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Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office

Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office

Reuters reported last month, citing three sources familiar with the matter, that Flynn had held five phone calls with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak on 29 December, the day then-President Barack Obama retaliated for Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.

On Wednesday Flynn again denied he had discussed sanctions, but by Thursday the Post reported that a spokesman for Flynn "indicated that while [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up". However, Flynn, through a spokesman, slightly backtracked on Thursday. In an interview last month, Vice President Mike Pence told CBS: "They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russian Federation".

On January 13, President Donald Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Flynn and Kislyak coordinated the logistics of a call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vice President Mike Pence was among those to deny that sanctions came up in the conversation in late December.

"We're getting mixed messages" on Russian Federation, a senior western diplomat who has met with Flynn recently told CNN, going on to suggest that while State Department officials are adamant that sanctions will remain in place until Russian Federation withdraws from Crimea, those closer to Trump at the White House are offering less certain assurances.

Last month the Washington Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had picked up communications between Flynn and Kislyak but had not found any evidence of wrongdoing or "illicit ties to the Russian government".

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As a result, some officials believe that Flynn may have broken the law, citing the Logan Act, which states that a US citizen can not interfere in foreign diplomacy.

The New York Times reported that Flynn's message to the ambassador was that the administration of then-outgoing President Barack Obama was Moscow's adversary and that relations with Russian Federation would shift under Trump - leaving the impression relief of sanctions was possible, the anonymous officials said.

A congressional source told CBS News there is no evidence that General Flynn made a specific promise or that he signaled pending policy changes to the ambassador. This contradicts Flynn's flat denials and the Trump administration's characterizations of the nature of the call.

"They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia", Pence said. If he offered Russian Federation reassurances about US sanctions, the day after Obama's actions, Flynn may need a good lawyer. Hours later, an official acknowledged one such call.

The harder question is whether Flynn was open about his conversations, which Flynn should have known would probably be controversial, especially given his past interaction, including a paid speech, with Russia Today, a Kremlin mouthpiece. Still, it's unlikely Flynn will pay a formal legal price, as contacts with foreign governments, especially during presidential transitions, are common. Now Flynn is backtracking on his version of events, saying he can not rule out having spoken about sanctions in his talk with the Russian ambassador, according to an aide to Flynn.


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