Obama warned Trump against choosing Flynn as national security advisor, says ex-official

Former US President Barack Obama waves as he leaves the Park Hyatt hotel in Milan on May 2017.
Former US President Barack Obama waves as he leaves the Park Hyatt hotel in Milan on May 2017.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former US President Barack Obama warned then-President-elect Donald Trump not to give the post of national security adviser in his administration to Michael Flynn who was eventually fired in a controversy about ties to Russia, a former Obama aide said.

Obama gave the warning in an Oval Office meeting with Trump just days after the Republican's surprise election win last Nov 8. The warning, first reported by NBC News, came up during a discussion of White House personnel.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Flynn had been pushed out by Obama from his job as director of the Defence Intelligence Agency during the Democratic president's term in office.

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Flynn has emerged as a central figure in probes into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

A former US deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, is expected to tell a Senate Judiciary subcommittee later Monday that she had warned the White House counsel after Trump took office that Flynn had not told the truth about conversations he had held with Russia's ambassador to Washington.

Trump fired Flynn, a retired general, in February for failing to disclose talks with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about US sanctions on Moscow and then misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Congressional committees began investigating after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hacking of Democratic political groups to try to sway the election toward Trump. Moscow has denied any such meddling.

Trump has also dismissed the allegations, suggesting instead that Obama might have wiretapped Trump Tower in New York or that China may have been behind the cyber attacks. He has provided no evidence and neither scenario has been supported by intelligence agencies.

 

Hours before Monday's Senate hearing, Trump insinuated that Yates, an Obama administration appointment, had leaked information on Flynn to the media.

"Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to WH Council," Trump wrote on Twitter, apparently mis-spelling the word counsel.

In another Twitter post, Trump noted that Flynn had been granted top security clearance while working in the Obama administration.

James Clapper, Obama's former Director of National Intelligence, will also testify to the Senate panel on Monday. Both he and Yates have left government: Trump fired Yates in January and Clapper retired on Jan. 20, when Trump took office.