WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was paid more than $33,750 by Russia’s government-run television system for appearing at a Moscow event in December 2015 — as well as thousands more in expenses and for other speeches, newly released documents showed Thursday.
Flynn’s financial relationship with the RT network may violate a constitutional provision against gifts from foreign governments, a Democratic congressman said.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released documents obtained during its inquiry into Flynn’s activities in the months before Trump appointed him as national security adviser. The files showed that Russia’s RT network — 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 had been fired in August 2014 as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the climax of the televised RT gala. Trump fired Flynn as national security adviser last month, saying Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
The documents provided by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., showed the payments also included $11,250 each provided to Flynn by two other Russian firms for speeches in Washington in 2015.
Cummings said Flynn’s payments from RT violated the emoluments provision of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits payments to retired military officers from foreign powers. Although RT identifies itself as an independent network, a report by U.S. intelligence agencies made public in January said RT has long been considered by the U.S. government as a Russian propaganda arm.
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.
A Flynn spokesman said Thursday that Flynn informed his former employer, the Defense Intelligence Agency, 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, General Flynn signed with a speakers bureau and these are examples of that work.”
In a letter sent last month to the speakers bureau that represented Flynn, Cummings said that the U.S. Army looked and could not find any documents showing Flynn had requested permission to participate in the RT event.
Cummings’ new letter Thursday comes one week after Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group, registered with the Justice Department as foreign agents whose lobbying work may have benefited the government of Turkey. The registration involved $530,000 worth of lobbying that Flynn’s firm performed for a company owned by a Turkish businessman.
In the filing, Flynn acknowledged the lobbying on behalf of the company, Inovo BV, “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”
As the AP reported last week, Flynn’s attorneys had informed the presidential transition team that it was likely Flynn would have to register as a foreign agent while he was under consideration for national security adviser. After Flynn was appointed, his attorneys then notified the White House counsel’s office that a filing was imminent.
The White House initially said it had no recollection of the second discussion but later acknowledged such a contact had happened.
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.