Russia state-funded media outlet RT paid $45,386 for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to give a speech in Moscow in December 2015, according to documents released by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Flynn, who parted ways with the Trump White House in February after it became clear he lied about communicating with the Russian ambassador about sanctions before inauguration day, had previously denied he had taken money from Russia for the speech.
“I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me,” Flynn told Yahoo in July, when he was working as an adviser for the Trump campaign.
When asked who paid him, Flynn said: “My speakers’ bureau — ask them.”
Technically, that’s true — the documents show that RT cut a $45,386 check to Flynn’s speakers’ bureau. But the bureau then cut a $33,750 check to Flynn.
During the December 2015 event in Moscow, Flynn sat at the same table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The occasion commemorated the 10 year anniversary of RT, an outlet described in the unclassified intelligence report about Russia’s meddling of the 2016 presidential election as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” During his speech, Flynn blasted President Obama and said he didn’t know whether the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria widely thought to have been the responsibility of the Russia-backed Assad regime was a “false flag.”
Flynn has compared RT’s state propaganda with independent American media outlets, saying, “What’s CNN? What’s MSNBC? Come on!”
In addition to the $33,750 he made from RT, the newly released documents indicate Flynn received two separate payments of $11,250 to speak to US subsidiaries of two privately owned Russian companies in 2015— the Volga-Dnieper airline and Kaspersky Government Security Solutions. Kaspersky makes anti-virus software and has been suspected of involvement in Russian espionage efforts.
Yahoo reports that news of the payments has raised concerns among congressional Democrats that Trump’s former national security adviser may have violated the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which prohibits retired military officers from accepting “consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria or salary” from a foreign government. The documents indicate RT paid for Flynn and his son Michael Jr. to fly business class and stay at a swanky hotel in Moscow during the trip.
According to CNN, “Cummings wrote a letter addressed to Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and FBI Director James Comey highlighting the payment documentation and questioning whether Flynn appropriately revealed the financial arrangements when he completed his form SF-86, an official document required by anyone seeking a security clearance for a position in government.”
In a statement, Cummings said he “cannot recall any time in our nation’s history when the President selected as his National Security Adviser someone who violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked our democracy.”
“I also cannot recall a time when the President and his top advisers seemed to disinterested in the truth about that individual’s work on behalf of foreign nations — whether due to willful ignorance or knowing indifference,” he added.
Revelations about the payments Flynn received from RT and Russian companies comes a week after news emerged that Flynn was paid more than $500,000 to work as an agent of Turkey last fall, during the same time he was attending classified briefings with Trump.
Following Flynn’s departure from the White House, Trump commended his former national security adviser for his potentially illegal pre-inauguration communications with Russia.
“I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it,” Trump said at a news conference. “I didn’t direct him, but I would’ve directed him because that’s his job.”
Since the inauguration, numerous reports have emerged about the Trump campaign being in “constant contact” with Russian intelligence before the election.
In January, news emerged of an unconfirmed intelligence dossier containing allegations that Russian officials are in possession of compromising information about Trump and his campaign. We know now that some of “conversations between foreign nationals” detailed in the dossier have been confirmed by intelligence officials.
Justice Department officials warned the White House that Flynn wasn’t being truthful about what was discussed during his pre-inauguration calls with the Russia ambassador in late January, in part because of fears that he might be vulnerable to blackmail, the Washington Post reported. But Flynn was kept aboard for another two weeks.
The U.S. intelligence community has already made public its findings that Russia used cyberattacks and other methods to meddle in the election on behalf of Trump.