The Defense Intelligence Agency warned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn against accepting money or gifts from foreign governments after he left the agency, according to a recently unclassified letter the DIA wrote to Flynn dated October 8, 2014.
In the letter, the DIA said Flynn could violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits retired military personnel from receiving payments from foreign sources without advance permission, and advised Flynn to “obtain advance approval from the Army” before receiving an emolument from a foreign government.
Flynn was paid about $33,000 by Russia’s state-owned news agency, Russia Today, for a speech he gave in Moscow in 2015, but he did not disclose the payment on his security clearance application in January 2016, according to the House oversight committee.
Robert Kelner, Flynn’s attorney, said in a statement on Tuesday that Flynn “briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of the Department of Defense, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip.”
But Flynn, who headed the DIA between 2012 and 2014, appeared not to have heeded the agency’s warning about informing the secretaries of state and the Army before traveling to and accepting money from Russia. He also did not disclose the trip or the payment on the security clearance form he filled out one month after returning from Moscow.
“I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, said on Tuesday. “He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, said earlier this week that while Flynn’s negligence on his security clearance forms could be punished by up to five years in prison, that decision was not up to the committee. Cummings called on the Defense Department in early February to investigate whether Flynn had violated the Emoluments Clause by accepting the payment from RT.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Thursday said there was “powerful” evidence “that Gen. Flynn broke significant criminal laws.”
Cummings said in a statement on Thursday that the documents “raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon.”
“Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation,” he added.
The committee said on Tuesday that it had asked the White House, in which Flynn served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month, for more information about his financial disclosures.
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short referred the committee to the Defense Department for the documents related to Flynn’s security clearance and “contacts with foreign nationals” that predated his time at the White House. He said documents related to Flynn’s time as national security adviser were classified.
“I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said at a press conference on Thursday. “It makes the American people think the White House has something to hide.”
Flynn was forced to step down from his position in February after only 24 days amid revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak and other foreign nationals is being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee, which Chaffetz said would take the lead on examining whether those contacts themselves were inappropriate.
Flynn last month offered to testify before the congressional intelligence committees in exchange for immunity from prosecution – a signal to some legal experts that he thought he may have committed a crime. Neither of the committees has taken him up on the offer.