Following a review of classified material provided by the Department of Defense on Tuesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) accused former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn of violating the law by accepting payments from foreign governments without receiving consent from Congress, and then not properly disclosing them on a security clearance application.
“It does not appear to us that that was ever sought nor did he ever get that permission… As a former military officer you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey, or anybody else, and it appears [Flynn] did take that money,” Chaffetz said during a joint press briefing with House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), referring to the $33,750 check Flynn received from Russia state-funded media outlet RT for speaking at a December 2015 event in Moscow also attended by Vladimir Putin.
“It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for the violation of law,” Chaffetz added.
Republican and Dem House Oversight chairmen believe Mike Flynn broke the law by taking money from Russians without permission pic.twitter.com/knyHFyKZpT
— David Mack (@davidmackau) April 25, 2017
Cummings echoed Chaffetz’s sentiment.
“We cannot discuss the contents of the documents we just saw because they are classified, but we can say this — they are extremely troubling,” he added. “I believe these documents should be declassified to the fullest extent possible without compromising sources and methods.”
While speaking with MSNBC following the news conference, Chaffetz appeared to soften his “violation of law” statement a bit, saying it “doesn’t appear as if [Flynn] complied with the law.”
During the news conference, Cummings discussed the White House’s response to a letter Chaffetz and Cummings sent on March 22 asking for information about Flynn’s security clearance application, documents “referring or related to [Flynn’s] contacts with foreign nationals,” documents “referring or relating to [Flynn’s] receipt of funds from any foreign source,” and “efforts by [Flynn] to seek permission or approval for the direct or indirect receipt of payments from any foreign source.” Each of those requests was denied by the White House on April 19.
— Jason K. Morrell (@CNNJason) April 25, 2017
“Despite all of these very troubling developments, last Wednesday, on April 19, we received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested,” Cummings said. “We received no internal documents relating to what General Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser and we received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador. In short, the White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan requests, and that’s simply unacceptable.”
Cummings says the White House has refused to provide Oversight committee with any documents relating to Flynn: "That's simply unacceptable" pic.twitter.com/FNSohysGmj
— David Mack (@davidmackau) April 25, 2017
One “troubling development” that’s emerged since April 19 is that the Turkish man Flynn received a $600,000 deal to lobby on behalf of while he was advising the Trump campaign has business ties to Russia.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that the man, Ekim Alptekin, negotiated a 2009 aviation financing deal with Vladimir Putin. Alptekin “has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri ‘David’ Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities.”
“This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists,” Politico adds.
In March, it emerged that Russia state-funded media outlet RT paid Flynn, who is a retired Army lieutenant general, to give a speech in Moscow.
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. The New York Times reported that Flynn taking payments from a foreign government “might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent from Congress.” Flynn never sought or received such permission.
Chaffetz had been extremely reluctant to conduct any oversight of Trump during the early weeks of Trump’s presidency. But after he announced last week that he will not seek another term in Congress, he co-authored a letter requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments who want to curry favor with him.
The Republican House Oversight Committee chairman’s acknowledgement that Flynn didn’t comply with the law comes less than a month after Trump tweeted that his former national security adviser should ask for criminal immunity.
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
Shortly after Chaffetz and Cummings held their news conference, Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, released a statement saying, “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.”
But whatever record of those briefings that was in the classified documents reviewed by the House Intelligence Committee apparently wasn’t satisfactory to its Republican chairman or Cummings.