Russian officials bragged during the 2016 presidential campaign that they could use a cultivated relationship with Michael Flynn, then one of Donald Trump’s top advisers, to influence Trump, CNN reported on Saturday.
Russian officials claimed they had cultivated a strong relationship with Flynn and thought they could use it to influence the GOP candidate and his team, according to CNN’s report, which cited unnamed current and former government officials.
One unnamed former official in President Barack Obama’s administration told CNN that “the way the Russians were talking about” Flynn was a “five-alarm fire from early on.”
Another former administration official told CNN that Flynn was regarded as a “potential national security problem,” though officials noted that Russian officials may have overstated their influence over Trump’s team.
Flynn’s lawyer declined to comment to CNN.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down his bureau’s investigation into Flynn, a request that Comey documented in a memo.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the report. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
On Thursday, to further complicate matters, Yahoo News reported that Flynn announced at a dinner in late April — months after he left the White House — that he “just got a message from the President to stay strong.”
Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly warned him not to contact Flynn, and have reportedly expressed fears that any contact with the former national security adviser could look like witness tampering or coordination.
Trump on Thursday categorically denied pressuring former FBI director James Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.
“No. No. Next question,” he told a reporter.
The White House also issued a statement Thursday pushing back on the New York Times’ report, nearly a day after it was published.