WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump’s former national security adviser told a business associate that U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia would be “ripped up” by the new administration, according to a whistleblower account made public Wednesday in a letter written by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Michael T. Flynn, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI, was communicating with former business associates “within minutes” of Trump’s inauguration, according to the letter — reassuring them Russian investments would soon be available as the Trump administration lifted sanctions.
The allegation — which suggests the Trump administration was eager to lift sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama and that Flynn may have blurred his public and private roles during his brief run at the White House — was outlined in a letter Cummings sent to Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“I do not bring this whistleblower to your attention lightly,” Cummings, the Baltimore lawmaker and top Democrat on the committee wrote in the letter.
“I have attempted to advance this investigation without exposing individuals to personal or professional risk. But the exceptionally troubling allegations in this case — combined with ongoing obstruction from the White House and others — have made this step necessary.”
Cummings did not name the whistleblower in the letter, but offered to have Gowdy speak with the person directly.
Trump initially considered lifting the Russian sanctions — which were a response to Moscow’s military intervention in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 — but ultimately decided against it. The project referenced by the whistleblower, an effort to build nuclear reactors in the Mideast with Russian support, never got off the ground.
Cummings said that the whistleblower's allegations raise concerns that Flynn improperly aided the nuclear project after joining the White House as one of Trump's top security officials. Flynn had been a paid consultant for the business venture before he joined the Trump campaign last year.
The whistleblower told House Democrats that while Trump spoke at his inauguration, Flynn texted from his seat on the Capitol steps to Alex Copson, the managing director of ACU Strategic Partners and the nuclear project's main promoter. The whistleblower said during a conversation, Copson described his messages with Flynn and briefly flashed one of the texts, which appeared to have been sent 10 minutes after Trump began speaking.
“Mike has been putting everything in place for us,” Copson said, according to the whistleblower. Copson added that “this is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.” The whistleblower also said that Copson intimated that U.S. financial sanctions hobbling the nuclear project were going to be “ripped up.”
Attorneys for Flynn and Copson did not immediately return email and phone requests for comment.
In Flynn's agreement last week to plead guilty to one count of making false statements, prosecutors said that Flynn lied to FBI agents about his discussions on sanctions against Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.