Under the direction of US Attorney Dana Boente, federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to a number of people associated with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Sources familiar with the situation said that subpoenas were issued as part of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.
The news that subpoenas had been ordered is the first sign the public has that the FBI’s broader investigation into Russia’s ties to Donald Trump’s successful bid for the presidency is beginning to pick up steam.
The subpoenas, which were issued in the past few weeks by the US Attorney’s Office located in Alexandria, Virginia, were sent to Flynn associates who worked with him after he was fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014; his firing by the Obama Administration turned him into a staunch critic of the former president and has been speculated to be one of the reasons that Flynn joined the Trump campaign.
Prior to leaving office, former President Barack Obama warned President-elect Trump against hiring Flynn; the White House is now, three months later, still defending both the action to hire Flynn and the action to wait 18 days after it was warned by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn was compromised and could be blackmailed by the Russian government.
The Flynn Inquiry is part of the larger investigation into possible collusion between Russian agents and Trump associates in order to secure the presidency for Trump.
Flynn was National Security Advisor for just 23 days prior to vacating his office when it came to light that he had misled the American public about prior business dealings with foreign governments considered adversarial to American policy. This included suspicions about Flynn’s phone calls with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, in December of last year after new sanctions were placed on Russia; Flynn, who was later interviewed by the FBI about the phone calls, had failed to accurately disclose the nature of the phone calls.
Also under investigation were Flynn’s possible criminal activities in relation to his lobbying firm taking payment from foreign countries for events and consultation work. As a former general, Flynn was barred by law from taking any money from a foreign government without express approval by the United States Army prior to signing contracts.
The news that Flynn had made an appearance at an event hosted by Russia Today, a government-funded news outlet that played a major role in the misinformation campaign that damaged Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency, and received a total sum of $45,000 for the appearance, hit the Trump Administration hard. After he left office, Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent for the Turkish government, a contract that was estimated to be worth $500,000.
Flynn’s connection with Turkey is a source of interest to federal prosecutors; Flynn consulted with the Turkish government while also working as a Trump surrogate. The retroactive registration as a foreign agent, however, may not be enough to save him from prosecution.
The subpoena news was released just hours prior to President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the broad counterintelligence investigation into the President’s possible ties to Russia. Comey had been the frequent scapegoat of both parties since the election and had recently testified in an open hearing in Congress about the Russia investigation.
Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, the US Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department, and the FBI all declined to comment on the state of the subpoenas or Flynn’s possible criminal activity.