Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law when he failed to disclose income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.
Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, along with ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, told reporters Tuesday Flynn failed to ask for permission to speak at a 2015 event in Russia or register to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey. Flynn then failed to report the money he earned for the speaking engagement and lobbying efforts on his personal financial disclosure form when he applied to have his security clearance reinstated to work as national security adviser.
Flynn's consulting firm accepted $530,000 for work with a firm that is associated with Turkey's government. He received $45,000 for his speaking engagement in Russia.
The Associated Press reported Flynn's lawyer filed paperwork with the Justice Department in February disclosing that he had done lobbying work that "could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey" between August and November 2016.
Flynn's contract ended on Nov. 15, three days before he was appointed Trump's national security adviser.
Chaffetz and Cummings said they had seen classified memos concerning Flynn’s activities. They also said they saw Flynn’s disclosure form.
“Personally I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz told reporters.
“He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t,” Cummings said.
Flynn was fired as national security adviser in February after he made misleading comments to Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
With Flynn's failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments and failure to disclose them, the retired general could have violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers.
“The law requires him to seek permission ... from the secretary of state and the Department of Defense,” Chaffetz said. “The response we’re getting is there is no information, and that, we believe, is the potential violation.”
A The New York Times story says U.S. Army investigators have found no record that Flynn has "filed the required paperwork for the trip" to Russia in 2015, nor reported the income he received, as is required by the emoluments cause in the U.S. Constitution.
What is the emoluments clause and what does it say? Here’s a quick look.
What is an emolument?
An emolument – in its dictionary definition – is payment for work done or “gain from employment or position.”
So if it’s pay for a service, what’s wrong with that?
Nothing is wrong with it, as long as the "gain" or payment does not come from unauthorized work for a foreign government.
The title of nobility clause, Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, addresses foreign emoluments, or money paid by a foreign government. The section reads: "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state."
What constitutes a violation of the clause?
For a violation of the emoluments clause to have occurred the person must qualify as a U.S. officer and must have accepted an emolument from a foreign government. Flynn would fall under the "U.S. officer" portion of the clause since he is a retired U.S. military officer that had the potential to be called back into active duty.
What happens if you are caught doing that?
The foreign emoluments clause does not specify a penalty for its violation. Cummings has suggested in a letter to President Donald Trump that if Flynn violated the clause, then he owes the U.S. the amount of money he received from Russia and Turkey.
Flynn claims he received his fee from Russia Today, a state-owned television station, not the Russian government, thus he did not take pay from a foreign government. RT paid Leading Authorities, a private firm that arranges for speakers for events, according to the Yale Journal on Regulation.
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