US congress examines fresh claims about Trump adviser
US congressional investigators are examining whether Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, secretly promoted a plan by private business interests to build US-Russian nuclear power plants in the Middle East while he was serving in the White House.
The retired general, who once led a chant of “lock her up” against Hillary Clinton at the Republican national convention, has emerged as a central figure in multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
Among new details unearthed by investigators working for a congressional committee is that the nuclear power plan Flynn was allegedly secretly promoting, during the campaign and once he joined the White House, involved a Russian state-owned company that is now under US sanctions.
They are also examining whether the proposal is still being promoted by the Trump administration, months after Flynn was forced out of his role.
A letter released yesterday by top Democrats investigating Flynn, who was forced to resign from his post in February because of questions about his links to Russia, accused him of violating federal law when he failed to disclose a trip he took to the Middle East in June 2015 to promote the US-Russia project, as well as several contacts with foreigners that they allege ought to have been declared.
The lawmakers said the apparent violations could carry a penalty of five years in prison and that new information they had discovered had been provided to Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is leading a federal investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with the Kremlin in the 2016 election.
The congressional letter states that Flynn refused to provide the committee with any explanation for the trip, but did not deny allegations that the Middle East trip and other foreign contacts had been omitted from his security clearance renewal application in 2016, and concealed from investigators who were conducting a background check on him.
The letter also alleges that one of the consultants claimed to be working on the nuclear project, Thomas Cochran of ACU, who provided the congressional investigators with information, said that even after Flynn was fired from his post, the proposal continued to be seen as part of the Trump administration’s diplomatic “toolkit”.
Cochran said he believed it was seen by both the US president and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, as a “valuable private-sector mechanism” for stabilising and improving relations with Russia.
Lawmakers said they had received no specific information about the identity of foreign government officials that Flynn communicated with before, during, or after his trip.