Documents detail Flynn payments from Russian interests
Washington — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was paid more than $67,000 by Russian companies before the presidential election, according to documents released by a Democratic congressman.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland asked the Trump administration to provide a comprehensive record of Flynn’s contacts with foreign governments and interests.
Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are part of House and Senate committee investigations into contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. The investigation comes as U.S. intelligence officials say Russia meddled in the recent election by hacking Democratic emails.
According to the documents, Flynn accepted $33,750 from Russia’s government-run television system for appearing at a Moscow event in December 2015 — a few months before Flynn began formally advising President Donald Trump’s campaign — and thousands more in expenses covered by the network and in speech fees from other Russian firms.
Flynn’s financial relationship with the RT network may violate a constitutional provision against gifts from foreign governments and Flynn should pay the money to the U.S. government, said Cummings, senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Last week, Flynn registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent whose lobbying work may have benefited the Turkish government. The lobbying occurred before Election Day, from August to November, during the period when Flynn was Trump’s campaign adviser.
Trump fired Flynn as national security adviser last month, saying the former U.S. Army lieutenant general misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
The newly-released files show that RT — designated by the U.S. intelligence community as a propaganda arm for Russia’s government — also paid for luxury hotel stays and other expenses incurred by Flynn and his adult son, Michael Flynn Jr., during the Moscow trip.
Flynn, who was fired in August 2014 as chief of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the climax of the televised RT gala.
Cummings said Flynn’s acceptance of payments from RT violated the emoluments provision of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits retired military officers from accepting gifts from foreign powers.
In letters sent to Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and FBI Director James Comey, Cummings said Flynn “violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked our democracy.” Cummings was referring to the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia instigated cyber-hacking of Democratic party officials and organizations in the months before the presidential election.
The Defense Department has said retired military officers are covered by the emoluments clause because they could be recalled to military service. The department has also noted that the prohibition on accepting foreign gifts includes commercial groups controlled by foreign governments or others “considered instruments of the foreign government.”
Anna Belkina, RT’s head of communications, said Friday that the network’s payments to Flynn through his speakers’ group were “standard practice.” Belkina added that the committee’s disclosures of payments and emails involving its officials exposed the network’s confidential “exchanges and negotiations.” She did not address U.S. charges that RT is a propaganda outlet.
A Flynn spokesman said Flynn informed the DIA before he went to Moscow and after his return. Price Floyd, a spokesman for Flynn, said that “as many former government officials and general officers have done, Gen. Flynn signed with a speakers’ bureau and these are examples of that work.”
DIA spokesman Jim Kudla said Thursday that Flynn did report to the agency in advance that he was traveling to Moscow “in accordance with standard security clearance procedures.”
Separately, the Army is looking into the matter of Flynn’s reporting and compensation, but has found no answers yet, according to spokesman Col. Pat Seiber.
In an addition to the RT payments, Flynn was also paid $11,250 for two speeches in Washington — one in August for Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian charter cargo airline, and a second, in September, for Kaspersky Government Security Solutions Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, a Russian-based cybersecurity firm.
Kaspersky on Friday on Friday confirmed that its subsidiary had paid Flynn to speak at a Washington conference on cybersecurity in 2015, but declined to give a specific amount. In a statement, Kaspersky said it was a private company with no ties to any government, but is “proud to collaborate with the authorities of many countries, as well as international law enforcement agencies in the fight against cybercrime.”
Flynn and his son also received an unspecified amount in expenses paid by RT for business-class flights to and from Moscow and for their three-day stay at the Hotel Metropol. RT representatives said the stay offered tours of the Kremlin, RT headquarters, the Bolshoi Theater and art museums. Another attendee who took part in some of the tours told The Associated Press they did not see Flynn at those events.