Whistleblower: Michael Flynn told business colleague on inauguration day that Russia sanctions would be 'ripped up'

 

  • 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 is according to a whistleblower who described the incident to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.
  • The new details about Flynn's purported belief that the White House would immediately lift the sanctions sheds new light on Flynn's conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.


Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told a business associate in January that one of the Trump administration's first priorities would be to "rip up" the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in December, according to a whistleblower who described the incident to a Democratic congressman.

The congressman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, outlined the whistleblower's allegations in a letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Trey Gowdy earlier this week.

"I do not bring this whistle-blower 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 2017 to describe events that occurred at an event in Washington, DC, on the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration.

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Michael Flynn appears in court on Dec. 1, 2017
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Michael Flynn appears in court on Dec. 1, 2017
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (L) arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is escorted into a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017.
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn (L), former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A man protests outside as Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn (L), former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Security stand outside after Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrived at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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"At this event, the whistleblower met Alex Copson," Cummings wrote. Copson was working at the time with Flynn on a project to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, and Flynn reported in August that he served as an "advisor" to Copson's company between 2015-2016.

"During their conversation, Mr. Copson informed the whistleblower that he 'just got this text message' from General Flynn saying that the project — "involving a joint partnership between the United States and Russia relating to the energy sector in the Middle East" — was "good to go."

"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 [to the whistleblower] that General Flynn was making sure that sanctions would be 'ripped up," Cummings wrote.

Flynn pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Giving Russia 'exactly what they wanted in exchange for absolutely nothing'

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.

In return, the incoming White House would review the Obama sanctions, Flynn told him, according to the court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office. Flynn originally told the FBI that the issue of sanctions had not come up in his conversation. Mueller is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether any collusion occurred between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The Trump administration reportedly looked into lifting US sanctions on Russia just days after the president's inauguration. One 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."

The official, Tom Malinowski, 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.

"Please, my God, can't you stop this?" Fried recalled them asking.

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Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
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Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
National security adviser General Michael Flynn delivers a statement daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016.

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Retired United States Army lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn introduces Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump before he delivered a speech at The Union League of Philadelphia on September 7, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Trump spoke about his plans to build up the military if elected. Recent national polls show the presidential race is tightening with two months until the election.

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, at podium, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attend a campaign event with veterans at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., NW, where Trump stated he believes President Obama was born in the United States, September 16, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) yields the briefing room podium to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flynn said the White House is 'officially putting Iran on notice' for a recent missile test and support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, prepares to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Current and Future Worldwide Threats,' featuring testimony by he and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (C) arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn boards Air Force One at West Palm Beach International airport in West Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
National security adviser General Michael Flynn arrives to deliver a statement during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (L) arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: (AFP OUT) White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (R) walks down the West Wing Colonnade following a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and Abe are expected to discuss many issues, including trade and security ties and will hold a joint press confrence later in the day. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 02: (L-R) SCAD Dramatic writing professor Chris Auer, Producer Sandra Leviton, Executive producer and writer Michael Flynn, Tv literary agent Jeff Greenberg and Literary manager and producer Kaila York speak on stage during the 'Inside the Writers Room' event on Day One of aTVfest 2017 presented by SCAD on February 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (ret.), National Security Advisor Designate speaks during a conference on the transition of the US Presidency from Barack Obama to Donald Trump at the US Institute Of Peace in Washington DC, January 10, 2017. / AFP / CHRIS KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, U.S. national security advisor, attends a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a hallmark of our democracy. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Michael Flynn walks out after a morning worship service on Inauguration day at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (R), talks with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn inside of the inaugural parade reviewing stand in front of the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation's 45th president today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser-designate, center, stands in an elevator at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Donald Trump is slated to meet with AT&T Inc.'s top executives on Thursday to discuss the company's proposed $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. The president-elect has said he opposes the deal. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Gen. Michael T. Flynn (R) arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (ret.) and National Security Advisor Designate and Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor during a ceremonial passing of authority while participating in a conference on the transition of the US Presidency from Barack Obama to Donald Trump at the US Institute Of Peace in Washington DC, January 10, 2017. / AFP / CHRIS KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Nuclear ambitions

Joshua Roberts/ReutersCummings 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.

Read the full letter below:

Michael Flynn letter from Elijah Cummings to Trey Gowdy by Brett LoGiurato on Scribd

 

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