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Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's Ties To The Special Counsel Investigation


Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been quiet as it has investigated Russian interference in last year's election. But behind the scenes, there is a lot of activity. Some of it focuses on President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. In with us to talk about this is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Hi.


MCEVERS: OK. So Michael Flynn left the White House in February after less than a month on the job. What is his connection to the special counsel's investigation?

JOHNSON: Remember; Michael Flynn resigned under pressure. There was controversy over whether he misled the vice president about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador last year. And since then, Flynn's really been under a legal cloud - questions about whether he disclosed a payment from Russia for a speech he gave there, whether he should have registered his lobbying activities, and even more questions about what Flynn may have been doing during the campaign and afterward to benefit the government of Turkey.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's asked the White House for documents and information about Flynn. And now two legal sources are telling me the pressure's intensifying.

MCEVERS: Prosecutors aren't showing their hand, though, at least not yet. But what have you learned about their interest in Michael Flynn?

JOHNSON: There are some clues that are public. For instance, on November 8 last year, on Election Day, Mike Flynn published an op-ed piece in The Hill newspaper. The headline was "Our Ally Turkey Is In Crisis And Needs Our Support." The article focused on an elderly cleric named Fethullah Gulen. He's an enemy of Turkey's current leader, and Flynn concluded we should not provide him safe haven.

Well, today The Wall Street Journal first reported Flynn may have been offered $15 million to arrange for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, to be forcibly returned to Turkey and the arms of President Erdogan. My sources confirmed to me a meeting in New York in November - in December, rather - not far from Trump Tower between Flynn and senior Turkish officials. Now, if that's true, that could break a law that bars Americans from acting as agents of foreign powers, could also implicate other laws on the books, including kidnapping, bribery and other statutes.

MCEVERS: So what is Michael Flynn saying about all this?

JOHNSON: Well, Mike Flynn's lawyers this evening broke their long public silence. Lawyers Rob Kelner and Steve Anthony say they've avoided responding to every allegation this year. But they say when words like kidnapping and bribery come up, they're making an exception. They call these claims outrageous, prejudicial and false.

President Trump still overseas on his long visit to Asia. In the past, though, he's gone out of his way to praise Mike Flynn and his loyalty. And if you believe fired FBI Director James Comey, President Trump even asked James Comey this year to go light on Flynn, to go easy on Flynn, before Comey was fired.

MCEVERS: And there's another piece of this story, right? Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, worked with his father on a number of projects. And he might be in some legal jeopardy, too?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Michael G. Flynn has hired his own prominent criminal defense lawyer, who declined comment to me this morning. But looking at the history of some of the prosecutors on the Robert Mueller special counsel team, threatening to charge relatives with a crime is one way to try to get information from someone who's clammed up. That may be part of the strategy here as well.

The difference is we're talking about the presidential campaign and people who may be close to the inner circle at the White House, not the kind of corporate executives or mob figures these guys have prosecuted in the past.

MCEVERS: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.