President Donald Trump's embattled National Security Advisor Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has new allegations to face with a report Thursday from The Washington Post saying he did, despite earlier denials, discuss sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month prior to Trump assuming office.
At specific issue is a conversation Flynn had with Kislyak on Dec. 29th, the day the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia for their alleged involvement in the hacking of former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s email, The Blaze reported in January.
At the time, some senior officials interpreted Flynn's conversation with Kislyak as inappropriate and possibly illegal due to a law prohibiting unauthorized private citizens involving themselves in disputes with foreign governments. Because Trump had not yet assumed the office of the presidency in early November when Flynn and Kislyak began communicating via text message, phone and in person, Flynn was, by default, not yet a part of the government.
Flynn denied that anything inappropriate was discussed at the time, and continued to make the same denial on Wednesday when word of the new allegations broke, according to The Post report. On Thursday, Flynn's spokesman backed away from those earlier denials saying that Flynn could now not recollect if the issue of sanctions ever came up in his conversations with Kislyak.
Despite the denials, these new allegations come, according to the Post, from nine current and former officials "who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."
All of those officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
“Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said a former official.
Complicating the matter is Vice President Mike Pence's support of Flynn back in January, when he told CBS News that Flynn and Kislyak "did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
With word of the corroboration by senior administration officials that sanctions were indeed discussed, Flynn held a phone call with Pence Friday, leading some to believe that he may have misled the vice president as to the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador.
Now at least two top Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are calling for Flynn's suspension amid the allegations, while the CIA has reportedly rejected security clearance for a top Flynn deputy effectively ending his tenure on the National Security Council.
President Trump claimed to be unaware of the Flynn controversy as he traveled to Florida on Friday afternoon as part of a weekend trip with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reported the Post.