Politics

Flynn said Russian sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ when Trump became president, whistleblower says

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistleblower made public on Wednesday.

Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistleblower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia.

Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, according to the whistleblower, Flynn texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.”

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The account is detailed in a letter written by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. In the letter, Cummings said that the whistleblower contacted his office in June and has authorized him to go public with the details. He did not name the whistleblower.

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“These grave allegations compel a full, credible and bipartisan congressional investigation,” Cummings wrote.

Flynn has been under investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, for calls he made last December to Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time. Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about the nature of his calls, during which the men discussed the sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia.

In his letter, Cummings also said that his staff had been in consultations with Mueller’s team, which brought the criminal charge against Flynn. Staffers for the special counsel asked Cummings not to make the whistleblower’s account public until “they completed certain investigative steps,” he wrote.

A lawyer for Flynn declined to comment.