Saturday 21 October 2017

Former Trump aide Michael Flynn 'may have broken law' over Russian payments

Questions were also raised over payments made to Mr Flynn's consulting firm by a company tied to the Turkish government (AP)
Questions were also raised over payments made to Mr Flynn's consulting firm by a company tied to the Turkish government (AP)

US president Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, appeared to break US law when he failed to seek permission or inform the government about accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Russian organisations after a trip there in 2015, congressional committee leaders have said.

The two senior representatives heading a House committee examining possible Russian links with Mr Trump's campaign also raised new questions about Mr Flynn's consulting firm accepting 530,000 dollars (£414,000) from a company tied to Turkey's government.

Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings said Mr Flynn could face prosecution because, as a former Army officer, he was barred from accepting the foreign payments.

Mr Flynn, who headed the military's top intelligence agency, is a retired lieutenant general and was Mr Trump's national security adviser until he was sacked.

"That money needs to be recovered," said Mr Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"You simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else."

Mr Cummings also criticised the White House for refusing to turn over documents the committee requested about Mr Flynn's foreign contacts during his three-week stint as national security adviser.

He said: "That is simply unacceptable."

Mr Flynn campaigned vigorously for Mr Trump before the presidential election and was chosen as national security adviser in January.

He was sacked in February on the grounds that he had failed to notify senior administration officials about his contacts with Russian officials before his appointment.

Mr Cummings said Mr Flynn's failure to formally report the Russian payments on paperwork requesting his security clearance amounted to concealment of the money, which could be prosecuted as a felony.

Mr Flynn's lawyer said his client had disclosed the trip, organised by the Russia Today (RT) news organisation, in conversations with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he was its former director.

Attorney Robert Kelner added: "As has previously been reported, General Flynn briefed the Defence Intelligence Agency, a component agency of (the Defence Department), extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings."

Mr Chaffetz spoke publicly after a closed-door briefing with Defence Department officials, saying: "There was nothing in the data to show that Gen Flynn complied with the law."

The new details about Mr Flynn's actions came as US Congress returned from recess and investigations into Trump associates' potential ties with Russia moved forward.

Earlier, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee announced a public panel on May 8 to hear testimony for the first time from the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who played a role in Mr Flynn's sacking.

Ms Yates was supposed to testify publicly before the House intelligence committee in March, but that was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled.

Some Democrats believe the White House wants to limit what Ms Yates says publicly, but the White House has denied this. Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper is also to testify at the May 8 hearing.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are the main congressional bodies investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible ties with the Trump campaign.

Ms Yates' testimony will mark her first appearance on Capitol Hill since she was sacked in late January after refusing to defend President Trump's travel ban on certain foreigners.

Ms Yates told the White House in January that Mr Flynn had been misleading in his account of a December phone call with the Russian ambassador to the United States in which economic sanctions against Russia were discussed.

Mr Flynn was ousted after those discrepancies were made public.

The White House said last month that it had never tried to prevent Ms Yates from testifying. The assertion followed the publication of a series of letters in which her attorney pushed back against what he suggested was Justice Department guidance on what Ms Yates could say about conversations she had with the White House.

AP

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