White House dismisses Obama warning about Flynn as ‘bad blood’

The White House acknowledged reports on Monday that outgoing President Barack Obama warned President-elect Donald Trump in November not to hire retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. But press secretary Sean Spicer downplayed Obama’s comments as “bad blood” rather than an expression of a true security concern.

“It’s true President Obama made it known that he wasn’t exactly a fan of Gen. Flynn’s,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily press briefing. “The question you have to ask yourself really is if President Obama was truly concerned about Gen. Flynn, why didn’t they suspend his security clearance which they re-approved months earlier?”

That top secret security clearance was first granted in 2012, when Flynn was nominated by Obama to be the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Obama fired Flynn in 2014, but Flynn retained the security clearance. Flynn served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, and eight days after Obama’s meeting with Trump, he was nominated by Trump as national security adviser.

Flynn resigned from that position in February after media reports revealed that he had discussed U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russia during the transition period, and had misled Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about those discussions — leading to questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process. Trump and the White House have, in turn, sought to blame the Obama administration and raise questions about the previous administration’s vetting procedures.

“Additionally, why did the Obama administration let Flynn go to Russia for a paid speaking engagement and receive a fee?” Spicer asked.

Related: Defense Department investigating Flynn’s foreign payments

In December 2015, Flynn accepted more than $45,000 from RT, the Russian government-funded TV network, to give a talk in Moscow at a black-tie dinner during which he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Late last month, it was revealed that the Defense Department is investigating whether Flynn violated federal ethics rules by failing to report and receive prior approval to accept the RT fees.

Douglas Wise, Flynn’s former top deputy at the DIA, told Yahoo News he was stunned when he found out that Flynn had accepted money from a propaganda arm of the Russian government — saying he would’ve launched an immediate investigation into his one-time boss.

“I was apoplectic,” Wise said. “Nobody would have imagined that Flynn would have taken money for the trip. I would never have thought that in a million years.”

President-elect Trump meets President Obama at the White House
President-elect Trump meets President Obama at the White House, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

And according to multiple reports, Obama himself warned Trump not to hire Flynn when the president-elect met with Obama at the White House on Nov. 10. The reports did not specify the nature of the president’s concerns, or if Flynn’s contacts with Russia were discussed.

The renewed focus on Flynn comes on the day former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is scheduled to appear before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Yates — who was fired by Trump in January after refusing to defend his controversial executive order on immigration — is expected to be asked about Flynn’s ouster.

According to the Associated Press, Yates “is likely to testify Monday that she warned White House counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26 that Flynn’s contacts — and the discrepancies between what the White House said happened on the calls and what actually occurred — had left him in a compromised position.”

Yet Flynn’s resignation did not come until Feb. 13 — nearly three weeks after Yates’ warning and three days after the Washington Post disclosed the conversations.

Earlier Monday, Trump tried to shift blame for vetting Flynn to the Obama administration via Twitter.

“General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration,” he wrote. “But the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.”

Trump also attacked Yates hours before her appearance on Capitol Hill.

“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel,” Trump tweeted, setting off speculation that he might have been engaged in an attempt to intimidate or influence the testimony of a witness before Congress, which is against the law.

Questioned on Trump’s statement about Yates during Monday’s press briefing, Spicer said, “I think the tweet speaks for itself.”

Read more from Yahoo News: