Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has likely violated the law when applying for security clearances to work for the administration, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has said.
Republican representative Jason Chaffetz – chairman of one of the groups looking at Mr Trump and his team’s connections to Russia – said that Mr Flynn had failed to properly disclose income and payments he had received from Russian sources and that he may not have obtained permission from the State Department or Pentagon to do so.
“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else. And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate. And there are repercussions for the violation of law,” Mr Chaffetz told reporters after a classified meeting with the House Oversight Committee.
“I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn Complied with the law,” Mr Chaffetz – who was accompanied by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings the ranking member of the committee – said.
Mr Cummings noted that failing to disclose payments from foreign governments when applying for security clearances is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The two congressmen said that they were not in a position to determine if a crime had been committed by Mr Flynn but that the oversight committee would request further information from the inspector general at the Defence Department and the comptroller of the US Army.
“We’re not here to make the final determination,” Mr Chaffetz said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later demurred when asked if Mr Flynn had lied on security forms when applying for clearance, saying that that “would be a question for him and a law enforcement agency… He filled out that form prior to coming here.”
Mr Flynn, a retired US Army lieutenant general, may have also violated the law because Department of Defence contracts prohibit former military officers from taking payments from foreign sources without prior approval. Mr. Chaffetz and Mr Cummings had been taking a look into a $45,000 paid speech Mr Flynn gave to the Russian state-owned television network RT. Mr Flynn also received more than $500,000 (£389,500) representing the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States.
Mr Flynn reportedly retroactively registered for the foreign work connected to Turkey.
“The committee sent a form letter to several agencies, including the White House” and the Department of Defence responded, Mr Spicer said when asked why the White House had refused the committee's request for information.
He added that the White House does not possess documents from the transition period and that it could not conceivably provide them because of that.
Mr Flynn has been at the centre of a growing controversy around potential connections between the campaign of Mr Trump and Russia since he was suddenly removed from his post just weeks into the new administration.
The retired general was fired for failing to completely inform Vice President Mike Pence about talks he had Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak where he discussed American sanctions on Russia.
Russia has also been accused by US intelligence agencies of actively influencing the 2016 US election seeking to turn the vote in favour of Mr Trump.
US intelligence reports indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacks of the Democratic National Committee last year, resulting in a leak of emails that embarrassed the party.
The reports of Russian influence on the election have led to investigations announced in both chambers of Congress but it is not clear that Congressmen on either side of the Capital are happy with how things have proceeded.
Senator Chuck Schemer, the top democrat in the Senate, said Tuesday that he was “troubled” by the slow pace with which the Senate Intelligence Committee has proceeded with its investigation into allegations of Russian meddling.
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