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Nuclear plan backer denies Inauguration Day text with top Trump aide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A company promoting a plan for the United States and Russia to jointly build nuclear reactors in the Middle East denied in a letter made public on Monday that its director received an Inauguration Day text message from incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn saying the project was “good to go.”

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn departs after a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Citing a confidential informant, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week said Flynn and Alex Copson, managing director of ACU Strategic Partners, communicated during President Donald Trump’s inaugural address about the project, which would have required lifting U.S. sanctions on Moscow.

Thomas Cochran, a business partner of Copson, wrote in a letter to the lawmaker, Representative Elijah Cummings, that the informant’s allegations are “patently false and unfounded.”

Reuters was unable to identify the confidential informant or independently confirm the informant’s information that was provided by Cummings.

Copson has not responded to numerous requests for comment in recent months.

Cochran attached to the letter records for Copson’s cell phone which, he said, show that he exchanged three text messages on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, none of them with Flynn.

“Since Mr. Copson did not receive a text message from General Flynn during the Inauguration, other allegations of the ‘whistleblower’ are equally false and unfounded,” wrote Cochran, who is ACU Strategic Partners’ senior scientist. Flynn is a retired Army general.

Reuters and other news organizations have reported that Flynn continued to promote a version of the nuclear project after he began work at the White House.

As part of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at whether Flynn or other Trump aides tried to influence U.S. policy to improve relations with Russia.

Proponents of the reactors project argued it would provide nuclear energy in the Middle East without the threat of weapons proliferation, improve U.S.-Russia relations and revive the U.S. nuclear industry.

Flynn served just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired for misleading Vice President Michael Pence about whether he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

He pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.

Reuters reported that day that documents it had reviewed showed that ACU Strategic Partners bragged after Trump’s Nov. 8, 2016, election that it had Flynn’s backing.

Cummings wrote back to Copson on Monday, requesting that he participate in a transcribed interview “so that our staff attorneys could ask you questions about your relationship and communications with General Flynn.”

“It remains unclear why your colleague sent this letter rather than you,” he wrote.

Cummings’ office released Cochran’s letter but not the attached phone records.

Reporting by Warren Strobel and Nathan Layne. Editing by Cynthia Osterman