Retired Lt. Gen. Flynn served as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, and then served as President Donald Trump‘s national security adviser in the White House for less than a month before he was fired for what the administration said was lying about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence.

Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at the gala, and was placed in the “seat of honor” next to the Russian president.

“It is not coincidence that Flynn was placed next to President Putin,” Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador in Moscow from 2012 to 2014 and now an NBC News analyst said in April. “Flynn was considered a close Trump adviser. Why else would they want him there?”

Flynn told the Washington Post in August, 2016 that he did not ask to sit next to Putin or worry about the optics. “I was one of the guests there,” he told the newspaper. “Some interesting characters. I found it a great learning opportunity. One of the things I learned was that Putin has no respect for the United States leadership. Not for the United States, but the leadership.”

The FBI is now conducting an investigation, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, into Russian attempts to interfere in the last U.S. presidential election, including whether there could have been any connection to associates of the Trump campaign.

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