Flynn, Kush­ner met with Rus­sian en­voy in De­cem­ber

Of­fi­cial: White House sought line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Michael S. Sch­midt, Matthew Rosen­berg and Matt Apuzzo ©2017 The New York Times

WASH­ING­TON — Michael Flynn, then Don­ald Trump’s in­com­ing na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, had a pre­vi­ously undis­closed meet­ing with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador in De­cem­ber to “es­tab­lish a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion” be­tween the new ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, the White House said Thurs­day.

Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law and now a se­nior ad­viser, also par­tic­i­pated in the meet­ing at Trump Tower with Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador. But among Trump’s in­ner cir­cle, it is Flynn who ap­pears to have been the main in­ter­locu­tor with the Rus­sian en­voy — the two were in con­tact dur­ing the cam­paign and the tran­si­tion, Kislyak and cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials have said.

Though the ex­tent and fre­quency of their con­tacts re­mains un­clear, and the dis­clo­sure of the meet­ing at Trump Tower adds to the emerg­ing picture of how the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Trump’s in­com­ing team and Moscow was evolv­ing to in­clude some of the pres­i­dent-elect’s most trusted ad­vis­ers.

The White House has re­peat­edly sought to play down any con­nec­tions with Kislyak. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions ac­knowl­edged this week that he had met twice with him dur­ing the cam­paign, de­spite pre­vi­ous de­nials.

The New Yorker re­ported this week that Kush­ner had met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in De­cem­ber. In re­sponse to a re­porter’s ques­tions, Hope Hicks, a White House spokes­woman, con­firmed Thurs­day that Flynn was also at the meet­ing.

It is com­mon and not im­proper for tran­si­tion of­fi­cials to meet with for­eign of­fi­cials. But all meet­ings be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sians are now sig­nif­i­cant as the FBI in­ves­ti­gates Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the U.S. elec­tion and whether any­one close to Trump’s cam­paign was in­volved.

The meet­ing in De­cem­ber came at a cru­cial time, just as the Obama White House was pre­par­ing to sanc­tion Rus­sia and pub­licly make its case that Moscow had in­ter­fered with the 2016 elec­tion.

What is be­com­ing clear is that the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was si­mul­ta­ne­ously strik­ing a con­cil­ia­tory pose to­ward Moscow in a se­ries of meet­ings and phone calls in­volv­ing Kislyak.

The Trump Tower meet­ing lasted 20 min­utes, and Kush­ner has not met since with Kislyak, she said.

When first asked in Jan­uary about Flynn’s con­tacts with Kislyak, the White House said that there had been only a text mes­sage and phone call be­tween the men at the end of De­cem­ber, and that both came be­fore the United States im­posed sanc­tions. That was quickly con­tra­dicted by news re­ports.

Flynn’s story then be­gan chang­ing, and the White House even­tu­ally ac­knowl­edged the two men had dis­cussed the sanc­tions and how the two coun­tries could move past the ac­ri­mony once Trump was in of­fice.

U.S. of­fi­cials have also said that there were mul­ti­ple tele­phone calls be­tween Flynn and Kislyak on Dec. 29, be­gin­ning shortly af­ter Kislyak was sum­moned to the State De­part­ment and in­formed that, in re­tal­i­a­tion for Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling, the United States was ex­pelling 35 peo­ple sus­pected of be­ing Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives and im­pos­ing other sanc­tions.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS 2013

Rus­sian am­bas­sador Sergey I. Kislyak was in con­tact with Don­ald Trump’s in­ner cir­cle as the Obama White House was pre­par­ing to sanc­tion Rus­sia.

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