Will Michael Flynn be the last Trump staffer to fall?
Fresh allegations of Russian collusion have unfolded in a scandal that has claimed yet another of President Donald Trump’s inner circle.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s now-former national security adviser, resigned on Monday night for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his call with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. But Flynn is just one of three of Trump’s top advisers who have been forced to resign following revelations of Russian ties, the likes of which have dogged Trump since before his election.
But who are these players? And what’s the story behind their fall from grace?
Who: Trump’s former campaign manager who worked as a consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine
When: Aug. 19, 2016
The story: It’s still unclear exactly why Manafort resigned, but it came just five days after an explosive New York Times article that put attention on Trump’s ties to Russia. The newspaper alleged, on Aug. 14., that Manafort was owed a staggering $12.7 million for lobbying and advisory work he’d carried out for Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian Party of Regions between 2007 and 2012. Yanukovych, who Manafort helped rise to power in 2010, fled to Russia after the Ukranian revolution in February 2014.
It’s unconfirmed whether Manafort received the Yanukovych payments, and his lawyer insists that he didn’t, but allegations that the adviser was operating within the U.S. to represent Ukrainian and Russian interests were reported by the Associated Press.
Just two days before his resignation from his position as Trump’s campaign manager, the AP published that Manafort worked to “secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012” on behalf of Yanukovych’s party. Manafort is currently subject to an FBI investigation because of his involvement in these financial transactions.
After having resigned, Manafort returned in December to informally advise Trump on his cabinet picks. The extent of his influence is not publicly known.
Who: Trump’s former foreign policy adviser who had previously been a Merrill Lynch investment banker.
When: September 2016
The story: Before Page started serving within the Trump campaign as a named foreign policy adviser, he had undertaken business consultancy work for state-owned Russian oil giant Gazprom. At Gazprom, it’s suspected, he met company executive Sergei Yatesenko, with whom he went on to set up an investment firm Global Energy Capital. With such large business interests in Russia, Page had been a noted critic of U.S. sanctions against the country.
Page had been on a three-day trip to Moscow in July 2016 to deliver a speech at the New Economic School, but he was drawn into a controversy in September when allegations surfaced that he had also met with a number of Russian officials and businessmen.
The reports, citing unnamed intelligence sources, claimed that Page had met with officials to talk about the possibility of lifting those sanctions put in place by the Obama administration. It was also alleged that he met with President Vladimir Putin’s trusted friend, Igor Sechin—CEO of oil giant Rosneft.
Page denied everything in an interview with a Washington Post reporter, calling the allegations “completely false and inconceivable.” He further explained he’d decided to take a “leave of absence” from his informal advisory role in the Trump campaign.
The allegations, however, seemed to corroborate those made in the unverified 35-page intelligence dossier on Trump’s alleged Russian ties compiled by a former British spy and published by BuzzFeed in January 2017. The controversial document, dismissed by both Trump and Putin, claimed that in these alleged meetings the “Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate Western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft.”
On Dec. 7, Rosneft sold a 19.5 percent stake in its company in a deal similar to the one described would take place by the dossier. There is no proof that Page did, in fact, broker the deal but he was headed for Moscow the next day to meet with Rosneft managers.
Page is currently subject to U.S. investigations over his Russian connections.
Who: Trump’s former national security adviser who had been dismissed by President Obama from his role at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
When: Feb. 13, 2017
The story: Flynn’s scandal emerged in mid-January when a Washington Post op-ed revealed that he had spoken with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December 2016, allegedly giving guarantees that the then-incoming Trump administration would lift U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned for misleading Pence and others in the Trump administration, not for the contents of his discussion with Kislyak.
The FBI is currently investigating transcripts of one of the phone calls between the two.
Flynn’s ties to Moscow amount to a number of paid speaking engagements, particularly notable was his attendance at an anniversary gala for state-owned Russia Today in December 2015 where he sat next to Putin. Flynn had lied about his contact with Kislyak on two occasions, with the administration also shifting its position to protect him, before Trump asked for his resignation.
Members of Congress from both parties are now requesting investigations into Flynn and the White House’s ties to Russia. The big question now is: Will Flynn be the final character in this tale to fall?
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