Rumors that former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn might be the next former Trump administration official to be indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller have been circulating for weeks now. Last week was no exception, with US media reporting that Flynn’s legal team had decided to stop cooperating with the White House council and President Donald Trump’s administration. Now, in the latest Flynn development to arrive Tuesday evening, the WSJ reports on Flynn’s push during his brief tenure in the administration to convince President Trump to support a plan to build roughly a dozen nuclear power plants across the Middle East.
Private-sector backers of a controversial Middle East nuclear plan worked with former national security adviser Mike Flynn to promote it inside the White House, to the point of sending him a draft memo for the president to sign authorizing the project.
At issue was a proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors, billed by its backers as a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” Before joining the White House, Mr. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, had advised some of the U.S. companies involved in the plan in his capacity as a consultant.
At the heart of the issue is whether Flynn abused his position within the administration to help benefit his consulting clients.
Mr. Flynn’s efforts to promote the plan included telling a National Security Council staffer to create an official directive detailing the plan for President Donald Trump to sign, according to people familiar with the matter. He also brought the project to the attention of a key administration ally, these people say.
That said, if passed, the plan was projected to generate $250 billion in revenue for U.S. companies. However, according to WSJ, the memo never made it to the president’s desk. But this may not matter: Mueller is separately investigating Flynn’s work before he joined the White House as part of a probe into whether he improperly concealed financial ties to Turkey and to Russia.
In response, a White House spokesman said “the White House and National Security Council have rigorous processes in place to ensure that all outside proposals are thoroughly evaluated for their potential legal and policy implications.” In his White House disclosure forms, Flynn revealed his relationship with two of the companies involved in the project, but didn’t reveal any payments. He later amended those forms, saying a third company paid him more than $5,000. He said his relationship with the companies ended in December 2016.
Details of Flynn’s work promoting the project from inside the White House first became public in September. But this latest report sheds light on exactly how far Flynn about how far it progressed inside the administration, and how Flynn’s former staffer continued to promote it after he left office in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Lavrov.
In addition to Mueller’s probe, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating Flynn’s relationship with the companies involved and to what extent his prior consulting career overlapped with his role of one report, though it’s not clear exactly which companies were involved, according to WSJ which also reminds us that two ranking House Democrats said in September that Flynn appeared to violate federal law by failing to disclose details of his work for the firms on his security-clearance interview and renewal application in 2016.
What’s more, since Flynn’s resignation, his former private-sector colleagues continued to lobby various federal agencies about the plan, recently meeting with Jared Kushner (whose role in the administration, according to NYT and WaPo, has been greatly diminished).
In its story, WSJ tries to lend the impression that Flynn prioritized his lobbying work over his duties as National Security Adviser. Much of Flynn’s work on the project, however, was routed through intermediaries, who spent much of their first weeks on the job coordinating Flynn’s lobbying pitch.
One of the people Mr. Flynn brought with him, former Army Col. Derek Harvey, said at a meeting during the first week of the new administration that Mr. Flynn had told him to develop a regional economic and energy plan for the Middle East. When staffers pointed out there was an NSC office that handled economic and energy issues, Mr. Harvey said Mr. Flynn had directed him to take the lead on the issue.
Mr. Harvey met with a private-sector backer of the nuclear plan the first week of the Trump administration. Days later, another of the project’s backers, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a national security adviser to President Reagan, emailed documents to Mr. Flynn.
However, sources inside the White House and other lobbyists affiliated with the effort said Flynn’s work was carried out at Trump’s request. They added that Flynn had been invited to join their group in the summer of 2016, but that in December he said he wouldn’t participate.
In one incident that has drawn Mueller’s scrutiny, Flynn reportedly forwarded an email from McFarlane asking to prepare a package for the president to the NSA’s staff. Derek Harvey, one of Flynn’s subordinates, then told his staff to put the contents of the draft memo into an official “cabinet memo” from the president. There is no indication such a memo ever made it to Trump.
Yet unsurprisingly, Harvey – a close ally of Flynn’s - the administration’s senior Middle East adviser, was dismissed in July after clashes with NSC staffers. He is now senior adviser to the chairman of the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“It’s sad to see The Wall Street Journal attacking Republicans for promoting a policy, long supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations, of advocating overseas for American nuclear power,” said Jack Langer, a committee spokesman.
In summary, while the WSJ disburses numerous details about this lobbying efforts, the nature of Flynn’s exact crime is unclear: was his crime to abuse his position of power and push for a certain political outcome in exchange for some backdoor cash exchange? If so, is it also not time to also look at the Clinton Foundation, where the amount of money exchanged was orders of magnitude greater. Especially since while the implications of the article remain confusing, one thing is quite obvious: none of the above had anything to do with the Trump campaign, or the Russian government.