People familiar with the matter say, Trump’s national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn leaked confidential info on the U.S. sanctions against Russia to the country’s envoy to the U.S. a month before Trump assumed office. The news contradicts the White House’s official statements about the issue.
Flynn’s talk with ambassador Sergey Kislyak pose a national security risk and might be illegal, official say. In the talks, Flynn reportedly suggested that the new administration wouldn’t keep in place the sanctions Obama administration had imposed on Russia in late December. The former administration resorted to sanctions to punish Kremlin for their alleged interfering in the U.S. elections.
Gen. Flynn initially denied having made the disclosures. In an interview Wednesday, he said the allegations were unfounded twice. On Thursday, Gen. Flynn told the press that he didn’t recall discussing sanctions but he couldn’t guarantee that he didn’t discuss the issue.
The FBI is reportedly analyzing the general’s communications with the Russian ambassador. People familiar with the matter said Flynn and Kislyak discussed the sanctions, but the U.S. official did not explicitly promise to lift them.
Officials said that Trump’s senior adviser on national security brought up the potential sanctions for Moscow in the wake of the cyber-attacks. At the time, the U.S. intelligence community suggested the Russian government backed the cyberattacks aimed at the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s servers.
Sources also said that the general and Kislyak had discussed before. Their first conversation dates back before the Nov. 8 election and the two continued to discuss the entire transition period. Kislyak recently confirmed the communications with Flynn but declined to say whether they discussed the sanctions.
The new revelations contradict official statements coming from then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence and other senior officials. These people had said the two indeed discussed but they ruled out the subject of sanctions.
In January, Pence told the CBS that the two did not discuss the U.S. measures to expel Russian diplomats and censure Russia. Pence said he had consulted with Flynn on the issue beforehand.
However, Pence made an even more mind-numbing statement: Trump’s campaign had no communications with Russia on the campaign trail whatsoever. The former Indiana governor dismissed the rumors that Russia backed the billionaire’s campaign as ‘bizarre’.
However, people with access to the intelligence community’s reports on Kislyak claim otherwise. The U.S. intel agencies closely monitor the communications of Russian operatives on U.S. soil. Around nine current and former officials who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity said Gen. Flynn explicitly told Russia not to overreact to the election-related sanctions. Flynn’s statement implied that the situation would change after Trump was sworn in.
One official said, that the ambassador was “left with the impression” that the White House would review the sanctions at a later time. Another official thinks that either Pence hid the truth or the incoming national security adviser misled Pence.
Experts are still debating whether Flynn violated the law. The Logan Act bars unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating on behalf of the U.S. with foreign governments. However, no one has ever been prosecuted for infringing this law, so a case against Flynn would be challenging.
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