Pentagon probes Trump's ex-adviser Flynn
over foreign payments
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[April 28, 2017]
By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon
inspector general has launched an investigation into whether Michael
Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser,
accepted money from foreign entities without the required approval,
according to a letter released by House Democrats on Thursday.
The new probe compounds the legal problems Flynn faces for taking
hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state-run Russia Today (RT)
television network and a firm owned by a Turkish businessman after the
former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director retired as an Army
lieutenant general in 2014.
Senior lawmakers said this week that Flynn likely broke the law by
failing to request and receive permission to accept $45,000 to speak at
a 2015 RT gala dinner at which he sat with Russian President Vladimir
If substantiated, such a failure would violate regulations rooted in the
Constitution that bar current and retired military officers from
accepting "emoluments" from foreign powers, the letter said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that the
inspector general's probe was "appropriate."
"If they think there's wrongdoing, then the department's inspector
general should look into that," he said.
Spicer said Flynn did not undergo a security review before he was named
Trump's first national security adviser.
"Why would you rerun a background check on someone who was the head of
the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level
security clearance?" he said.
However, a former senior White House official familiar with ethics and
security clearance issues said that during the administration of former
President Barack Obama, the White House Counsel's office always
conducted its own background investigations of candidates for senior
White House jobs, even if they already held security clearances.
These reviews included questionnaires and interviews, and would have
included issues such as whether the candidate had drug problems, had
hired prostitutes, or had personal or financial problems, the former
Flynn is also the subject of congressional probes into Russian
interference in the 2016 presidential election that U.S. intelligence
agencies have said was intended to sway the vote in favor of Trump, the
Republican candidate, over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Russia
denies the allegation.
The Defense Department inspector general is investigating whether Flynn
"failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving any emolument
from a foreign government," according to an April 11 letter released by
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
If substantiated, such a failure would violate military regulations that
apply a constitutional provision that bars current and retired officers
from accepting "emoluments" from foreign powers, the letter said.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the House committee's top Democrat,
released other Defense Department documents on Thursday showing that the
DIA found no evidence that Flynn requested permission to accept foreign
funds, despite a 2014 warning against taking such payments.
[to top of second column]
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member
Representative, Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speaks about former national
security adviser Michael Flynn during a news conference on President
Trump's first 100 days on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S April 27,
2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
One document, a redacted version of a letter the DIA sent to the
committee on April 7, said the agency had not found "any records
referring or relating to LTG (Lieutenant General) Flynn's receipt of
money from a foreign source."
Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement that Cummings
mischaracterized the DIA letter, saying a partially redacted section
confirmed that Flynn gave the Pentagon "information and documents on
a thumb drive" about the RT event.
The materials included documents that Flynn used a speakers bureau
for the event, said Kelner, adding that the former national security
adviser also briefed the Pentagon before and after the Moscow visit.
He called on the DIA to release the unredacted letter and details of
Kelner's statement, however, did not address the issue of whether
Flynn requested and received permission to accept foreign government
Separately, the committee's Republican chairman, Representative
Jason Chaffetz, asked the acting Army secretary for a "final
determination" about whether Flynn violated the law by accepting
foreign payments, according to a letter released by his office on
In addition to looking into the RT funds, the House committee is
scrutinizing Flynn's work last year as a foreign agent hired to
promote Turkish government views by a Netherlands-based company
owned by a Turkish businessman.
The company paid Flynn's now-defunct firm, Flynn Intel Group, a
total of $530,000 beginning in August, when he was the Trump
campaign's top foreign policy adviser.
Flynn registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department
only in March, weeks after he resigned as Trump's national security
adviser following his failure to disclose his contacts with Sergei
Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, before Trump took
(Writing by Jonathan Landay; Reporting by Susan Heavey, David
Alexander, Mark Hosenball and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Jeffrey
Benkoe, James Dalgleish and Bill Rigby)
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