WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House national security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Donald Trump took office, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials, the Post said some senior U.S. officials interpreted the contacts as a “potentially illegal” signal to Russia that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in December.
Sources told the New York Times that Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak also discussed plans to combat ISIS.
During the Christmas week conversation, he urged Mr. Kislyak to keep the Russian government from retaliating over the coming sanctions — it was an open secret in Washington that they were in the works — by telling him that whatever the Obama administration did could be undone, said the officials
Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
Reuters reported last month, citing three sources familiar with the matter, that Flynn had held five phone calls with Kislyak on Dec. 29, the day then-President Barack Obama retaliated for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Post said Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but on Thursday backed away from the denial through a spokesman.
Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up,” the Post quoted the spokesman as saying.
The Kremlin on Friday denied that sanctions were discussed in the conversations.
Officials said this week that the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak, according to the paper.
“Several officials emphasized that while sanctions were discussed, they did not see evidence that Flynn had an intent to convey an explicit promise to take action after the inauguration,” the Post said.
(Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)