Michael Flynn told a business associate in January that Russia sanctions would be "ripped up" under the Trump administration, a whistleblower says.
- The former national security adviser Michael Flynn told a business associate that Russia sanctions would be "ripped up" as one of the Trump administration's first acts.
- That's according to a whistleblower who described the incident to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.
- The whistleblower's account may shed new light on Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The former national security adviser Michael Flynn told a business associate in January sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration in December would be "ripped up" under President Donald Trump, a whistleblower told a Democratic congressman.
The congressman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, outlined the whistleblower's allegations in a letter to the House Oversight Committee's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, earlier this week.
"I do not bring this whistleblower to your attention lightly," Cummings said. "I have attempted to advance this investigation without exposing individuals to personal or professional risk. But the exceptionally troubling allegations in this case — combined with ongoing obstruction from the White House and others — have made this step necessary."
Cummings said the whistleblower contacted his office in June to describe what occurred at an event in Washington, DC, on the day of Trump's inauguration.
"At this event, the whistleblower met Alex Copson," Cummings wrote. Copson was working at the time with Flynn to promote a project to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, and Flynn reported in August that he served as an adviser to Copson's company between 2015 and 2016.
Copson described the project to the whistleblower as "involving a joint partnership between the United States and Russia relating to the energy sector in the Middle East," the letter said.
"During their conversation, Mr. Copson informed the whistleblower that he 'just got this text message' from General Flynn saying that the project was 'good to go,'" the letter said.
"Mike has been putting everything in place for us … This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people," Copson told the whistleblower, according to Cummings' letter.
"Mr. Copson explained that General Flynn was making sure that sanctions would be 'ripped up,'" the letter said, adding that Copson told the whistleblower that President Barack Obama had "f—ed everything up in my nuclear deal with the sanctions."
Giving Russia 'exactly what they wanted in exchange for absolutely nothing'
The revelations in the letter may shed new light on Flynn's conversations last December with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about those conversations in an interview one month later.
On December 29, the day the Obama administration imposed new sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation for Moscow's election meddling, Flynn called Kislyak and asked that Russia not escalate the situation, according to court documents filed by the special counsel Robert Mueller's office. In return, Flynn told Kislyak, the incoming White House would review the sanctions.
Flynn had told the FBI that the issue of sanctions did not come up in his conversation. Mueller is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials.
The Trump administration reportedly looked into lifting US sanctions on Russia just days after the president's inauguration. Tom Malinowski, a former State Department official, told Business Insider that if those efforts were successful, it would have given the Russians "exactly what they wanted in exchange for absolutely nothing."
He and Daniel Fried, who was the chief US coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February, lobbied Congress to halt the development of the sanctions-lifting package after government officials began ringing "alarm bells about possible concessions being made" to Russia, Malinowski said.
Fried told Yahoo News that US government officials called him in a panic after receiving the White House's request.
He recalled them asking, "Please, my God, can't you stop this?"
Cummings has long been ringing the alarm about Flynn's involvement in the nuclear project. He sent a letter to Mueller in September alleging that Flynn had failed to disclose a trip he took to Egypt and Israel in 2015 to pursue a joint Russia-Saudi Arabia project "to build nuclear reactors in the Arab world."
Gowdy did not sign on to that letter at the time because he did "not want to interfere with the Special Counsel's investigation," an aide said at the time.
Cummings said in the letter, which he co-wrote with the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that "it appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts from his security clearance renewal application in 2016 and concealing them from security clearance investigators who interviewed him as part of the background check process."
Copson told the Democrats at the time that his company covered Flynn's travel expenses to Egypt and Israel. Flynn accepted the payment, but did not disclose that on his initial security filings, either, according to Cummings' letter.
Flynn's attorneys told the Democrats that they would only respond to requests for more information about the trip in response to "compulsory process," which would require a sign off from the Republicans on the committee.
The letter ended with a request for "all documents and communications referring or relating" to Flynn's contacts with foreign persons during the presidential campaign, the transition period, his tenure as national security adviser, and after he was fired from that position in February 2017. The White House has yet to provide those documents.