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A file photo of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photo: AFP
A file photo of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photo: AFP

Michael Flynn may have lied in security review, says US lawmaker

Michael Flynn lied in security clearance saying his paid speech at a Moscow gala for a Russian TV network had been funded by US companies, says Democratic lawmaker

Washington: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have lied in his application for a security clearance by saying that his paid speech at a Moscow gala for a Russian TV network in 2015 had been “funded by US companies," a Democratic lawmaker said on Monday, citing a Defence Department investigation.

Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the panel has “documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal." Cummings made the statement in a letter dated 22 May to Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the committee.

Also on Monday, Flynn declined to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee or to produce documents demanded under subpoena by that panel as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to chairman Richard Burr and top Democrat Mark Warner. He previously had offered to testify to Congress in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a request lawmakers spurned.

“While we recognize General Flynn’s constitutional right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, we are disappointed he has chosen to disregard the Committee’s subpoena request for documents relevant and necessary to our investigation," Burr and Warner said in a joint statement. The committee’s next steps regarding Flynn are unclear. “We’re checking it out," Warner told reporters. “We’re going to keep all the options on the table."

He declined to say whether he would push to hold Flynn in contempt of Congress.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions postponed his appearance before the Senate and House appropriations committees this week, with his spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores saying in a statement it was because of a scheduling conflict. He was supposed to testify about Justice Department funding, though questions about the Russian investigation were certain to come up.

Adviser resigned

Flynn, a retired US Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, was a top adviser to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He resigned from his position as Trump’s national security adviser just weeks into the administration amid claims that he misled vice president Mike Pence about the content of his calls with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Kelner said on 27 April that Flynn had briefed officials extensively regarding his speech to Russia’s government-controlled RT network “both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings."

The House Oversight Committee obtained a report of investigation dated 14 March 2016, showing that Flynn told security-clearance investigators that he was paid by “US companies" when he travelled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Cummings said in the letter. The actual source of the funds for Flynn’s trip was RT, according to payment records that Cummings previously released.

Cummings said Defence Department officials have confirmed that the report of investigation isn’t classified but it contains information the department wouldn’t itself disclose publicly because of the Privacy Act. That law doesn’t apply to Congress. Cummings said he is only releasing selected portions of the report but reserves the right to release more in the future.

‘Directly contradict’

“General Flynn’s claims directly contradict documents the Committee has obtained showing that RT paid more than $45,000 for General Flynn’s participation in the 2015 gala in Moscow," Cummings said in the letter. Citing the payment records, Cummings said Flynn was paid a fee through a speakers’ bureau in the US, and that RT directly paid for Flynn’s airfare, lodging at the Metropol in Red Square and other expenses for both him and his son.

Flynn also stated as part of the security clearance interview that he’d had “only insubstantial contact with foreign nationals" over the past seven years.

“It is difficult to understand how General Flynn could have believed that his dinner with Russian president Vladimir Putin was an ‘insubstantial contact,’" Cummings said in the letter.

Flynn is one of a number of current and former associates of Trump who are at the center of investigations by the FBI and congressional committees. Those inquiries are looking into whether anyone close to Trump helped Russia interfere in the US election to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and ultimately help Trump, and whether any crimes were committed.

Comey memo

Trump has denied reports that he asked FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into Flynn. That alleged request—detailed in a memo that Comey is reported to have written—came a day after Flynn’s ouster as national security adviser. Trump, who has dismissed the Russia meddling inquiry as “a witch hunt," later fired Comey.

Meanwhile, Flynn’s decision not to respond to the Senate committee’s subpoena stirred disappointment from congressional Democrats and mixed responses from Republicans.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an emailed statement that “both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees should continue to seek other ways to gain access to this information."

Feinstein said she and Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley “have sent requests to the White House, FBI and Defence Department for memos, recordings, notes and other documents. The investigation will go on."

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he would support granting Flynn immunity in return for his testimony in the interest of getting the facts. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said he wasn’t sure about the correct process going forward. “Congress can’t enforce subpoenas, we need the Justice Department to do it for us," he said. Bloomberg

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