Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal Calls For Probe Into Michael Flynn

Feb 16, 2017
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to name a special counsel to investigate ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn - specifically, Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Senator Blumenthal is a lead signatory on a letter from 11 Democratic senators, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program once again.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you so much. Good to be with you.

SIEGEL: Your letter says that Michael Flynn may have violated the law in his phone call or calls with ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Are you alleging violations of the Logan Act, a 1799 law that no one's been prosecuted under?

BLUMENTHAL: There may be violations of that law but potentially of others as well. If there were improper statements or lies to the FBI agents who interviewed him, there are very, very serious questions about his compliance with our laws and also ethical standards.

SIEGEL: And as the Attorney General Jeff Sessions - do you feel that he is obliged to name a special counsel as opposed to taking on the matter himself because he happens to be the attorney general or because of his role in the Trump campaign? Would you say the same of any Republican attorney general that has been confirmed?

BLUMENTHAL: Not necessarily of any attorney general would I say that he had to recuse himself, but he is certainly very closely identified with the president as a campaign surrogate and adviser as well as a personal confidant. And so I think in his case, clearly he has a very definite interest in the outcome of a potential investigation. Therefore, he has to recuse himself.

SIEGEL: Our intelligence correspondent spoke with an intelligence official who had the transcript in front of him or her and characterized it and said Flynn talked about sanctions, but no specific promises were made. He was speaking more in general terms. Maybe we'll take a look at this going forward - at terms. Would even that sort of bland discussion of sanctions strike you as unethical or illegal? Or would you require him to say nothing - whatever at that point, or can you imagine him just saying something that banal?

BLUMENTHAL: The context of that conversation is very, very important - what was said before and after, whether there were other conversations previously and afterward, who knew about it in the Trump administration, including the president himself. And I'm not going to leap to any conclusions. I want an investigation.

SIEGEL: President Trump did say in the news conference today when asked very explicitly, did you tell Michael Flynn to raise the question of sanctions with the Russian ambassador? No, he did not.

BLUMENTHAL: I think that statement has to be reviewed in light of other things that he said in the press conference and also things that he said before. It's certainly very, very relevant.

SIEGEL: You suggest that a special counsel ask why Flynn continued to receive and deliver the president's daily briefing after the White House was told that he was susceptible to Russian blackmail. I don't quite understand that. Since the White House had been informed of Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador and evidently seen transcripts or heard recordings of it, President Trump could say, well, there was no chance of us being blackmailed because they knew everything that he'd said.

BLUMENTHAL: But they may not have known what he was telling the president. And what he told the president may not have been the complete and entire substance of his conversation with the Russians. I want to stress to you that the speculation that you're raising is very, very well-founded and thoughtful, but it raises more questions than it answers.

And the key inquiry here - and I say this as a former prosecutor. What did they know, and when did they know it? Who knew what when, and what did they do about it? And that requires a special counsel. We're talking here about the national security and a pattern of very cozy relationships between individuals in the Trump administration, including the president, before it became the Trump administration, during the campaign and previously.

SIEGEL: Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for talking with us today.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Connecticut senator, Democrat of Connecticut, Senator Richard Blumenthal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.