Spicer blames Obama for Flynn’s security clearance

Greg Nash

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday deflected blame for the firestorm surrounding Michael Flynn, saying the ousted national security adviser received his security clearance from the Obama administration. 

Spicer signaled support for a Defense Department investigation into payments Flynn received from foreign groups in 2015, but he blamed former President Obama’s team for clearing him. 

“My only point is when Gen. Flynn came into the White House, he had an active security clearance that was issued during the Obama administration with all the information that’s being discussed that occurred in 2015,” Spicer told reporters. 

The spokesman brushed aside the notion that President Trump has regrets over hiring Flynn.

{mosads}”The president made the right decision at the right time,” Spicer said of Trump’s decision to dismiss Flynn in February. “He made the right decision, and we’ve looked forward.” 

He said Trump’s transition team and White House staff trusted the work of the previous administration.

“Why would you rerun a background check on someone who was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance?” he asked. 

Security clearances like Flynn’s are reviewed every five years, and Spicer noted that Flynn’s was last reauthorized in 2016. 

Asked whether he was implying that the Obama administration was at fault for the fallout surrounding Flynn’s ties to foreign actors, Spicer said his “point” is to make sure Americans understand how the process works. 

The House Oversight Committee on Thursday disclosed the existence of a Pentagon inquiry into Flynn and those payments, noting that he was warned against taking them when he retired in 2014. 

Flynn’s appointment and subsequent dismissal less than a month into Trump’s term has been one of the most controversial moves of his administration. 

Trump requested Flynn’s resignation after revelations that he misled the White House, including Vice President Pence, about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

But since then, a slew of reports have questioned Flynn’s ties to foreign groups and actors over the years, and he subsequently filed paperwork with the Justice Department designating himself a foreign actor for work he did that advanced Turkish interests. 

The leaders of the House Oversight Committee earlier this week said it’s likely that Flynn broke the law by taking payments from foreign governments without seeking approval from the military and the secretary of State, something required for all retired military officers.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told reporters Tuesday. “It appears as if he did take that money, it was inappropriate — and there are repercussions for the violation of law.”

Chaffetz added that Flynn could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in remittance to the U.S. government, though the Trump administration would have to levy that penalty.

Flynn has offered to testify before the House and Senate committees investigating Russian interference in the election if granted immunity. So far, the committees have not taken him up on that offer.

Flynn was fired as Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency chief in the spring of 2014 after less than two years at the helm of the agency. 

He was ousted after clashing with top Obama national security officials, including intelligence director James Clapper. 

Flynn blamed his firing on his strong views on fighting Islamic extremist groups.

He made his way into Trump’s inner circle during the presidential campaign, becoming a close adviser who was even granted a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.

Katie Bo Williams contributed.
Updated at 3:18 p.m. 

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