SPONSORED:

White House: Trump didn’t know of Flynn plan to register as foreign agent

President Trump was not aware that ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn would likely have to register as an agent of a foreign government for his lobbying work during the campaign, the White House said Friday.

“No,” press secretary Sean Spicer said when asked whether Trump was informed of the arrangement. 

“This was a personal matter; it’s not a business matter. It’s not something that would be appropriate for a government entity to give someone guidance on when they should file as a private citizen,” he added. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The spokesman also disputed the notion Trump should not have hired Flynn because of his lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests.

"What dealings are you referring to? The fact that he had a client?” Spicer asked. “He was also the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency ... 40 years in the military … He has impeccable credentials.”

The White House is defending its handling of the situation after The Associated Press reported that Trump’s transition team was told Flynn would probably have to register with the federal government for his work on behalf of a firm owned by a Turkish businessman with close ties to his country’s government.

Spicer said Thursday, before the report was published, that Trump was unaware that Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when he picked him as national security adviser. 

“I don’t believe that was known,” the spokesman said. 

Flynn filed paperwork Wednesday with the Justice Department to officially register as a foreign agent, admitting he may have done work that benefited the Turkish government.

ADVERTISEMENT

His firm, Flynn Intel Group, earned $530,000 from the contract with Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm run by Kamil Alptekin, who also heads the Turkish-American Business Council.

The contract involved conducting "intelligence" and making a documentary about Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is exiled in Pennsylvania and wanted by the Turkish government. 

Firms must file with the Justice Department if they conduct lobbying, consulting or public relations work on behalf of a foreign government, or an individual or entity funded or influenced by one.

Flynn Intel Group had registered its work for Inovo under the domestic lobbying law, but the new disclosures on Wednesday provided more details.

The arrangement has raised new questions about whether the retired Army lieutenant general had conflicts of interest while he served as an volunteer adviser and surrogate to the Trump campaign. 

While Flynn was on the firm's payroll, potentially doing work to benefit Turkey, he was attending the Trump campaign's intelligence briefings, according to NBC News.

Flynn resigned last month after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Pence and other senior officials about the nature of his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump's inauguration.

“I think it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign,” Pence said when asked about Flynn's lobbying in an interview with Fox News.

The vice president added that he was unaware of Flynn’s lobbying work until his filing was reported this week. 

Spicer shot down questions from reporters on Friday about whether all new officials had been properly vetted, in light of the undisclosed Flynn work.

The president, Spicer said, "ran on a commitment to draining the swamp. He has been very committed to making sure we institute high standards here and we're held to them."

"If somebody does something that is not in keeping with the president's standards that he has set for every single person in the administration, they will be let go," he added.

- Updated at 4:53 p.m.