Flynn’s Secret Foreign Ties May Have Broken the Law, Chaffetz Says

Updated on
  • Former Trump adviser failed to disclose payment from Russia
  • Flynn’s a subject of probe into Trump campaign’s Russia ties

Michael Flynn.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have violated U.S. law by failing to disclose his business dealings with Russia and Turkey, the leader of the House Oversight Committee said.

"As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else," Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, told reporters Tuesday after reviewing documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency concerning the retired Army lieutenant general. “I see no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law.”

Chaffetz, who announced last week that he won’t run for re-election, said Flynn’s alleged income from foreign sources was “inappropriate.” He said that, though a final determination hasn’t been made, there would be “repercussions” for any violation of the law. Representative Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, called the documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which Flynn once headed, "extremely troubling."

Cummings also released an April 19 letter from the White House, saying the administration was refusing to fulfill a bipartisan request to provide documents on Flynn’s payments and security clearances. In the letter, Marc Short, director of legislative affairs, said some requests should be directed to the Defense Department and that the White House was “unable” to hand over other documents.

‘Unwieldy Request’

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that the lawmakers had asked for every phone contact Flynn had while at the White House. Spicer called it “a very unwieldy request” that couldn’t be fulfilled. Asked whether the White House believed that Flynn broke the law, Spicer said “that would be a question for him and law enforcement agencies.”

Defense Department regulations ban retired military officers from receiving certain foreign payments without permission. Chaffetz and Cummings have been probing a $45,000 speech that Flynn gave to the Russia-backed media network RT in December 2015.

"As has previously been reported, General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of the Department of Defense, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings,” Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement.

The lawmakers also are reviewing Flynn’s lobbying work on behalf of an organization with alleged ties to the Turkish government.

Flynn served as a campaign adviser to Trump and then was named national security adviser of the new administration. He resigned after news reports revealed he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the contents of conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during Trump’s transition.

Sitting by Putin

In remarks Tuesday, Cummings said he had obtained Flynn’s January 2016 application for renewal of a security clearance, which didn’t mention the RT speech, even though the form asks about foreign business and consulting. Cummings of Maryland called for the documents to be declassified “to the fullest extent possible.”

In March, Democrats released documents showing Flynn’s fee for the RT speech, which included a gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table. The documents also showed two other appearances for companies with ties to Russia.

Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his firm, Flynn Intel Group, did for a Dutch consulting company, Inovo BV, which has alleged ties to President Recep Erdogan of Turkey. Flynn’s filing showed that his company received $530,000 from Inovo between Sept. 9 and Nov. 14.

In March, Flynn requested immunity to testify before congressional committees in their probes of Russian attempts to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told reporters Tuesday he would be against granting immunity. While some lawmakers had called the request premature at the time, Trump wrote in a Twitter post: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

Read why immunity for Flynn is complicated -- a QuickTake Q&A

U.S. intelligence agencies have found that Russia hacked into Democratic emails and leaked them last year in an effort to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help elect Trump. FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee in March that the investigation includes “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Russia rejects the accusations.

— With assistance by Margaret Talev, Billy House, and Terrence Dopp

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