Last night the New York Times ran a story titled Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House:
Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.
Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.
I gave the story a cursory read and put it on the site editorial calendar for today. This morning, on my commute, I read it more closely. There is literally nothing new in this story in regards to the headline and the story is factually wrong.
Back in March, numerous outlets covered this story:
CNN: Trump transition knew of Flynn’s pro-Turkey lobbying before White House appointment
ABC: Flynn’s lawyer told Trump team about Turkish lobbying during transition
The New York Times has the same information in this Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign
To accurately date these stories, Mike Flynn was appointed as national security adviser on November 17, so from the CNN story, we know the White House knew of Flynn’s Foreign Agents Registration Act problem before that date. So Flynn’s Turkish lobbying was known to be known to the Trump transition team two months ago.
The New York Times says:
The Justice Department also took notice. The op-ed in The Hill raised suspicions that Mr. Flynn was working as a foreign agent, and in a letter dated Nov. 30, the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn that it was scrutinizing his lobbying work.
Either the headline is false or the previous reporting by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, is false as Flynn was named national security adviser nearly two weeks before he was informed that Justice was examining his FARA problem. In fact, the second paragraph in the story is flat-out false:
Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser.
As we’ve seen, Flynn was already national security adviser when the Justice Department inquiry started.
Factually, having been a foreign agent under FARA has little to no bearing on getting a security clearance. However, failing to register under FARA could cause problems especially when there is ample evidence of deception.
As an aside, Flynn’s FARA registration problem is, of itself, small potatoes. According to the Justice Department, since 1966 there have been one conviction and three indictments (two of those cases the government lost and one was included in a large plea bargain) under FARA.
As far as I can tell, the only way this moves the story about Flynn’s Turkish lobbying forward is that some of Flynn’s supporters are sources.
This is not to say Flynn is not in a great deal of jeopardy over his FARA activities but the vulnerability is going to focus on any favors he did for his Turkish client after November 17–but particularly after January 20–and, it seems, his financial practices in general as all of the corporate clients of Flynn Intel have been hit with subpoenas.