Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, sit down for an introductory meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower.
November 18, 2016:
Trump announces he wants Flynn to join the administration as national security adviser.
November 10, 2016:
During a meeting at the White House, President Obama warns then President-elect Trump against hiring Flynn.
Flynn’s name is floated around as a possible pick for Vice President.
Flynn joins the Trump campaign and starts advising the presidential campaign on foreign policy issues.
December 10, 2015:
Flynn flies to Moscow and attends the 10th anniversary dinner of Russia Today (RT), a state-owned media outlet. At the event, he sits next to President Putin. CNN reported he was paid $34,000 to speak at the dinner.
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