When former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sat for his first interview with FBI officials in late January 2017, he did so without a lawyer present and without giving any heads up to the White House, NBC News reported Wednesday morning, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
It was in that first meeting with FBI officials that Flynn lied about his communications with Russian officials during the transition, as was revealed when he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017.
The FBI reached out to Flynn on Jan. 24, asking to speak with him later that day, and Flynn proceeded to speak with FBI investigators, per NBC News.
White House Counsel Don McGahn learned two days later, on Jan. 26, that the FBI had spoken with Flynn from Sally Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, according to NBC News. In that conversation, Yates told McGahn that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian officials, per NBC News. McGahn then passed along the news to President Donald Trump and other top White House officials, NBC reported.
The NBC report on Yates’ Jan. 26 conversation appears to clear up a discrepancy between descriptions from Yates and Trump officials about that conversation.
Trump attorney John Dowd said back in December that Yates told McGahn in January that Flynn gave the same account of his conversations with Russian officials to the FBI as he had to Pence, but Dowd did not say Yates accused Flynn of lying to the FBI. An unnamed source told CNN that McGahn told Trump he believed Flynn lied to the FBI based on his conversation with Yates.
Yates, however, testified to Congress that McGahn asked her how Flynn did in his interview with FBI officials but that she did not disclose anything about the FBI interview with McGahn.
NBC News reported that McGahn did not infer that Flynn had lied to the FBI in January when he alerted Trump and other officials that the FBI had interviewed Flynn. McGahn did not conclude that Flynn had lied to the FBI until later in the winter or early spring when officials requested Flynn’s phone records and other documents, according to NBC News.
Flynn resigned as national security adviser in mid-February 2017, following a report revealing that he discussed U.S. sanctions in a December 2016 phone call with the Russian ambassador. The Trump administration claimed at the time that Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the contents of that call.
Yet the day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017, Trump published a tweet claiming that he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI, calling into question what Trump knew when.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
Documents released by special counsel Robert Mueller in December 2017 when Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI revealed that Flynn spoke about the contents of his calls with the Russian ambassador with top officials on the Trump transition team in late 2016. However, those documents and Wednesday’s report from NBC News leave it unclear exactly when Trump learned about the contents of Flynn’s calls and exactly when he realized Flynn lied to the FBI.