Whistleblower: Michael Flynn signed off on nuclear project with Russia during Trump's inaugural
WASHINGTON — Michael Flynn sent a text to a business partner as President Trump was delivering his inaugural address last January that a joint plan between Russia and Flynn's business allies to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East was "good to go."
That's the account a whistleblower told Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has been investigating Flynn's role in the project. Cummings described the account in a letter Wednesday to the panel's Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Here's the letter describing a whistleblower's account of Michael Flynn's conversation about Russia sanctions: https://t.co/BAVgVPirzn— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 6, 2017
Cummings also said the whistleblower quoted a business associate of Flynn as saying the economic sanctions against Russia imposed by former President Obama would be "ripped up" as Flynn's first order of business as Trump's national security adviser.
NEW: Michael Flynn told former business associates that the Trump admin would remove Russia sanctions upon taking power, per NYT. https://t.co/OnNKXJshSY— Axios (@axios) December 6, 2017
The Maryland Democrat said he considered "credible" the allegations that Flynn "sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners."
Cummings said the whistleblower, whom he did not identify in the letter, "fears retaliation," but would speak with Gowdy if he agrees to protect the whistleblower's identity. Cummings and committee Democrats have complained that Gowdy has stiff-armed the Flynn investigation since he took over the committee in June by consistently refusing to issue subpoenas to the White House and various administration officials, Flynn's consulting firm and his business colleagues related to the matter. The letter asks that the committee issue subpoenas for Flynn-related documents the committee requested on a bipartisan basis in March.
"I believe the American people want Congress to hold President Trump and his administration accountable," Cummings wrote, "and they are tired of Republicans in Congress putting their heads in the sand when faced with credible allegations of grave abuses."
He said Gowdy's handling of the matter sharply contrasts with the lengthy inquiry he led into allegations about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "that were debunked years ago."
Neither Gowdy nor Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, responded immediately to a request for comment.
The whistleblower, who provided his account to Cummings in June, said he was with Alex Copson, managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners, a key Flynn ally on the nuclear project, on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
"Mike has been putting everything in place for us," Copson told the whistleblower. "I am going to celebrate today. This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people."
The whistleblower said Copson showed him his phone with Flynn's text message; it was sent at 12:11 p.m., about 10 minutes into Trump's inaugural speech. Copson told the whistleblower, according to the Cummings letter, that Flynn would ensure the sanctions were withdrawn.
Copson, according to the whistleblower, said Obama's sanctions had "[expletive] everything up in my nuclear deal with the sanctions."
Copson could not be reached for comment.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and former high-ranking intelligence officer, pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his discussions with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, about the sanctions the day after they were imposed.
But in his interview with the FBI Jan. 24, according to the Justice Department documents, Flynn lied when he said he did not ask Kislyak "to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia." He also lied when he said he did not recall a follow-up conversation with the ambassador, who said that "Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of Flynn's request."
As part of his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, Flynn agreed to be a cooperative witness in exchange for avoiding prosecution on other charges that might be related to his involvement with Russia during the campaign, the presidential transition and his brief stint as national security adviser.