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Flynn may have lied in security review, Democrat lawmaker says
[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 committee 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."
Mr Cummings made the statement in a letter dated May 22 to Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the committee.
Also on Monday, Gen Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to withhold documents demanded under subpoena by the Senate Intelligence Committee for its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the Associated Press. He previously had offered to testify to Congress in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a request lawmakers spurned.
Gen Flynn, a retired US Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was a top adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He resigned from his position as President 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.
Gen Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but he said on April 27 that Gen Flynn had briefed officials "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."
The Oversight Committee obtained a report of investigation dated March 14, 2016, showing that General Flynn told security-clearance investigators that he was paid by "US companies" when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Cummings said in the letter. The actual source of the funds for Flynn's trip was the Russian network, RT, he said.
Mr Cummings said Defense 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. Mr Cummings said he is only releasing selected portions of the report but reserves the right to release more in the future.
"General Flynn's claims directly contradict documents the Committee has obtained showing that RT paid more than US$45,000 for General Flynn's participation in the 2015 gala in Moscow," Mr Cummings said in the letter.
Citing previously obtained payment documents, Mr Cummings said Gen Flynn was paid a fee through a speakers' bureau in the US, and that RT directly paid for Gen Flynn's airfare, lodging at the Metropol in Red Square and other expenses for both him and his son.
Gen Flynn also stated in the security-clearance interview that he didn't have any connections with any foreign government or foreign-government officials, according to the letter.
"It is difficult to understand how General Flynn could have believed that his dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin was an 'insubstantial contact,'" Mr Cummings said in the letter.
Gen Flynn is one of a number of current and former associates of President Donald Trump who are at the center of investigations by the FBI and congressional committees.
Those inquiries are looking into whether anyone close to Mr Trump helped Russia interfere in the US election to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and ultimately help Mr Trump, and whether any crimes were committed.
Mr Trump has denied reports that he asked FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Gen Flynn. That alleged request - detailed in a memo that Mr Comey is reported to have written - came a day after Gen Flynn's ouster as national security adviser. Mr Trump, who has dismissed the Russia meddling inquiry as "a witch hunt," later fired Mr Comey.
Responding to the prospect that Gen Flynn would refuse to turn over documents, 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."
Ms 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."