President Donald Trump on Thursday stood by his decision to take 18 days to fire former national security adviser Michael Flynn saying it “did not sound like an emergency” after he was warned by acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn may have been compromised by Russia.
Yates has said she warned Trump about Flynn’s interactions with Russia and that the retired Army general could be subject to blackmail.
Trump told NBC in an interview that he was not in a rush to drive out his adviser after Yates’ warning, in part because he was skeptical of Yates’ information.
“[Flynn] has served for many years, he’s a general, he’s a — in my opinion — a very good person,” Trump said. “I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don’t even know and immediately run out and fire a general.”
He added, “[White House Counsel Don] McGahn came back to me and did not sound like an emergency,” Trump said of Yates’ briefing with White House officials.
Yates on Monday testified before Congress that she had warned Trump administration officials that Flynn may have been susceptible to being “blackmailed by the Russians” in late January. But it was not until Feb. 13 that Trump decided to act on the information, after news reports surfaced that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The president said that while he was unaware of his national security adviser’s reported payments to Turkish and Russian governments, former President Barack Obama might have been aware of them.
“Obama perhaps knew because [Flynn] had clearance from the Obama administration,” Trump told NBC News. “And his clear — and this is something they never want to report — he had clearance from the Obama administration. The highest clearance you can have.”
Flynn was forced out of the Obama administration in 2014. Officials from the prior administration reportedly sought to warn Trump and his team away from selecting Flynn for a post in the administration.
On Wednesday the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Michael Flynn, and well as documents pertaining to the panel’s ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and foreign operatives.