Michael Flynn was warned by ranking members of President Trump’s transition team that he should not communicate with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The Washington Post reported Friday evening, citing unnamed former and current U.S. officials.
The transition officials told Flynn that Kislyak’s conversations were likely being monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies and sought to warn Flynn of the risks of talking to the ambassador, even requesting a classified CIA profile of Kislyak from the Obama administration.
Michael Flynn was forced to resign in February amid revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak in the month before Trump took office and failed to disclose the conversations to senior White House officials.
While Flynn has emerged as a central figure in ongoing federal probes of Russian election meddling and alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, the previously undisclosed warnings show early concern among some transition officials over the Trump team’s developing relations with the Kremlin.
The Obama administration, according to The Post, viewed the request for the file on Kislyak as an opportunity to notify the Trump team of the threat posed by Russia.
The request came as U.S. intelligence officials was looking into the possibility of Russian interference in the presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that the Kremlin had sought to influence the race in favor of Trump.
Since then, the Senate and House intelligence committees have begun investigating the Russians’ efforts, as well as alleged ties between Trump’s aides and Moscow. FBI Director James Comey revealed in March that his agency was conducting its own probe into the matter.
Flynn offered to speak with congressional investigators, but requested immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony. That request, however, was ultimately rejected by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The White House has repeatedly denied that the Trump campaign had any improper communications with Russian officials and that any collusion took place.
The Trump administration has taken a more aggressive tone toward Russia in recent weeks, particularly over the Kremlin’s backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad. But Trump himself has not taken aim at Russia, and the bulk of his administration’s hardline rhetoric has come from United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Trump has also cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in the election – a position he reaffirmed this week, saying on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “it could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups.”