Russian officials bragged during the 2016 presidential campaign that they could use their relationship with Michael Flynn to influence President Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday.
The conversations picked up by U.S. intelligence officials suggested the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.
"This was a five-alarm fire from early on, the way the Russians were talking about him," an Obama administration official told CNN.
According to CNN, the relationship developed throughout 2016 – before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia's ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn's changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump's first national security adviser.
"We are confident that when these inquiries are complete there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia," a White House official told CNN in a statement, adding: "This matter is not going to distract the president or this administration from its work to bring back jobs and keep America safe."
According to CNN, Obama administration officials were concerned about conversations between Flynn and Kislyak that took place shortly after President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on Russia for meddling in the election.
Sources said Flynn told Kislyak the Trump administration would look favorably on a decision by Russia to hold off on retaliating with its own sanctions. The next day, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he wouldn't retaliate. CNN reported that, according to its sources, Flynn also told Kislyak the incoming Trump administration would take another look at sanctions once in office.
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