- Thomson Reuters
House Democrats sent a letter to FBI special counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday alleging that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had failed to disclose a trip he took to Egypt and Israel in 2015 to pursue a joint Russia-Saudi Arabia project “to build nuclear reactors in the Arab world.”
The letter, which was originally sent to Flynn’s business partners and then forwarded on to Mueller, was signed by the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel. No Republicans from the two committees signed on to the letter.
An aide for House Oversight chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy said the congressman did not sign the letter because he does not want to interfere in Mueller’s probe.
“Failing to disclose information on a security clearance application falls under Mr. Mueller’s jurisdiction as it is criminal in nature” the aide said, noting that Gowdy “is one of three Republican members leading” the congressional investigation into Russia’s election interference.
“The Chairman has made it clear he does not want to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation,” the aide said.
Cummings and Engel said in their letter that “it appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts from his security clearance renewal application in 2016 and concealing them from security clearance investigators who interviewed him as part of the background check process.”
Flynn did disclose a trip he took to Saudi Arabia in October 2015 when renewing his security clearance forms in early 2016, but he failed to disclose the trip to Egypt and Israel, according to the Democrats, who requested more information about the trip from companies involved in the venture.
- Thomson Reuters
Company representatives had already confirmed Flynn’s participation in the deal in previous letters to the committee members.
Dr. Thomas Cochran, an adviser for ACU Strategic Partners (one of the companies involved in the nuclear reactor deal), had written to the committees previously that Flynn “firmly believed in the necessity of the project from a US National Security perspective,” so he “traveled to Egypt and Israel to explain the ACU project’s importance.”
The managing director of ACU, Alex Copson, told the Democrats that his company covered Flynn’s travel expenses. Flynn accepted the payment, but did not disclose that on his initial security filings, either, according to the letter.
The Democrats wrote that Cochran and Copson’s “responses suggest that you and other officials at your companies continue to strongly believe in the desirability of this project and that you may have discussed it with Trump administration officials during and after General Flynn’s tenure at the White House.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Flynn did continue his work on the project when he was at the White House, going as far as to direct his staff at the National Security Council to meet with the companies involved. Ethics advisers on the NSC told Flynn to remove himself from the project, but he continued working on it anyway, per the Journal.
Flynn’s attorneys told the Democrats that they would only respond to requests for more information about the trip in response to “compulsory process,” which would require a sign off from the Republicans on the committee.
The letter ended with a request for “all documents and communications referring or relating” to Flynn’s contacts with foreign persons during the presidential campaign, the transition period, his tenure as national security adviser, and after he was fired from that position in February 2017.
The Democrats also requested that Flynn and representatives from the companies involved in the deal provide “transcribed interviews” with the committees’ staff by October 4.
The trips to Egypt and Israel were not the first foreign contacts Flynn failed to disclose on his security clearance forms. 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, according to the House Oversight Committee.
Documents obtained by the committee earlier this year also revealed that Flynn was paid $11,250 by Russia’s top cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky, and another $11,250 by the Russian charter cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines for two speaking engagements in 2015.
Flynn belatedly registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice in March for his lobbying work last year on behalf of a Turkish businessman with ties to the Turkish government. Flynn’s firm, Flynn Intel Group, was paid about $500,000 by the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, between August and November.
Flynn offered to testify before the congressional intelligence committees in April 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.
Read the full letter below: