WASHINGTON - Democrats in the U.S. Congress are calling for an investigation into whether White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about U.S. sanctions before the Trump administration took office.
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Friday that Flynn discussed the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration, despite denials from the Trump administration that the talks dealt with that subject.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Friday that he is not aware of reports that Flynn discussed the Russian sanctions. He said he will look into the matter. Although later, he said he had “full confidence” in Flynn.
Several Democratic senators called for an investigation of Flynn, while others urged Trump to fire him and for intelligence officials to review his security clearance.
Nine anonymous people described as current and former U.S. officials told the Post that Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak explicitly discussed the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration after the election hacking scandal.
The calls came at the same time as the Obama administration planned to roll out the sanctions, which raised suspicions by U.S. intelligence officials and initiated an investigation.
Flynn denied to the Post on Wednesday that he discussed the sanctions with Kislyak, but he backtracked Thursday, telling the Post through a spokesperson that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
Vice President Mike Pence also denied the conversation happened during an interview last month with CBS News, calling it one of the “bizarre rumors that have swirled around [Trump’s] candidacy.”
Those statements are at odds with the Post’s new report about the conversation, which was one of several contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that started before the November 8 election and continued through the transition period, according to the newspaper.
Knowledge of the conversation came from reports compiled by intelligence officials who monitor the communications of Russian diplomats.
According to The New York Times, the officials had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak, which are classified. Officials with access to those reports then leaked details to the two newspapers.
The officials told the Post that Flynn’s conversation could possibly violate a U.S. law against unauthorized citizens engaging in negotiations with foreign governments.
Under the Logan Act, it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to correspond with any foreign government "with intent to influence the measures or conduct" of that government "in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States."
The officials said it would be difficult to build a case against Flynn, however, because no one has ever been prosecuted under the law.
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