President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to defend ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn ahead of expected blockbuster testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee later in the afternoon.
"General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration - but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that," Trump wrote ahead of the testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Late last month, this line of defense was first presented by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said Flynn passed a security clearance during President Barack Obama's final year in office and did not need to be vetted again before being appointed as national security adviser.
RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.
Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.
Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.
Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”
Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.
Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.
Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.
Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Trump followed up with a subsequent tweet, offering up a question for members of the Senate subcommittee that Yates, the former deputy attorney general, will testify in front of at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to" the White House counsel, he wrote.
Prior to Flynn's ouster, it was reported in multiple outlets that Yates told White House counsel Donald McGahn of Flynn's misleading statements on his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which she argued could expose him to potential blackmail from the Russian government. Flynn was forced to step down after just 24 days on the job following multiple outlets reporting he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations he had with Kislyak prior to Trump's inauguration.
Just prior to the president's tweets, Axios reported he was not pleased with administration officials expressing contempt for the ousted Flynn. As reporter Jonathan Swan wrote, Flynn "isn't missed" by White House officials, even though Trump has repeatedly defended him after pushing him out of the administration.
"Trump wants any of his staff who've been feeding negative lines about Flynn to the media to stop immediately," Axios reported late Sunday.