- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2017

Top Democrats are calling for National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to be suspended or fired in the wake of reports saying he discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the U.S. before President Trump took office.

Those talks would contradict what the administration said publicly about the issue. A top policy adviser to the president would say Sunday only that it was a “sensitive matter.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Mr. Flynn should be suspended and have his intelligence clearance revoked “until the facts are known about his secret contacts with the Russians.”

Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Mr. Flynn should be fired immediately.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Mr. Trump needs to answer questions about the degree of his involvement in the conversations.

“Did the president instruct Gen. Flynn to talk to the ambassador? And did he know about it?” Mr. Cummings said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If he knew about this conversation, when did he know it? That, to me, that is the key question. And we need to find out what that answer is.”

Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to Mr. Trump, said Sunday he didn’t have much to add by way of a response from the administration.

“I understand it’s an important matter. I understand it’s a sensitive matter,” Mr. Miller said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity in the near future to interview someone from the vice president’s office or to interview the chief of staff, who can elucidate further on this very sensitive issue.”

The administration has acknowledged that Mr. Flynn spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak between the Nov. 8 election and Inauguration Day but denied the conversations had anything to do with sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia over reported Kremlin efforts to influence the U.S. election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

Last week, Mr. Flynn denied to The Washington Post that the conversations touched on the sanctions, but a spokesman later said he could not be sure they didn’t come up.

The Obama administration announced sanctions on Dec. 29 in response to Russian interference in last year’s election. Mr. Trump later praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for not immediately retaliating.

Vice President Mike Pence said on CBS last month the conversations didn’t touch on the sanctions.

But after reports emerged last week about details of the talks, the administration clarified that Mr. Pence based those statements on what Mr. Flynn had told him.

Mr. Trump said Friday that he hadn’t seen the report but would look into it.

Mr. Flynn could have violated the Logan Act, which forbids private citizens from engaging in certain foreign diplomacy, but nobody has been prosecuted under that 18th-century law.

At the very least, such conversations would be a glaring breach of etiquette and custom. Even in the weeks before an inauguration, the U.S. has only one president and one administration.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, requested a closed briefing from FBI Director James B. Comey on any bureau investigation related to Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged that Russia was likely responsible for election season hacks of Democratic Party officials but added that plenty of other countries could have been guilty of such cyberattacks.

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