Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET
The Defense Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn sought the proper approval before accepting payments from a foreign government, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee announced Thursday morning.
“This office has initiated an investigation to determine whether Lieutenant General (LTG) Flynn, U.S. Army (Retired) failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving any emolument from a foreign government,” the inspector general’s office wrote in a letter to the Oversight Committee that was released by committee Democrats.
Democrats on the Oversight Committee also released an October 2014 letter to Flynn from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) informing him that he must seek approval from Congress before accepting payments from foreign governments.
In another letter to the Oversight Committee released by Democrats on Thursday, the DIA said that it had not found any records on Flynn’s foreign payments or on his request for approval of the payments.
Flynn, a retired general lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, received a payment from Russian state-backed media outlet RT in 2015 for a speech in Moscow.
The House Oversight Committee announced earlier this week that it has not found any evidence indicating that Flynn gave the federal government the appropriate disclosures about the speech and payments.
The documents released by House Democrats on Thursday give further indication that Flynn knew he needed permission from the federal government to accept money from a foreign source but that he failed to do so anyway.
In a Thursday afternoon statement, Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, pushed back on the release from House Democrats and said that the letter from the DIA to the Oversight Committee shows that Flynn made the DIA aware of his speaking engagement for RT.
“We respectfully disagree with Representative Cummings’ characterization of the April 7, 2017 letter from DIA to the Committee. DIA’s letter actually confirms, in a terse section that is partly redacted, that General Flynn provided information and documents on a thumb drive to the Department of Defense concerning the RT speaking event in Moscow, including documents reflecting that he was using a speakers bureau for the event. The Department was fully aware of the trip,” Kelner said in the statement.
The letter released on Thursday does mention a thumb drive regarding Flynn’s work with a speaker’s bureau, but any mention of RT or Russia cannot be seen in the redacted version of the letter, if at all. Kelner’s statement notably does not argue that Flynn sought permission to receive payments from a foreign government, just that he made the DIA aware of an upcoming event with RT and his use of a speaker’s bureau.
Kelner called on the DIA and the House Oversight Committee to release the unredacted version of the letter, as well as information on briefings Flynn had with DIA officials in September 2016 that were mentioned in the letter.
“We urge DIA and the Committee to release the full, unredacted letter, along with the documents that General Flynn provided to DIA during the briefings and details concerning the in-person briefings provided by General Flynn to DIA,” he said in the statement.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, previously announced on Tuesday that Flynn did not disclose the payment from RT on his application for a security clearance when he joined the Trump administration. Cummings noted that falsifying an application is a felony.
In a press conference announcing the release of the documents, Cummings noted that the letters from the DIA countered a statement from Flynn’s lawyer on Tuesday.
“As has been previously reported, General Flynn 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,” Flynn’s lawyer said in the statement.
Cummings also slammed the White House for refusing to comply with a request from the House Oversight committee for documents regarding foreign payments received by Flynn.
“Earlier this week the White House refused, absolutely refused, to produce even a single document — not a single document in response to the bipartisan document request that I sent with our Republican chairman. Not one syllable,” Cummings said. “I watched Sean Spicer make all kinds of excuses about how hard it would be to comply with our requests. Come on, man. Look, General Flynn served in his position for 24 days, so that excuse at the White House will not fly.”
Cummings suggested that the White House is trying to hide information from Congress and the public.
“I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don’t get it,” Cummings said. “So the President fired him for lying about communications with the Russian ambassador. They should be bending over backward to help us. It does not make any sense, and it makes the American people think the white house has something to hide.”
“There’s obviously a paper trail, ladies and gentlemen. There is a paper trail that White House does not want our committee to follow. But let it be known that we will follow it. We will follow it with everything we’ve got,” Cummings concluded.
Flynn was asked to resign from his post in the Trump administration for failing to disclose his communications with Russian officials.
Since then, the former national security adviser has come under intense scrutiny for his links to foreign governments. After leaving the Trump administration, Flynn registered with the federal government for lobbying work he did before the November election that may had aided the Turkish government. He also reportedly lobbied for a Turkish businessman with ties to Russia while he was working for the Trump campaign as an adviser.
Read the documents:
This post has been updated.