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WHITE HOUSE — The White House confirmed Friday that President Donald Trump’s transition team was aware before January’s inauguration that Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice to be national security adviser, might be required to inform authorities he was acting as an agent on behalf of a foreign government.
Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the president had not been told earlier of Flynn’s ties to the government of Turkey, which paid Flynn’s firm $530,000 last year.
Flynn, a retired U.S. general, advised the Department of Justice this week that he represented Turkey last year. Flynn had previously informed Congress that he was lobbying on behalf of a Dutch firm, but did not mention his work for the Turkish government, as required by U.S. law. Flynn’s filing was done on a retroactive basis.
Flynn took over as U.S. national security adviser when Trump took office on January 20, but was dismissed less than a month later; White House officials said Flynn failed to tell Vice President Mike Pence about meetings he had last year with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, when former President Barack Obama was still in office. Flynn and the envoy, Sergey Kislyak, discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia, it was later revealed.
‘Trump was not informed’
Reporters peppered Spicer with questions Friday about Flynn, Trump, Pence and the Turkish lobbying incident. The president’s spokesman said an attorney for Flynn contacted an attorney for Trump’s transition team to ask whether the national security adviser-designate was obligated to report his activities involving Turkey to the appropriate U.S. authorities.
Attorneys on Trump’s team told Flynn’s lawyer it was up to him to decide whether Flynn must take further action, and that Flynn did seek further counsel, Spicer said.
However, Flynn’s attorneys said they twice told Trump’s legal counsel team of his possible plans to register as a foreign agent, according to The Washington Post.
The first time was in a conversation with Don McGahn, Trump’s counsel, before the inauguration and then in a conversation with another member of the White House legal team in the early days of the new administration’s early days, the newspaper reported Friday, attributing the information to “someone with knowledge of the situation speaking anonymously to discuss private conversations.”
The Associated Press also reported Saturday that Flynn’s representatives had a second conversation with the White House counsel’s office after the inauguration, and they made clear the national security adviser would indeed be registering as a foreign agent with the Justice Department, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.