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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

Flynn eyed gains if sanctions fell

On Trump staff, he aided private nuclear project

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – As Donald Trump delivered his presidential inaugural address last January, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, told a former business associate in text messages that a private plan to build nuclear reactors in the Mideast was “good to go” and that U.S. sanctions hobbling the plan would soon be “ripped up,” a whistleblower told congressional investigators.

The nuclear project that Flynn and his business associate had worked on together was stymied by U.S. financial sanctions on Russia.

The witness's account, made public Wednesday by the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, raises new concerns about the extent to which Flynn may have blurred his private and public interests during his brief stint inside the White House.

Trump fired Flynn in February, saying he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with Russia's ambassador.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty in federal court last week to one count of making false statements to the FBI and is now a cooperating witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible coordination between Trump's campaign and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 election.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday the whistleblower's allegations raise concerns that Flynn improperly aided the nuclear project after joining the White House as one of Trump's top national security officials. The project has yet to get off the ground.

Cummings detailed the whistleblower's allegations in a letter to committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and urged Gowdy to authorize subpoenas to Flynn and his business associates to learn more about his efforts.

In a reply late Wednesday, Gowdy declined, saying he shared Cummings' letter with Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking Democrat heading the House intelligence committee inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

Flynn had been a paid consultant for the venture before he joined the Trump campaign last year. The plan, backed by a group of investors, nuclear power adherents and former U.S. military officers, was to construct dozens of nuclear reactors across the Mideast with aid from Russian and other international private interests.

House Democrats noted that a federal ethics law requires White House officials to refrain for a year from dealing with any outside interests they had previously worked with on private business.

“Our committee has credible allegations that President Trump's national security adviser sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners,” Cummings said.