U.S. President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, took more than $500,000 from Turkey and tens of thousands of dollars from Russian interests after being warned in 2014, when he retired as an Army lieutenant general, not to accept payments from foreign governments, new documents show.
“We have no evidence, zilch, that he obtained permission from the secretary of the Army and the secretary of state to accept any foreign government payments as required by law,” Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday as he released the documents about Flynn.
One document showed the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general’s office had opened its own investigation into whether Flynn sought permission to accept the payments from the foreign governments. That investigation is separate from the congressional probe.
“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings said.
WATCH: Cummings on Mike Flynn
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Defense Department probe of Flynn was “appropriate if they think there is wrongdoing.”
But Spicer said the Trump administration did not review Flynn’s security clearance before he was named national security adviser, relying instead on a 2016 renewal of the clearance during the administration of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, which occurred after Flynn’s 2015 trip to Russia.
Among other payments, Flynn was paid $45,000 in 2015 to attend the 10th anniversary of the Kremlin-controlled Russia Today television network, sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner.
Spicer said Trump “made the right decision at the right time and he continues to stand by it,” regarding his firing of Flynn in February after just 24 days on the job. Trump ousted Flynn after it was learned he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump assumed power.
The retired three-star general was a vocal Trump political supporter during last year’s presidential election campaign before Trump named him to the high-level White House job.
Flynn’s Russian connections are a key component of investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top U.S. law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, into details of the U.S. intelligence community conclusion that Russia meddled in the U.S. election to boost Trump’s chances of winning.
Congressional requests denied
Cummings said the White House had refused congressional requests to turn over its records related to Flynn’s hiring at the White House, which could shed light on whether Trump and other officials knew of the Russian and Turkish payments to Flynn when he was named to the key security position.
Earlier this week, Spicer said it had turned over Flynn-related documents to congressional investigators. But Cummings disputed that, saying, “I don’t understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn after the president fired him. I don’t get it.”
Cummings said Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House panel, had not followed up and insisted that the White House release more documents, nor had he called Flynn to testify.
On Tuesday, however, Cummings and Chaffetz held a joint news conference in which they said Flynn might have broken the law by not disclosing the payments when he filed paperwork last year to renew his security clearance.
“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,” Chaffetz said.
Flynn was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama but was forced out because of his chaotic management style. Later, he started advising Trump on foreign affairs and national security.