Friday, February 10, 2017

National Security Adviser May Have Discussed Sanctions With Russia Before Trump Took Office

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (L)
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is in the hot seat as transcripts indicate he discussed easing sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

Flynn has maintained that, prior to the inauguration, he had not communicated with Russia other than to begin planning for a phone call between then President-elect Trump and Russian President Putin.

Any discussion of easing sanctions while President Obama was still in office could be considered a potential violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.

From the New York Times:
Throughout the discussions, the message Mr. Flynn conveyed to the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak — that the Obama administration was Moscow’s adversary and that relations with Russia would change under Mr. Trump — was unambiguous and highly inappropriate, the officials said.

The accounts of the conversations raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers. They have said that Mr. Flynn spoke to Mr. Kislyak a few days after Christmas merely to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mr. Trump after the inauguration.

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.Trump

Some officials regarded the conversation as a potential violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government, according to one current and one former American official familiar with the case.

Federal officials who have read the transcript of the call were surprised by Mr. Flynn’s comments, since he would have known that American eavesdroppers closely monitor such calls. They were even more surprised that Mr. Trump’s team publicly denied that the topics of conversation included sanctions.

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