Fox News anchor accuses White House of 'trying to cover up Michael Flynn scandal'

Shepard Smith makes allegation on same day House Oversight Committee finds Flynn 'probably' broke the law in dealings with the Russians

Rachel Roberts
Wednesday 26 April 2017 15:10 BST
Fox News anchor accuses White House of trying to cover up unprecedented scandal

A Fox News anchor has accused the White House of behaving in a way consistent with a “cover-up” over the actions of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Although the network is frequently accused of being a cheerleader for President Donald Trump, host Shepard Smith did not hold back in his comments, made after the House Oversight Committee said Mr Flynn appeared to have broken the law in receiving payments from Russian organisations and the Turkish Government.

Mr Flynn resigned in February after it emerged he had misled Vice President Mike Pence over conversations he had with a Russian ambassador.

“The situation is unprecedented,” said Mr Smith. “Never in American history has a man so close to the President, on his cabinet, the National Security Advisor no less, been accused of committing a crime by taking money from a foreign entity, much less one connected to the Russians.”

He added: “At the core of all this is the Russians interfered with our elections.

“General Flynn received money through an entity that was from the Russians. And what they want to know is, was there collusion?

“The White House at least is giving the appearance, according to these congressional leaders, of a lack of cooperation, which could give an overall appearance that they’re trying to cover something up."

Donald Trump supporters previously threatened to boycott Fox News when Mr Smith criticised the President over his camp’s alleged links to Russia.

The investigation into Mr Flynn dominated yesterday’s White House briefing where it emerged the Committee does not have all of the documents related to Mr Flynn’s dealings with the Russians.

The White House blocked requests to provide reporters with documents related to Mr Flynn on the grounds of national security or because the papers are otherwise sensitive in nature, further fuelling claims of a cover-up.

The lead Democrat and Republican on the Committee displayed a rare show of unity in jointly rebuking Mr Flynn after seeing information that confirmed the former Trump administration official had failed to disclose foreign income received from Russia and Turkey.

As a former military officer, Mr Flynn would have needed special permission for his December 2015 appearance at a gala sponsored by RT, a Russian Government-funded television station, for which he was paid $45,000. He was paid also more than $500,000 for his work lobbying on behalf of the Turkish Government.

It is also illegal for a private citizen to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the US.

Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (Republican) and the panel’s senior Democrat, Elijah Cummings, agreed that Mr Flynn is likely to have broken the law as he neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey.

They reached their conclusion after viewing classified memos and a disclosure form in a private briefing.

“Personally I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law,” Mr Chaffetz told reporters.

Mr Cummings added: “He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t. This is a major problem.”

Violations of this kind are punishable with up to five years in jail.

The display of bipartisan unity is relatively unusual as Democrats have repeatedly complained of being shut out of major investigations by the Committee since the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in 1995.

The Committee’s findings come as the House and Senate intelligence committees move into a new phase of their investigations into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, including alleged ties between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials.

The FBI is carrying out its own investigation into the same alleged links but is not yet believed to be carrying out a separate investigation into Mr Flynn.

The Bureau could open its own separate investigation into Mr Flynn if required to do so by Congress – a decision that will probably be left to new Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all matters involving the Trump campaign.

In order to bring criminal proceedings against Mr Flynn, investigators would have to show that he “knowingly and wilfully” made false statements and would not be able to make a case if his forms were inaccurate because of carelessness of an “honest mistake”.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (Republican) said his panel has finished an initial round of more than 20 interviews but plans to carry out others in the near future and hopes to bring in Mr Flynn for questioning.

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