Michael Flynn's ouster continues to haunt Trump, may cripple US president's case in Congress

The spectre of former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn continues to haunt President Donald Trump, even three months after his ouster.

Flynn was forced to step down in February for failing to disclose talks with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, about US sanctions on Moscow and misleading vice-president Mike Pence about the conversations, which occurred before Trump took office. But the Congressional hearing into allegations of Russia's meddling in last year's US presidential elections, which began on Monday, have focused on Flynn, and if the charges against the former army lieutenant are proven, it would seriously cripple Trump's case in Congress.

File image of Michael Flynn. AP

It has even emerged that Donald Trump was specifically warned against hiring Flynn, with top officials of the previous Barack Obama administration saying Flynn was "susceptible" to Russian blackmail, since he had lied about his contacts with Moscow's ambassador in Washington.

Former President Obama, who had hired and fired Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned Trump about Flynn's conduct during a meeting in the Oval Office, a warning "based on Flynn's role as head of DIA," a former administration official said.

But despite that message, Trump hired Flynn to the high profile job of national security adviser — the president's top foreign and security policy aide — before firing him weeks later.

Later on Monday, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, an Obama appointee sacked by Trump early in his presidency, took the stand alongside former director of national intelligence James Clapper during a hotly-anticipated three-hour hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Yates confirmed reports that she had told the White House, six days into Trump's administration, that Flynn, a former military intelligence chief, had not been honest with Mike Pence about his discussions with the Russian ambassador to Washington, leaving him vulnerable to leverage from Moscow.

"We believed that Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians. This was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed," Yates told the hearing in her first public comments about the scandal.

Despite these claims, however, Trump has stood his ground, saying the information is not new news, and his administration has effectively purged the wrongdoers.

After the media reported on Yates' claims, Trump called investigations into his campaign's possible ties to Russia's election meddling a "taxpayer funded charade" and a "total hoax".

Trump weighed in on Twitter following a congressional hearing on Russian interference. The president said former Sally Yates, one of the officials who testified Monday, "said nothing but old news".

While Trump can afford to be belligerent at the moment, it remains to be seen for how long he can maintain his cool, if allegations against Flynn keep piling up.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: May 09, 2017 08:36 AM | Updated Date: May 09, 2017 08:36 AM

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