In this Feb. 1, 2017 photo, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. The White House is refusing to provide lawmakers with information and documents related to President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser’s security clearance and payments from organizations tied to the Russian and Turkish governments.
WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.
Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance. They reached this conclusion after viewing two classified memos and a financial disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.
“Personally I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz told reporters following the briefing.
“He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t,” Cummings said.
Both Chaffetz and Cummings stressed that as a former military officer, Flynn would have needed special permission for his appearance at a gala sponsored by RT, the Russian-government funded television station, for which he was paid $45,000. For his work lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government, he was paid more than $500,000.
“It does not appear that was ever sought nor did he get that permission,” Chaffetz said.
The Utah Republican later added that while Flynn was clearly not in compliance with the law, “it would be a little strong to say that he flat-out lied.”
The documents that committee members reviewed Tuesday came from the Defense Intelligence Agency and showed that Flynn had not declared any income from Russian or Turkish sources – despite the fact that the forms were filed about a month after Flynn’s reported trip to Moscow to speak at the RT gala, Cummings said.
“This is a major concern,” he added.
Flynn, a Trump campaign adviser and the first national security adviser of the Trump administration, was ousted in February after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Pence about his talks at the end of 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
The Oversight Committee asked the White House in March for documents pertaining to Flynn’s security-clearance applications, the vetting that occurred before he was named national security adviser, and all of his contacts with foreign agents, including any payments received. In particular, the committee heads requested to see a disclosure form known as the SF-86, on which Flynn was obligated to declare any foreign income.
On April 19, the White House sent the committee a reply, stating that any documents related to Flynn from before January 20 – the day President Trump took office – were not in its possession, and that any documents from after that date did not seem relevant to the committee’s investigation.
“The White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request,” Cummings said.
He noted that lawmakers would be interested in seeing documents that could shed light on what Flynn told the White House and his foreign contacts before he was named national security adviser, and what led to his termination less than a month later.
During the transition period, Flynn told the incoming White House that he might need to register as a foreign agent. But Cummings would not go so far as to accuse the White House of intentionally obstructing the committee’s investigation of Flynn.
While it will not be up to the committee to impose any such punishments, committee leaders pledged to pursue the matter, indicating a preference for making Flynn’s documents public.
The committee is not likely, however, to pull Flynn before the committee for testimony – despite Cummings’ insistence that the Oversight committee “should be holding a hearing with General Flynn.”
Chaffetz said he would “highly doubt” that the committee would call Flynn to testify, deferring any such testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to command such an audience.