Members of the Trump administration — including Vice President Mike Pence — have said Michael Flynn, President Trump's national security adviser, never spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States about U.S. sanctions against Russia before Trump's inauguration. Several current and former U.S. officials have told The Washington Post and The New York Times that this isn't true, and Flynn and Sergey Kislyak did privately discuss the sanctions ordered by the Obama administration in late December over Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
On Wednesday, Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, twice told the Post that he and Kislyak did not discuss sanctions, but on Thursday, his spokesman told the paper Flynn now "indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up." Kislyak has confirmed he communicated with Flynn via text message, by phone, and in person several times, starting before the election, but would not say if they talked about sanctions. Nine "current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls," told the Post that the references to the sanctions were "explicit," and some believed the discussions were "inappropriate and potentially illegal."
Two of the officials said Flynn urged Russia "not to overreact to the penalties," and another said Kislyak was "left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time." The sanctions imposed by Obama remain in place. The law against U.S. citizens interfering in foreign diplomacy, the Logan Act, has never been prosecuted, and officials say it would be very difficult to build a case against Flynn, the Post reports.