National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, insists that when he met with Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, one month before the election, they did not talk about the current sanctions imposed against Russia.
Flynn’s insistence that the sanctions were not discussed was also corroborated by Mike Pence and other officials inside the Trump administration. However, according to The Washington Post, these claims are untrue.
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
But current and former American officials said that conversation — which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor — ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues.
While the discussion about lifting sanctions took place during the transition, the evidence shows that Flynn called, texted, and even met face-to-face with the Ambassador multiple times before the November election.
Flynn’s interaction with the Russian government extends well beyond the ambassador, however. Last year Flynn said he was paid to fly to Russia and attend a hosted by RT. At the gala, he was seated beside Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Flynn stunned former colleagues when he traveled to Moscow last year to appear alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a lavish gala for the Kremlin-run propaganda channel RT, a trip Flynn admitted he was paid to make and defended by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels such as CNN.
Flynn has long had ties with the state-run RT news agency, often appearing on their programs to criticize President Obama’s dealings with Russia and the sanctions.
While Flynn insists the discussions with Kislyak only took place in order to arrange discussions between the ambassador and Trump after the inauguration, it has been revealed by two government officials that Flynn told the ambassador not to worry and that the sanctions would only be temporary.
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.
Sanctions against Russia spiked after Obama revealed that evidence had surfaced that Russia had been involved in attempting to sway the 2016 election.
The current sanctions also have a broader detriment to other members of Trump’s cabinet. The sanctions prevent the execution of deal drafted by the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, while he was the CEO of ExxonMobil. That deal, which is valued at least $500 billion, would give Russia enough funds to overcome a growing budget deficit and expand their current military operations.
During Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, Tillerson flat out denied ever lobbying against the sanctions, a statement which is wholly untrue.
Government lobbying records show that in 2014 and 2015, Exxon paid the Nickles Group over $193,000 to press “issues related to Russian sanctions impacting the energy sector,” along with a number of other matters.
It paid another $120,000 in 2014 and 2015 to Avenue Solutions for work on a range of issues, including “energy sanctions in the Ukraine and Russia.”
While it’s currently unclear what discussions took place between Putin and Flynn, it is evident that Russia was asked to stay calm and allow Trump time to undo the sanctions that financially restricted Russia. It is also unclear if any of these promises played a role in Russia’s interference in the election.
Yet, it is reasonable to raise red flags when shortly after Obama issued further sanctions against the country, Putin announced he would not retaliate and that he would instead focus on “the restoration of Russia-United States relations” once Trump took office.
What is clear, is that Flynn and other officials, including the Vice President, lied to the public about such discussions, and why they felt the need to lie may be the most important unanswered question of all.
Dan Arel is a bestselling author of The Secular Activist; and Parenting Without God. He is an award-winning journalist and host of the Danthropology Podcast.