Whistleblower points to Mike Flynn's money motives behind Russia contacts

This account from the whistleblower is said to be the strongest evidence the Trump administration was prepared to revoke sanctions imposed on Russia by president Barack Obama in 2016.

world Updated: Dec 07, 2017 22:05 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Mike Flynn,whistleblower,President Donald Trump
File photo of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn at a news briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP)

As President Donald Trump was taking the oath of office on January 20, his then national security adviser Michael Flynn messaged a business associate the Russia sanctions would be ripped up as one of the first acts of the new administration.

This account from a whistleblower, said to be the strongest evidence the Trump administration was prepared to revoke sanctions imposed on Russia by president Barack Obama in December 2016, was given to Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings.

It also, for the first time, identifies a financial motive behind the administration’s readiness to remove the sanctions. Till June 2016, Flynn was part of a business venture that was to partner Russia in building nuclear plants across West Asia. He had remained in touch with the venture since.

“Our Committee has credible allegations that President Trump’s National Security Advisor sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners,” Cummings wrote in a letter. “These grave allegations compel a full, credible, and bipartisan congressional investigation.”

About 10 minutes into Trump’s inaugural speech from Capitol Hill, Flynn texted to a business associate from the business venture that the project was “good to go” and directed him to contact business colleagues to “let them know to put things in place”, the whistleblower has said, recounting an encounter with this business associate later the same day in Washington.

Cummings, the ranking member of the House oversight committee that is conducting one of the congressional investigations into Russian meddling, said in his letter to the chairman of the body, Trey Gowdy, a Republican, this business associate told the whistleblower, who has not been identified, the “General was making sure that sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ as one of his first orders of business and that this would allow money to start flowing into the project”.

Asked why the US needs to be involved in these projects, the whistleblower was told “the US would provide military support to ‘defend these installations’. He also explained that this would provide a pretext for placing US military forces in these countries.”

Flynn was fired by Trump after barely three weeks in office for lying to the vice president about his contacts with Russians, which the president has said was really not as egregious as lies by other leaders such as Hillary Clinton. Flynn recently pleaded guilty to lying about the contacts to the FBI as well, which is a crime.

Flynn had several contacts with then Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. In one, according to federal prosecutors, Flynn sought Russia’s help to block or stall a vote in the UN Security Council on Israeli settlements, which the Obama administration was prepared to allow, and did, by abstaining.

Two, Flynn asked the Russians to not retaliate against Obama’s sanctions, indicating the new administration would overturn them. Russia went with it, and did not retaliate.

Flynn, cooperating with the Russia probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has told prosecutors both these interactions took place in December and were known to senior officials of the Trump transition team.

Cummings wrote in the letter that his office has been touch with Mueller’s team about the whistleblower, and waited, on its request, before making the announcement.

First Published: Dec 07, 2017 22:05 IST