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Why did Trump put a former foreign agent in a key security post?

It’s been nearly a month since Michael Flynn was forced to resign as White House National Security Advisor, following revelations that he lied about his communications with Russia. Flynn’s controversies, however, are not yet over. The Associated Press reported:
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired from his prominent White House job last month, has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before Election Day that may have aided the Turkish government.

Paperwork filed Tuesday with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit said Flynn and his firm were voluntarily registering for lobbying from August through November that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”
As the AP report explained, federal law requires Americans who lobby on behalf of foreign government or political entities to “disclose their work to the Justice Department.” Flynn had not, which left him open to possible criminal charges, so in his filings this week, he retroactively disclosed the work he did last year.

Or more specifically, from August through November of last year – when Flynn was also a trusted member of Donald Trump’s inner circle at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign. Soon after the election, the Republican tapped Flynn to oversee matters of national security at the White House, at which point Flynn stopped lobbying.

And that, in turn, creates an awkward dynamic: the Trump campaign and Turkey were paying Flynn at the same time? Trump asked a former foreign agent to be White House National Security Advisor? Did the president not consider why this might be a bad idea?

This came up, not surprisingly, during yesterday’s briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when a reporter asked if Trump was aware of the fact that Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when the president appointed him to serve as NSA. “I don’t believe that that was known,” Spicer replied, leaning heavily on passive voice.

It’s hard to say with confidence whether Spicer is telling the truth or not, but under the circumstances, even if we accept the answer at face value, it’s not unreasonable to wonder how and why the president didn’t know.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/18/16, 9:53 PM ET

Maddow: Flynn announcement really important, really worrying

Rachel Maddow breaks from her prepared script to point out to viewers that the position of national security adviser is not subject to a confirmation hearing so Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn’s conflicts and past statements will not be part of a public examination.
It’s been public knowledge for months that Flynn’s record included problematic and legally dubious lobbying work with Turkey. In fact, on Nov. 18, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) notified Team Trump about Flynn’s Turkish ties. (Trump offered Flynn the NSA job on Nov. 17.)

There was also this report on The Rachel Maddow Show at the time.

Is this evidence of a president who’s simply incurious about his staff’s connections with foreign governments? Did he ignore all of the coverage? Did Trump not ask or not care about the former foreign agent overseeing national security policy in his White House?

What’s more, to appreciate the full context of the story, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Flynn, throughout the campaign season, accused Hillary Clinton of being at the center of pay-to-play controversies involving federal governments.

During the Republican National Convention last year, Flynn joined the unhinged crowd in chanting “Lock her up!” while going after Hillary Clinton. “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today,” Flynn said at the time.

In retrospect, it’s a comment he almost certainly shouldn’t have made.

Donald Trump and White House

Why did Trump put a former foreign agent in a key security post?