White House admits Obama warned Trump about Flynn but Trump thought he was joking

How convenient.

Obama and Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on November 10. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Obama and Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on November 10. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

On Monday, multiple outlets broke news that President Obama personally warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as his national security adviser during a meeting between the two in the Oval Office on November 10. Obama fired Flynn from his role as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2014.

But Trump hired Flynn anyway. Within 10 days of Trump’s inauguration, acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn hadn’t been truthful about his pre-inauguration communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Trump administration fired Yates on January 31, but kept Flynn aboard until February 13, when he was dismissed after Yates’ warning proved to be accurate.

Facing questions as to why the White House didn’t heed President Obama’s warning in the first place, the administration is now arguing Trump believed Obama was merely speaking “in jest” when he warned him about Flynn.

Meanwhile, a senior White House official tried to pivot away from news of Obama’s warning by wondering why he didn’t take steps to revoke Flynn’s security clearance.

The blame-it-on-Obama line echoes what Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a news conference late last month, when news broke that, after he was fired by Obama, Flynn was warned against taking payments from foreign governments without permission but did it anyway.

On Monday, Spicer reiterated that argument, telling reporters during a news conference that “the question that you have to ask yourself really is that if President Obama was truly concerned about General Flynn, why didn’t he suspend General Flynn’s security clearance?”

Spicer went on to suggest that Obama somehow should have stopped Flynn — a private citizen after he was fired by Obama — from traveling to Moscow in 2015 and giving a paid speech at an event where he sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Why didn’t the Obama administration let Flynn go to Russia for a paid speaking engagement and receive a fee?” Spicer said on Monday. “There were steps they could’ve taken if there was truly a concern, more than just a person that had bad blood.”

Flynn didn’t mention that Obama fired Flynn.

According to a 2014 report, more than 5 million Americans have security clearances. Dr. Erin Simpson, who served as an adviser to a NATO-led counterinsurgency team in Afghanistan that worked with senior military commanders throughout Afghanistan, explained how Spicer’s remarks reveal an ignorance about how clearances work.

Yates is scheduled to testify before the Senate on Monday afternoon. She’s expected to confirm that she warned White House officials about Flynn weeks before he was fired.

Hours ahead of her testimony, Trump also tried to pin blame on Obama by blaming him for Flynn’s security clearance.

As Spicer’s news conference was wrapping up, NBC broke news that Flynn never received the security clearance required to become national security adviser.

The White House’s line about Trump believing Obama’s warning was “in jest” is reminiscent of how Trump tried to explain away the controversy generated by his comments at a news conference last July, when he publicly encouraged Russian hackers to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails and leak them to the press.

“Of course I’m being sarcastic,” Trump said during a Fox News interview that aired the next day.