A former Trump official corrected a claim to she made to federal investigators about what she knew during the presidential transition about Russia sanctions after former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the Russia investigation contradicted her account, according to a person familiar with the matter.
McFarland, who served as Flynn’s deputy on the National Security Council, was first interviewed by the FBI without a lawyer at her Hamptons home in summer 2017, the person said. She said at that time she didn’t have a precise memory of whether Flynn had spoken to the then-Russian ambassador or what they may have discussed.
But shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions, McFarland spoke to the special counsel’s office. She had reviewed her notes and documents by then and walked back what she previously said — this time saying that she could infer from a general conversation with Flynn that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak.
The Post reported that McFarland and her lawyer were able to sway the FBI that it was not her intent to mislead the agency.
There’s been no indication since her interview at special counsel Robert Mueller’s office months ago that she is a target of a criminal investigation. McFarland has not been charged with a crime.
Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced this December. To date, no other known criminal case relates to his conversations with and about Russia during the Trump transition.
The Post noted that McFarland phoned the newspaper on January 13, 2017, and insisted in an on-the-record conversation that Flynn and Kislyak had never discussed sanctions, and stressed that her memory of this was clear.
McFarland did not respond to the newspaper’s multiple requests for comment.
In December 2016, after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia to punish it for interfering in the election, McFarland emailed other Trump transition officials to plan their response, according to The New York Times. She reportedly said Flynn would be talking to the Russian diplomat and encouraged a de-escalation of the situation.
Flynn soon spoke to Kislyak and urged him not to retaliate, according to court filings. Flynn lied to the FBI about their talks and later pleaded guilty to making false statements. As part of his deal with prosecutors, Flynn agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Court documents charging Flynn state that he spoke to a senior transition team official about what to discuss with Kislyak after the Obama administration’s new Russia sanctions on December 29.
McFarland was not named in the court filings, but CNN confirmed she is the transition official who spoke to Flynn.
But she told senators in July 2017 that she didn’t recall talking to Flynn about his communications with Kislyak — which Democrats accused of being misleading or possibly even perjury.
McFarland was questioned on the matter during her confirmation process to be US ambassador to Singapore, but her nomination was withdrawn in February.