Michael Flynn Lied About Russian Sanctions, Sent ‘Inappropriate and Potentially Illegal Signal’
by Mark Sumner –
A month before Trump was inaugurated, National Security Adviser-to-be Michael Flynn held multiple conversations with Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Asked whether those conversations included US sanctions imposed against Russia, Flynn gave a definitive answer.
Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”
Flynn wasn’t the only one. Other officials in the Trump regime, including Mike Pence, also denied that there had been any discussion of the sanctions. The problem with that answer—it’s not true.
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
The discussion of lifting sanctions took place during the transition, but it wasn’t Flynn’s only exchange with Kislyak. Trump’s National Security Adviser called, texted, and met with the Russian Ambassador even before the election. And if Flynn was lying about his meetings with Kislyak, what about his meeting with Putin.
Flynn stunned former colleagues when he traveled to Moscow last year to appear alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a lavish gala for the Kremlin-run propaganda channel RT, a trip Flynn admitted he was paid to make and defended by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels such as CNN.
Flynn had previously passed off his communications with Kislyak as simply lining up a discussion between Trump and the ambassador after the inauguration. That seems to be a vast understatement of both the scale and range of their discussions.
In fact, Flynn did more than just discuss sanctions with Kislyak. He assured the ambassador that those sanctions were only temporary.
All of those officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. 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.
Flynn is just one of several Trump advisers with connections to the Russian state, and he’s not the only one who was in regular communication with Russia during the campaign.
Russian government officials had contacts with members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, in a report that could reopen scrutiny over the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton. …
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Rybakov said. “… I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”
Flynn’s communications with Kislyak spiked after Barack Obama announced additional sanctions for Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
Sanctions against Russia currently prevent the execution of deal drafted by recently confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while he was the CEO of ExxonMobil. That deal, valued at $500 billion or more, would gift Russia with enough funds to overcome a growing budget deficit and expand their military operations. During his confirmation hearings, Tillerson denied having lobbied against the sanctions, but records show that was also not true.
Government lobbying records show that in 2014 and 2015, Exxon paid the Nickles Group over $193,000 to press “issues related to Russian sanctions impacting the energy sector,” along with a number of other matters.
It paid another $120,000 in 2014 and 2015 to Avenue Solutions for work on a range of issues, including “energy sanctions in the Ukraine and Russia.”
WHAT WE KNOW:
○ Michael Flynn lied about the content of his discussions with Russian officials and downplayed the frequency of his communication. Despite earlier denials, he discussed the sanctions—and told the Russians that those sanctions would soon be under ‘review.’
○ Flynn and other Trump officials were in frequent contact with Russian counterparts both before the election and during the transition.
○ Rex Tillerson lied about lobbying against the sanctions. Lifting the sanctions would allow completion of an ExxonMobil deal for Russian oil and gas rights that could reward Putin with half a trillion dollars.
○ Russia interfered with the 2016 election with the direct intention of boosting Trump’s changes and damaging the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW:
○ What did Flynn discuss with Putin on his visit to Moscow?
○ What did Flynn and other Trump officials discuss with Russian officials previous to the election?
○ How much of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was dependent on promises made by Trump or others to “review” sanctions once Trump was in office?
Official concern about Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak was heightened when Putin declared on Dec. 30 that Moscow would not retaliate after the Obama administration announced a day earlier the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies and the forced closure of Russian-owned compounds in Maryland and New York.
Instead, Putin said he would focus on “the restoration of Russia-United States relations” after Obama left office, and put off considering any retaliatory measures until Moscow had a chance to evaluate Trump’s policies.
Trump responded with effusive praise for Putin. “Great move on the delay,” he said in a posting to his Twitter account. “I always knew he was very smart.”
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos