February 15, 2017 04:56 PM EST
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Watch: President Trump told Flynn to defend himself
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is ready to confront critics of his contacts with Russia, taking some advice Donald Trump gave him in his waning hours inside the administration when the president urged the retired Army general to fight for his honor.
Sources close to Flynn told Circa that he is willing to testify before Congress about his conversations with the Russian ambassador if asked and what he believes is an all-out assault by some members of the intelligence community to target him.
Here’s the latest on the controversy over intelligence leaks and Russia.
Flynn got a bit of a boost Wednesday from his former boss, less than 48 hours after his surprise resignation. During a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump declared that “Flynn is a wonderful man” and that he was treated “unfairly.”
The leaks occurred after ongoing investigations by the FBI and intelligence agencies last year that were intercepting phone calls and other forms of communication to determine the extent of Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee; which they believed was an attempt to disrupt the U.S. election. There was no evidence, however, that anyone in the Trump administration was colluding with the Russians. But a number of lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the Trump administration’s dealings with Russia.
But those intercepts apparently showed members of Trump’s camp communicating with Russia, according to The New York Times and raised into question the Trump camp’s close connection with the Russian government. In Flynn’s case, however, the phone calls were wiretapped between the then-incoming national security advisor and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, said U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation.
“Flynn has no problem testifying before anybody or any committee,” said a source close to Flynn. “There was a concerted effort by certain people to go after Flynn, and these leaks are clear violations of federal law. There were only three organizations with this information – the FBI, NSA and the CIA. If they are going to investigate Flynn, they should first investigate the leaks.”
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution told Circa that it appears Flynn did not break any laws.
“What General Flynn said in late December didn’t really therefore cause the concerns the Logan Act was designed to address,” O’Hanlon said. “Everybody knew that President Trump was going to have a different Russia policy, and everybody knew things like sanctions would probably be reconsidered. Moreover, I don’t see that there was a specific promise made in this phone transcript. I don’t see anymore than Flynn confirming there would be a new direction in U.S. Russia policy under President Trump.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said his committee will investigate who leaked the classified information regarding Flynn’s phone conversation, according to numerous reports.
Nunes also said there will not be an investigation into Flynn.
Flynn, “takes responsibility for his mistakes and feels as though he let the president and vice president down,” the source close to Flynn said Tuesday.
“He did not violate any laws – he made a mistake and did not remember the number of phone calls he made or every point of the conversation with the Russian ambassador. But that is not a crime,” the source said.
The Department of Justice warned Trump on Jan. 26, that Flynn would be susceptible to blackmail by the Russians because he was not completely forthright about his conversations regarding sanctions when he spoke to the Russian ambassador. Vice President Mike Pence had publicly defended Flynn on national television stating that the then-national security adviser did not discuss sanctions with Russia. But Pence didn’t know about the DOJ warning until Feb. 9, according to NBC News.
The transcribed phone calls – which were monitored by law enforcement – were divulged to The Washington Post by people with direct access to the investigation, a U.S. official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named due to the nature of their work.
Those “classified investigations are very heavily guarded and the names would not even be shared with people outside the investigation, or even members of the administration. Why a number of sources in the intelligence and law enforcement community chose to violate the law needs to be investigated. These actions put everyone at risk and the credibility of the intelligence community,” the U.S. official said.
Staff working for Flynn – despite repeated requests – did not have access to the transcripts of the phone conversations, a White House official said.
As of early Monday, President Trump was said to be torn over what to do with Flynn, who has been a close ally since the beginning of the presidential campaign. By Monday night Flynn had resigned.
The White House official, who also had knowledge of the transcript, said Flynn only responded to the ambassador after the sanctions questions were raised and his response did not violate any laws.
Follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC