Trump aid Michael Flynn planned to 'rip up' Russia sanctions, says whistleblower

Michael Flynn leaving court surrounded by members of his legal team.
Michael Flynn leaving court surrounded by members of his legal team.PHOTO FOR THE WASHINGTON POST BY ESSDRAS M SUAREZ

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former White House security adviser Michael Flynn texted a businessman during President Donald Trump's inauguration speech that a Middle East nuclear power plant scheme with Russian partners was "good to go," a Democratic lawmaker alleged on Wednesday (Dec 6).

Representative Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said a whistleblower had contacted his office with evidence that Flynn was pushing to remove sanctions on Russia in order to spur the ambitious nuclear plan ahead.

The allegation posed new troubles for Flynn, who left the White House after barely three weeks and pleaded guilty last week to lying to FBI investigators in the Russia election meddling probe.

It also raised fresh questions on what Trump knew about Flynn's business plans as he appointed the retired three-star general his national security adviser.

According to Cummings, on January 20, 2017, the whistleblower had a conversation with Alex Copson, managing director of nuclear power promoter ACU Strategic Partners, as they attended Trump's inauguration.

Copson, who six months earlier had paid Flynn US$25,000 (S$33,000) to help promote his scheme, told the whistleblower that Flynn told him sanctions on Russia would be "ripped up" as a priority in the Trump government.

Only three weeks earlier, Russia sanctions had been expanded by the outgoing Obama administration to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"Mike has been putting everything in place for us," Copson told the whistleblower.

"This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people."

The ACU plan involved some two dozen nuclear power plants around the Middle East, to be developed jointly by the United States and Russia. Flynn reportedly began circulating the plan to top White House officials within days of the inauguration, but it never went anywhere.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he had also discussed the nuclear plan with a real estate industry friend of the president, Thomas Barrack, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Cummings, in a letter to Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the Oversight Committee, detailed the whistleblower's allegations and called on the committee to subpoena Flynn to testify.

"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," said Cummings.

He also requested subpoenas for Copson, Barack and other officials linked to the nuclear scheme.