National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office, according to new reports that prompted the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to call for Mr. Flynn’s immediate firing.
Mr. Flynn denied he had discussed the sanctions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to The Washington Post on Wednesday before a spokesman said Thursday that while Mr. Flynn had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he “couldn’t be certain” that the topic never came up.
The Post said its report relied on “nine current and former officials” who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.
Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Friday that he hadn’t seen the report, but that he’d “look into that.”
Former President Barack Obama’s administration slapped new sanctions on Russian officials in December in response to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
If Mr. Flynn did discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, that would contradict what the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, has said about those talks.
Before Mr. Trump was sworn in, current White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr. Flynn had contacted Mr. Kislyak on Dec. 25 to wish him a merry Christmas and then several days later to discuss logistics about setting up a phone call between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin once Mr. Trump took office.
The sanctions imposed by the Obama administration were announced on Dec. 29.
Mr. Pence told CBS News last month that the conversations did not deal with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia, saying he had talked to Mr. Flynn about the matter.
A Trump administration official “stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn,” The Post report said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Mr. Trump “must relieve General Flynn immediately.”
“Either General Flynn lied to the administration or the administration lied to the American people,” said Mr. Engel, New York Democrat. “In any case, the administration’s sloppy handling of such a serious issue creates a threat smack in the middle of our national security apparatus.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House intelligence committee, said the allegation that Mr. Flynn “secretly discussed” ways to “undermine” the sanctions while Mr. Obama was still in office “raises serous questions of legality and fitness for office.”
“If he did so, and then he and other administration officials misled the American people, his conduct would be all the more pernicious, and he should no longer serve in this administration or any other,” said Mr. Schiff, California Democrat.
Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, said it would be up to Mr. Trump to dole out any potential punishment and that he’s giving the current administration the benefit of the doubt at this point.
The National Security Adviser is not a position that requires Senate confirmation.
“I think the first thing we’ll do is get all the facts,” Mr. Rounds said on CNN Friday.
“And then if the facts lead us in the direction that say that we’ve been misled or that there’s been misinformation provided, he’s an employee of the president. We would expect the president to take appropriate actions,” he said.
“If there needs to be discussions within Congress, that’ll happen. But the president is in charge of his employees and I think — and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this — I think he’ll act appropriately at the appropriate time with full facts,” Mr. Rounds said.