Chaffetz, Cummings: Flynn Could’ve Broken Law By Accepting Foreign Payments

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, right, confers with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member, left, just before the start of a hearing with FBI Director James Comey who was called to explain the agency's recommendation to not prosecute Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic presidential candidate, over her private email setup, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight Committee announced Tuesday that ousted Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn could have broken the law by accepting payments from foreign governments as a former military officer.

After viewing classified documents that included his application to renew his security clearance, Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said there was “no evidence” that Flynn made the appropriate disclosures about payments he received from abroad.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey, or anybody else, and it appears as if he did take that money,” Chaffetz said, noting that the committee still needed to reach out to the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense for additional information.

“It was inappropriate,” he continued. “And there are repercussions for the violation of law.”

Flynn is a retired lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration. In 2015, he was paid $45,000 by RT, a state-run Russian media outlet, to give a speech at a gala in Moscow, where he was seated next to President Vladimir Putin.

Shortly after he was forced out of the Trump White House for failing to disclose conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., he filed paperwork with the Justice Department acknowledging that the $600,000 lobbying contract he entered into while a top adviser to the Trump campaign “principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” Politico reported Tuesday that the Turkish businessman who hired him, Elim Alptekin, has business ties to Russia’s government.

Cummings called the documents his committee viewed about Flynn “extremely troubling” and said both he and Chaffetz believed they should be declassified for public viewing.

The Maryland Democrat said Flynn’s January 2016 application to renew his security clearance, obtained after months of effort by the committee, contained no mention of the funds he received on the Moscow trip or evidence that he sought permission to obtain that money.

Knowingly falsifying the application is a felony, Cummings said, punishable by fines and up to five years imprisonment.

Both Chaffetz and Cummings said the final decision about what would happen to Flynn rested with the Army Comptroller and Department of Defense, but that they wanted to hold a hearing with the retired general.

In a statement to NBC News, Flynn’s lawyer said he “briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DoD, 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.”

Cummings also told reporters that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus last week refused their bipartisan request for any documents “referring or relating to Lieutenant General Flynn’s contacts with foreign nationals.”

Though neither he or Chaffetz alleged the Trump administration was trying to obstruct their investigation, Cummings called the lack of information “unacceptable.”

The bipartisan letter to Priebus and response from White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short are below.

Correction: This post originally misidentified Flynn as the former director of national intelligence rather than the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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