Putin Downplays Interaction With Ex-Trump Adviser Flynn at Moscow DinnerBy
Russian president says contact with Flynn in 2015 was brief
Flynn is a central figure in probes on Russia by Congress, FBI
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he barely interacted with Donald Trump’s former national security adviser at a dinner in Moscow in 2015, an event where the two were seated next to each other that has helped fuel speculation about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
Putin made the remarks about Michael Flynn in an interview conducted in Moscow on Friday with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, which will be broadcast Sunday night.
The Russian leader said that at the anniversary gala for Russian television network RT in December 2015, his interactions with Flynn were both brief and superficial, according to a partial transcript released by NBC. Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was paid $45,000 to speak at the event.
“When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman sitting on one side,” Putin said. Photos show Putin flanked by Flynn and Emir Kusturica, a Serbian film maker.
“I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services.’ That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him...That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. Flynn,” Putin said.
Flynn has become a central figure in investigations by Congress and the FBI into potential ties to Russia by the Trump administration and his campaign.
An adviser to Trump’s campaign and prominent speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn was fired less than four weeks after Trump’s inauguration after claims he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., during the presidential transition.
Flynn is one among a number of current and former Trump associates at the center of investigations into whether anyone close to the president helped Russia interfere in the U.S. election, and whether any crimes were committed.
Putin’s comments on Flynn came days before former FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump in May, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Comey is expected to be asked by lawmakers about an alleged effort by Trump to have him drop the probe against Flynn, made in February and described by Comey in a memo documenting the private Oval Office meeting.