Donald Trump's former adviser Michael Flynn under investigation from Pentagon amid FBI probe

Department of Defence watchdog opens investigation as Democrats say documents released by House Oversight Committee raise ‘grave questions’ about Mr Flynn’s conduct

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 27 April 2017 15:19 BST
Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (Reuters)

A Pentagon inspector general is launching its own investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn took payments from foreign entities without approval, according to a letter released by House Democrats.

The inspector general of the Department of Defence is probing whether Mr Flynn had “failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving any emolument from a foreign government”, according to the letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The investigation concerns payments of more than $33,000 that Mr Flynn received from Russian state-backed television network Russia Today in 2015. As a retired Army officer, Mr Flynn was obligated to request permission from the Department of Defence and State Department before receiving payments from foreign governments, members of the Oversight Committee allege.

The Department of Defence told The Independent that they initiated their investigation of Mr Flynn on 4 April – weeks before the Oversight Committee first took their accusations public.

The Oversight Committee released documents on Wednesday showing that the Pentagon warned Mr Flynn not to take foreign government payments without approval. A letter sent by the DIA to Mr Flynn upon his resignation in 2014 explicitly states that “foreign compensation requires advance approval”.

“The Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution ... prohibits receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary by all retired military personnel, officer and enlisted, regular and reserve, from a foreign government unless congressional consent is first obtained,” the letter reads.

The letter instructs Mr Flynn to “obtain advance approval from the Army” before receiving any such payments.

Mr Flynn’s lawyer said the former lieutenant general reported his plans to visit Russia to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). He also said Mr Flynn provided the DIA with a thumb drive of files, one of which states that Mr Flynn used a speakers bureau for the trip, implying it was a paid engagement. The lawyer, Robert Kelner, is calling for public release of the documents on the thumb drive.

Elijah E Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, argued that Mr Flynn had “concealed the payments he received from foreign sources” and said the documents raised “grave concerns" about why he had done so.

“Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation,” Mr Cummings said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the investigation "appropriate," and said the administration welcomes the inquiry. But the White House has also declined to turn over any documents concerning Mr Flynn’s work for the Trump transition team. Mr Flynn was fired as national security adviser shortly after Mr Trump took office, before it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with foreign governments during the transition.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed on Wednesday that documents pertaining to Mr Flynn’s activities before the inauguration are “not in possession of the White House”. He also dismissed requests for records of Mr Flynn’s contact with foreign governments after Mr Trump took office.

“To ask for every call and contact that a national security officer is made is pretty outlandish,” Mr Spicer said at a press conference.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mr Flynn’s lawyer said he “briefed the Defence Intelligence Agency ... 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.”

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