The job of assembling candidates for positions in the Trump White House was given to outgoing New Jersey governor and perennial Trump punching-bag, Chris Christie. Christie’s team brought Trump a list of possible NSA nominees that they considered qualified — a list that notably did not include Michael Flynn. Flynn had been booted from his position under Obama, and both Christie and everyone he interviewed seemed to agree that Flynn was, at best, an unreliable flake.
Christie appears to be the only one who failed to realize that Trump’s “important assignment” was just another way of humiliating his former opponent. Again. And again. But Donald Trump’s selection of Flynn for the NSA role went into far stranger territory than just his innate love for anyone or anything that he thinks Barack Obama hated. It even went beyond the side bonus of giving Chris Christie an extra little dash of humiliation. It went into the … decidedly odd.
Christie and his top aides on the transition brought this list and others in binders to a meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower shortly after the election. The goal of the meeting was to begin to review names for top jobs in the administration, according to the two sources familiar with the transition.
Also in attendance were Bannon, Rick Dearborn, Sen. Jeff Sessions, and Trump’s children including Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, and Jared Kushner. This same group had met every Monday in-person or on a conference call since the transition began in earnest.
The Trump “brain trust” sets down to populate the White House with whole folders full of candidates. Only …
Flynn was not on the invitation list but somehow found out about the meeting and crashed it, said two people familiar with the transition.
And then the uninvited guest was asked to pick any job he wanted. Seriously.
The person actually doing the selection? Not Christie.
Ivanka Trump asked Flynn what he would like to do in the administration at the beginning of the session and indicated how grateful she was for Flynn’s help and loyalty to her father. …
Flynn told the group that he wanted to be secretary of state, secretary of defense, or national security adviser.
So Ivanka let Flynn pick a job. Any job he wanted. But of course …
(An administration official clarified that Ivanka Trump wasn’t being serious in asking Flynn which job he would prefer since that was not her role.)
In fact, Ivanka was so un-serious that …
By mid-November, the NSA job was officially his.
In fact, Flynn had the job within a week of asking for it. But why? When everyone in the campaign was telling Trump that Flynn was a bad choice, when Flynn’s connections with Turkey were already drawing unflattering attention, when his well-known dinner with Vladimir Putin was already adding to the Trump–Russia bonfire … why choose Flynn?
It’s true, he was an Islamophobic jackass who could be counted on to match Trump racist tweet for racist tweet. But was that enough for Flynn to secure the NSA role?
There was another factor. It wasn’t just after the election that Flynn became deeply involved in exchanging information with Russia. The Moscow dinner happened at the end of 2015. Flynn was working the Russia angle with pro-Russian Congressman Dana Rohrabacher months before the election.
Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting, according to one of the sources, as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
And Flynn is known to have have multiple contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak to discuss Russian sanctions previous to that meeting with Ivanka.
The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. In a recent interview, Kislyak confirmed that he had communicated with Flynn by text message, by phone and in person, but declined to say whether they had discussed sanctions.
Flynn showed up at a meeting where he was supposedly uninvited. At this meeting, Ivanka Trump asked Flynn to name any job he wanted. He did. Within a week, he was awarded the job over the recommendations of the team supposedly assembled to fill that role. All of this came after Flynn had not only visited with Putin, but held an unknown number of meetings with the Russian ambassador.
All of which means that who really picked Michael Flynn as the National Security Advisor for the United States … is still an open question.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.