Democratic lawmakers say they're investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, secretly promoted a U.S.-Russian project to build dozens of nuclear reactors in the Middle East.
"The American people deserve to know whether...Flynn was secretly promoting the private interests of these businesses while he was a [Trump] campaign adviser, transition official, or President Trump's national security adviser," Representatives Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel said in a letter they sent to Flynn's lawyer on September 12.
Robert Kelner, Flynn's lawyer, declined to comment.
The lawmakers said they asked the executives of the companies involved in the project to provide by October 4 "all communications" they had with Flynn or other Trump administration officials.
Cummings is the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Engel is the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. As members of the minority party, they do not have subpoena power.
The project proposed to build 40 nuclear reactors across the Middle East that would feed a regional electric grid. The reactors were designed to be "proliferation proof," meaning they could not be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
A promotional slide of the project said security would be provided by Rosoboron, a Russian state-owned arms exporter that is under U.S. sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama.
The proposed project was to be funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states and built and run by a consortium of U.S., Russian, French, Dutch, Arab, British, Ukrainian, and Israeli firms.
Cummings and Engel said Flynn failed to disclose a June 2015 trip he made to Egypt and Israel to promote the reactor project when he filed an application to renew his national security clearance.
They said they believe his failure to make the disclosure was a violation of federal law, and they said they provided Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller with their findings.
Thomas Cochran, an adviser to ACU Strategic Partners, which is helping to develop the project, told the lawmakers that Flynn during the Middle East trip was expected to press Egyptian officials to hold off on accepting a rival offer from Russia to finance and construct a smaller system of four reactors in Egypt.
On his trip to Israel, Flynn sought to assure Tel Aviv that the project would be in its interest, Cochran said.
The proposal never got beyond the planning stage. But in his response to the lawmakers, Cochran indicated that there could be support from the Trump administration, particularly because of its effort to involve both U.S. and Russian interests.
Flynn is a central figure in investigations in Congress and at the Justice Department into whether Russia's attempted to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and whether Trump aides colluded or cooperated with Russia. Russia has denied interfering in the U.S. election and Trump has said there was no collusion.
Flynn was pushed out of the national security job in February after a top Justice Department official warned that he could be blackmailed because Moscow knew he made misleading statements about his contacts with Russian officials.
With reporting by AP and Reuters