US Politics

Ex-Trump aide Flynn did not report Russia payments: lawmakers

Former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn never reported receiving payments from Russian entities on his top-level security clearance form, a senior US lawmaker said Tuesday.

Michael Flynn's reporting violations may constitute felony crimes that could bring up to five years imprisonment, a Democratic lawmaker said
Michael Flynn's reporting violations may constitute felony crimes that could bring up to five years imprisonment, a Democratic lawmaker said (AFP)

WASHINGTON - Former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn never reported receiving payments from Russian entities on his top-level security clearance form, a senior US lawmaker said Tuesday.

Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz said it appeared Flynn -- who stood down as a top aide to Donald Trump amid controversy over his ties to Russia -- broke the law by failing to disclose the payments from Russia's RT television.

Flynn, a former US military intelligence chief who was a close advisor to Trump during last year's campaign, was paid more than $33,000 dollars to attend an RT gala in December 2015, where he sat at a table with President Vladimir Putin.

The payment came to light amid the sprawling probe into Russian interference in the US election, in which investigators are especially focusing on the ties between Moscow and several Trump advisors.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said there was no sign the retired three-star general had the required permissions to attend the gala, nor that he reported the payment when seeking to renew his security clearance a month later.

"Personally, I see no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz said after a briefing on the issue by officials of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which Flynn headed from 2012 to 2014.

"He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the army prior to travelling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage in that activity," Chaffetz told reporters.

Elijah Cummings, the Democratic vice chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the reporting violations may constitute felony crimes that could bring up to five years imprisonment.

Flynn has denied any wrongdoing, amid reports he is under investigation by both the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner said in a statement that Flynn had kept the DIA informed about the Russia trip at the time.

"General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DoD, 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."

Facing punishment?

Kelner said in March that Flynn is willing to testify in a US counter-intelligence investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the election to help Trump, in exchange for immunity.

Flynn was forced to step down as Trump's national security advisor less than a month into the job for failing to disclose private conversations he had held with Russia's US ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December following the election.

After his resignation, he was also shown to have accepted $530,000 to lobby for Turkey during the campaign, without registering as a foreign agent as required by law.

He also accepted $11,250 each from a Russian air transport firm and a Russia-based computer security firm.

Chaffetz said Flynn is now facing possible punishment from the Pentagon, including being forced to give up the payments.

In a parallel development, with concerns mounting that Republicans are stalling the Russia probe, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that two top former officials -- ex-acting attorney general Sally Yates and former director of national intelligence James Clapper -- will testify on May 8.

Both were deeply involved in the investigation into Russian interference during the second half of last year under former president Barack Obama.