WASHINGTON — The leaders of the House Oversight Committee said they’ve seen no sign that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn followed the law in seeking permission for or reporting payments from foreign governments.
Appearing together outside of a Defense Intelligence Agency classified briefing for lawmakers about former director Flynn, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) presented a unified front that’s been unusual for this Congress, as committee Dems have accused GOP leaders of neglecting ethics questions about the Trump administration.
Chaffetz, who announced last week that he would not run to keep his seat in 2018, told reporters that the committee is trying to track foreign payments to Flynn, “and if that money was received by General Flynn, and we believe that it was, that money needs to be recovered.”
“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,” Chaffetz said. “And there are repercussions for the violation of law.”
Cummings stressed that they could not discuss the contents of documents they were shown at the DIA briefing, but “they are extremely troubling.”
“We have concerns. I believe these documents should be declassified to the fullest extent possible, without compromising sources and methods,” he said, thanking Chaffetz for joining committee Dems’ request to see the documents.
Lawmakers have now obtained Flynn’s SF-86 application to renew his security clearance in January 2016, a month after he traveled to Moscow to give a speech for which the state-owned network RT paid Flynn $45,000.
“There is no evidence, as the chairman said, anywhere in these documents that reported the funds he received for this trip. There is also no evidence that he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source,” Cummings said. “This is a major problem.”
“As the SF-86 explains, and I quote, ‘All questions on this form must be answered completely and truthfully.’ It also says this, and let me quote directly, ‘The United States Criminal Code Title 18, Section 1001, provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines, up to five years — and five years imprisonment.’ Based on these documents, I believe the Oversight Committee should be holding a hearing with General Flynn… to ask General Flynn directly why he concealed these foreign payments from the Defense Department.”
Last week, the White House refused to provide the committee with “a wide range” of requested documents, including anything “referring or relating to Lieutenant General Flynn’s contacts with foreign nationals.”
“So, we’ve received no internal documents relating to what General Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser. And we’ve received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador,” Cummings said. “In short, the White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request, and that’s simply unacceptable.”
Chaffetz said he sees “no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law, and that is 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.”
“I see no evidence that he actually did that,” he said, as Cummings agreed.
Chaffetz added he’s “fairly curious as to how widespread this is.”
“No former military officer is allowed to accept payments from a foreign government,” he said. “And my guess is that’s probably not the first time this has happened. And it does — it does concern me.”
Cummings wasn’t going so far as to call the White House not producing requested documents “obstruction.”
“These things happen,” he added. “And as far as those documents are concerned, hopefully we’ll get them.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer argued at today’s briefing that some of the document request was out of their purview, pertaining to the transition period before Inauguration Day, and some of the request was “unwieldy,” asking for a record of every call and contact Flynn made as national security advisor.
“It’s a question of if you can, if you ask for every call or contact,” Spicer said, calling it an “extraordinary number” of calls and an “outlandish” request.
“Everything that is being questioned occurred prior to Jan. 20,” he added.
Under questioning from reporters, Spicer said he didn’t know if Flynn broke the law. “That would be a matter for them to look into, not for us,” he said, reiterating “everything that he did was prior to him coming to this White House.”
Flynn, who campaigned with President Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention, accepted Trump’s offer of the national security advisor post on Nov. 18. He resigned Feb. 13.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared the “disturbing news that General Flynn may have violated the law in connection with his security clearance may be just the tip of the iceberg. ”
“These revelations highlight the importance of the intelligence committee working in a bipartisan way to request and receive documents with respect to any financial arrangements Flynn and others in similar positions may have had with foreign governments,” Schumer added.