Donald Trump was just 11 minutes into his presidency last January when his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business associate from the steps of the Capitol that an American plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East with Russia was "good to go," a whistleblower's account says.
Flynn, according to the whistleblower, assured the former associate that sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama in response to Moscow's meddling in the 2016 election would immediately be "ripped up."
The account, divulged Wednesday by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the lead Democrat on the House oversight committee, came less than a week after Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to federal investigators when they questioned him just days after Trump was inaugurated about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump assumed power.
Meeting with associate
Cummings did not name the whistleblower. But in a detailed account, Cummings said the whistleblower later on Inauguration Day, January 20, attended an event where he met with Alex Copson, managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners and the business associate Flynn had purportedly texted from the seats behind Trump as he gave his inaugural address.
The whistleblower, according to Cummings's account, asked Copson how he was doing, and quoted Copson as saying, "I couldn't be better. This is the best day of my life."
Copson told the whistleblower that he had gotten a text from Flynn that the nuclear project that Copson had "been working on for years" was "good to go" and to tell their business associates to "let them know to put things in place," Cummings wrote in a letter to the House oversight panel's chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Copson showed the whistleblower his cellphone with the purported Flynn text, although he did not read it. But the whistleblower said he saw that the time stamp was 12:11 p.m., 11 minutes after Trump was sworn in as the country's 45th president.
Copson told the whistleblower, according to the Cummings account, "Mike has been putting everything in place for us. I am going to celebrate today. This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people."
Cummings said that after he met with the whistleblower, he found him "to be authentic, credible and reliable."
Lies cited in firing
Trump fired Flynn 24 days into his service as national security adviser after wiretaps showed he had discussed the sanctions with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials about the nature of his conversations with Moscow's envoy.
As it turned out, the Obama sanctions — the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and closure of two Russian facilities in the U.S. — were never lifted. Months later, Russia retaliated by ordering the U.S. to cut 755 of its 1,200 workers at several U.S. outposts in Russia, who in many instances were Russians.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is in the midst of a criminal investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded the Russian meddling was personally directed by President Vladimir Putin, aimed at undermining U.S. democracy and helping the Republican Trump defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Putin has denied Russian interference, while Trump has repeatedly railed against congressional investigations and the Mueller probe into Russia links to his campaign as excuses by Democrats to explain his upset victory over Clinton.
As part of his guilty plea, Flynn has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.