US con­gress ex­am­ines fresh claims about Trump ad­viser

The Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - Stephanie Kirch­gaess­ner

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.

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