Kremlingate seems new, but historic US intercepts reveal previous Russian agents in the White Houseby Calder Walton / February 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
This week saw the first victim fall in the scandal engulfing Donald Trump’s White House over its connections with Russia. On Monday, President Trump’s embattled National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn, resigned after just 24 days in office, making him the shortest serving National Security Adviser in US history. Flynn’s resignation raises more questions than it answers, and is likely to be the beginning, not the end, of this scandal—already being termed “Kremlingate” in Washington.
Behind Flynn’s resignation lie much broader, and more significant, questions about Russia’s connections with the Trump White House: did Russia do more than “interfere” in the US presidential election in favour of Trump, as US intelligence previously assessed, and actually collude with his election campaign? Do Russia’s intelligence services hold compromising material on the President of the United States? In other times, such questions would seem like the plot of a far-fetched novel, but they are now legitimate questions to ask.
Flynn stepped down when it emerged from leaked US intelligence intercepts that he had misled senior White House staff about whether he had discussed sanctions against Moscow on a phone call with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak. This happened in December last year, before Trump entered the White House. On 29th December, in response to US intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the US presidential election, President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian suspected intelligence officials from the US. That same day, Flynn called the Russian ambassador—it is now reported that he actually had five calls that day with Kislyak. Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador was first reported by The Washington Post on 12th January. When questioned about its nature, senior White House Staff—including Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, and then Vice President-Elect, Mike Pence—stated that Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. It has now emerged this was false. In late January, the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates—later fired by President Trump for her doubts over the legality of his immigration ban executive order—reportedly informed the White House that transcripts of intercepted calls to the Russian ambassador, picked up through routine US monitoring, showed that Flynn had lied about the nature of his calls with Kislyak and was therefore vulnerable to Russian blackmail.