Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn in 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump's transition team was aware that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was under investigation weeks before securing the high-profile security position, according to The New York Times Wednesday.
Flynn, who was fired just weeks into the new Trump administration, informed the Trump team on January 4 that he was the subject of a federal probe for surreptitiously lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government during the 2016 campaign.
The former US Army general was reportedly paid $600,000 to lobby on behalf of Ankara, the Times
Despite the investigation by federal authorities, Flynn was announced as Trump's National Security Adviser. The position gave him access to nearly all top secret information provided by US intelligence agencies.
Flynn was fired only 24 days later, ostensibly for lying to US Vice President Mike Pence about secret phone conversations he held with Russia's envoy to Washington Sergy Kislyak.The New York Times
reported soon after that Trump attempted to persuade FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation against Flynn. Comey was later fired on May 9 by the president.
The White House declined to comment if Trump or his staff had prior knowledge of the investigation into Flynn before he was announced as National Security Advisor.
Flynn first became the subject of a federal investigation after failing to register as a "foreign agent," as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government, according to the Times.
US authorities initially became suspicious after Flynn penned an article for the online publication The Hill, calling out American-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen as a “shady Islamic mullah.”
Gulen, leader of a popular Islamic movement in Turkey, is the arch-enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accuses the cleric of being behind a failed military coup attempt last year that nearly toppled the government.
Flynn's ties to Turkish interests run through Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is close to Erdogan.
According to the Times
, Flynn's company, the Flynn Intel Group, was given an estimated $600,000 contract by Inovo to run a 90-day influence campaign aimed at tarnishing Gulen in the media.