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CNN: White House claims Obama admin approved Flynn calls with Russian ambassador
The White House said on Friday that it was the Obama administration that authorized former national security adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during President Trump's transition, according to CNN.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak in the month before Trump took office, the first current or former Trump White House official brought down by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling.
Court records indicate that his communications with Kislyak were directed by a Trump transition official, with multiple news outlets reporting that official was Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
"They are saying here at the White House that Flynn's conversations with Sergey Kisylak were quote 'authorized' by the Obama administration," CNN correspondent Jim Acosta said.
"We should point out, that is something that we have not heard before in terms of a defense from this White House," he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.
James Clapper, who served as the Director of National Intelligence under Obama, said that the claim that the Obama administration authorized Flynn's contacts with Kislyak was "absurd," adding that the administration was concerned by the communications at the time.
"That's absurd. That's absolutely absurd," Clapper said on CNN.
"There was great concern at the time, not just with this particular contact, but with the violation of the principle that historically been followed of one president, one administration at a time," he added. "So to say that we blessed it, or acquiesced it is a stretch."
In a statement released shortly after he entered his guilty plea, Flynn acknowledged that he is cooperating with Mueller's probe into Russian interference during last year's election and any coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
According to court documents, Flynn lied to investigators when he told them that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from retaliating against U.S. sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response to the Russian meddling.
Flynn also lied when he told the FBI that he did not lobby Kislyak to oppose or delay a United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements, a resolution strongly condemned by Trump.
Flynn resigned from the Trump White House in February - just 24 days into office - after it was reported that he misled Vice President Pence and other officials about his contacts with Kislyak.
The White House sought to distance itself from Flynn on Friday, noting that he only served as Trump's national security adviser for a few weeks and that he lied to Pence about his interactions with Kislyak in the same vein that he lied to the FBI.
Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, and his associate Richard Gates were indicted last month in Mueller's probe, and George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents.
But unlike them, Flynn was part of nearly Trump's entire presidential campaign and held a high-level national security position in the administration.
Flynn served as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under former President Obama, but was removed from that post in 2014. Obama reportedly advised Trump against bringing him back to the White House.
Updated: 6:54 p.m.