More damning evidence has recently emerged against former Trump National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, and by extension, the administration who appointed him. According to the Wall Street Journal, the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General had unreported dealings with a Russian national back in 2014.
Flynn stepped down from his post as National Security Advisor back in February, amid an outcry against his secretive meetings and communications with Russian companies and government officials. This latest revelation is only the latest in a string of indiscretions that call his loyalties into question. What wasn’t clear before now is that Flynn’s Russian contacts extend much further back than previously thought, well before his brief stint as a Trump administration official.
Back in 2014, Flynn was working as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). That year, he flew to the U.K. for a security conference. There, he met Svetlana Lokhova, who was at the time a Russian and British graduate student.
There’s really nothing terribly suspicious about this encounter. But Flynn made a critical error; he failed to report it to the Department of Defense. Reporting such a meeting would have been standard practice for a high-ranking member of the U.S. intelligence community. Considering his post at the time, he would have been expected to report any and all contacts with foreign nationals he was not already acquainted with.
The fact that he did not do so raises some red flags. At best, it calls into question Flynn’s ability to adhere to important DoD protocols, a critical element of national security. At worst, it creates doubt around Flynn’s loyalties, and should prompt questions about the exact nature of his and Ms. Lokhova’s meeting.
Mr. Flynn has been the focal point of a great deal of controversy involving his relationship with the Russian government. In 2015, he received $45,386 from Russian news station Russia Today to take a flight to Moscow for a speaking engagement. The New York Times also reported that in 2015, he accepted an $11,000 payment from Volga-Dnepr, a Russian air cargo company that was blacklisted by the Pentagon at the time.
Flynn’s unreported contact with a foreign national is a far less benign situation than a layman might make it out to be. Because of his high-ranking position at the DIA, he would have received very specific instructions to regard all attempts by unknown foreign nationals as efforts to gain sensitive information on U.S. intelligence. According to a former U.S. intelligence official,
‘A senior official like him definitely ought to be expected to detect that and report it.’
But Price Floyd, Flynn’s spokesman, decried the allegations.
‘This is a false story. The inference that the contact between Gen. Flynn and a Russian national described in this story should be seen in any light other than incidental contact is simply untrue.’
Dan O’Brien, who was chief of the DIA during Flynn’s tenure, told press that nothing about Flynn’s meeting with Lokhova “struck him as improper.” Lokhova herself declined a request for comment.
A security expert who decided to speak to press summed the whole situation up neatly, though, saying “he certainly knows better.”
Image via Getty/Mario Tama.