Former White House adviser Michael Flynn sent a text during U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration speech saying that a planned nuclear power project with Russia that would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions was "good to go," a whistle-blower has told U.S. lawmakers.
The witness's account was made public on December 6 by Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Cummings said the unidentified whistle-blower's allegations raise concerns that Flynn intended to improperly aid the nuclear project during his brief stint as White House national security adviser, including possibly by suspending or ending U.S. sanctions against doing business with Russia that were imposed after Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014.
Flynn last week pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and he is now cooperating with U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a key witness in Mueller's investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
According Cummings' account provided in a December 6 letter to his committee's chairman, the whistle-blower attended an inaugural event on January 20, 2017, during which he met the business associate of Flynn who received Flynn's text message saying their joint project with Russian nuclear power companies "was a go" and he should start to "put things in place."
The whistle-blower said the businessman, Alex Copson, who is a managing director at ACU Strategic Partners, the company promoting the nuclear power project, was elated because he had just received Flynn's text, calling it "the best day of my life."
The whistle-blower, who Cummings described as "authentic, credible, and reliable," said Copson showed him Flynn's text message, which he noted was sent at around noon on January 20 when Trump was delivering his inaugural address.
Copson then told the whistleblower: "Mike has been putting everything in place for us" and "This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people," according to Cummings' account.
Copson also told the whistle-blower that Flynn would see to it that sanctions on Moscow were "ripped up" as one of his first orders of business at the White House, to ensure money started flowing to the project, according to Cummings' account.
Within days of the inauguration, Flynn started circulating the power project plan at the White House, according to media reports. The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn discussed the project with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and a close friend of the president, Thomas Barrack.
Copson had promoted a succession of nuclear projects designed to include Russian participation dating back to the 1990s. In an earlier note to the committee, Copson said his firm had provided Flynn with a $25,000 check -- left uncashed -- to pay for Flynn's June 2015 trip to the Mideast as a security consultant for the project.
Attorneys for Flynn and Copson did not immediately return e-mail and phone requests for comment. White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment on the allegations.
The ACU plan involved building some two dozen nuclear power plants around the Middle East, to be developed jointly by the United States and Russia.
The key to the plan's success was ending economic sanctions on Russia, which was to supply the reactors under the proposed arrangement. The project never came to fruition after Flynn was fired from his White House post in February.
Cummings detailed the whistle-blower's allegations in a letter to Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the oversight committee, and called on the panel to subpoena Flynn to testify.
"Our committee has credible allegations that President Trump's national security adviser sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners," said Cummings.
Cummings also demanded that the committee subpoena Copson, Barrack, and other officials linked to the proposed nuclear project.
Cummings offered to produce the whistle-blower for Gowdy to interview. Gowdy had no immediate response.
Cummings said he was first contacted by the whistle-blower in June, but the informant's account remained under wraps while Mueller was developing a criminal case against Flynn.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters