Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, spoke about sanctions in a call with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before inauguration, current and former U.S. officials told several news outlets.
The reports contradict public statements made by the Trump team denying that Flynn spoke about U.S. sanctions with Russian officials before the President took office.
The revelation that Flynn discussed sanctions was first reported by the Washington Post on Thursday night. Nine anonymous current and former U.S. officials told the newspaper that Flynn explicitly mentioned to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the sanctions imposed by the U.S. due to Russian cyber attacks during the 2016 election. Per the Post:
Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
The Trump team has acknowledged that Flynn did make contact with Kislyak before Trump took office. But Vice President Mike Pence denied in January that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during those calls.
Flynn also denied during a Wednesday interview with the Washington Post that he discussed sanctions Kislyak. But in a Thursday interview, a spokesman for the national security adviser told the newspaper that Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
Flynn told the Post that on the calls, he discussed setting up a call between Trump and Vladimir Putin, as well as the death of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. Kislyak confirmed to the Post that he had contact with Flynn before Trump was elected but would not elaborate on what the two discussed.
The FBI was still investigating Flynn’s contacts with Russia, U.S. officials told the Post. Those who spoke with the newspaper said that Flynn’s contact was not appropriate and could possibly be illegal:
Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.