Witness: Flynn said Russia sanctions would be ‘ripped up’

  • While serving as national security adviser, Michael Flynn speaks during a daily news briefing at the White House in Washington in February. AP

Washington Post
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

As President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in January, his new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, sent a text to a former business associate telling him that a plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East in partnership with Russian interests was “good to go,” according to a witness who spoke with congressional investigators.

Flynn had assured his former associate that U.S. sanctions against Russia would immediately be “ripped up” by the Trump administration, a move that would help facilitate the deal, the associate told the witness.

The witness provided the account to Rep. Elijah Cummings, Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who detailed the allegations in a letter Wednesday to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Cummings did not identify the witness, whom he described as a whistleblower. But he asked Gowdy to issue a subpoena to the White House for documents related to Flynn, saying the committee has “credible allegations” that Flynn “sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners.”

Robert Kelner, an attorney representing Flynn, declined to comment. White House lawyer Ty Cobb said, “I respectfully decline to comment on anonymous information which impacts the Special Counsel investigation.” He was referring to the ongoing inquiry on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Gowdy said Wednesday afternoon that “criminal matters are investigated by the special counsel,” adding that he had pledged to Robert Mueller that he would not do anything to interfere with his probe.

“Congress doesn’t investigate a crime, and I’ve had that conversation with Mr. Cummings, and we had it privately,” he added. “And if he wants to write me letters so you can ask me about it, and write a story, that’s his prerogative, but the answer won’t change.”

The episode indicates that Trump officials had planned to jettison sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. Congress later passed a bipartisan measure that placed new sanctions on Russia, a bill that Trump reluctantly signed in August.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about conversations he had in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States about the sanctions, among other topics.

According to Cummings’ letter, the witness said he met Alex Copson, Flynn’s former business associate, at an inaugural event. Copson is the managing director of ACU Strategic Partners, a Washington-based company that Flynn said he advised from April 2015 through June 2016, according to a financial disclosure he filed this August.

The witness told Cummings and committee investigators that Copson shared a text message he had just received from Flynn during Trump’s speech.

As the president spoke, Flynn reportedly texted Copson that the nuclear project was “good to go,” the witness said Copson told him.

“Mike has been putting everything in place for us,” Copson said, according to the witness, adding: “This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”