Top intel Dem says Flynn should be removed if he talked sanctions with Russian ambassador

Top intel Dem says Flynn should be removed if he talked sanctions with Russian ambassador
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee indicated Friday that national security adviser Michael Flynn should be removed from his post if he discussed sanctions with a Russian official before President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE's inauguration and then lied about it. 

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data MORE (D, Calif.), ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was responding to a report by The Washington Post that Flynn discussed sanctions with Moscow’s ambassador to the U.S. in a private conversation before the inauguration, despite public denials by Trump administration officials.

The Post, citing current and former officials, reported that the FBI is currently probing Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn at first denied the accusation in an interview with the publication, but a spokesman later said he did not remember discussing sanctions but “couldn’t be certain” the issue was never raised. U.S. intelligence monitoring of Russian diplomats picked up on the sanctions discussion, according to intelligence officials who spoke to the Post.

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Of particular concern is whether Flynn may have telegraphed a willingness by the new administration to ease sanctions against Moscow, which were levied by the Obama administration in December to punish Russia for its alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election. The U.S. has also sanctioned Russia over its intervention in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“The allegation that General Flynn, while President Obama was still in office, secretly discussed with Russia’s ambassador ways to undermine the sanctions levied against Russia for its interference in the Presidential election on Donald Trump’s behalf, raises serious questions of legality and fitness for office,” Schiff said in a statement Friday.  

“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,” Schiff said. 

The intelligence community concluded in a report released publicly in January that Russia engaged in a cyber and propaganda campaign to undermine U.S. democracy and damage the candidacy of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE, President Trump’s opponent. Trump has approached the intelligence community’s conclusions with skepticism. 

Flynn’s appointment has been fraught with controversy since Trump announced him as his choice for national security adviser last year.