Former Trump National Security Adviser Failed To Disclose Payments From Russian Sources
CNN broke a story last night that throws yet another light on the relationships between people close to Donald Trump and Russia when it reported that Trump’s former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn failed to report income received from Russian sources as required by law:
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did not include receiving thousands of dollars in speaking fees from three Russian companies in initial financial disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics, copies of the reports show.
Flynn’s initial disclosures, which he submitted in mid-February, left out that he received money from Russia’s state-funded television network, RT, for a speech in Moscow and from air cargo company Volga-Dnepr Airlines and cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Government Security Solutions Inc. for speaking engagements in the United States.
Flynn included the speaking fees in disclosure forms he filed Friday, according to the documents. Both sets of filings were made public as part of a White House release of financial disclosures of 180 White House officials.
Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said Flynn “had only just begun the financial disclosure filing process at the time he left the White House.
“He filed a draft form explicitly listing his speakers bureau contract, and he expected to engage in the usual process of consultations with the White House Counsel’s Office and OGE (Office of Government Ethics) regarding what he was expected to disclose. That process was suspended, however, after he resigned.
When the White House asked him this week to complete the process and to itemize the specific speaking events, he did so,” Kelner said.
CNN has reported extensively on the RT speech, but the existence of the other two speaking engagements was disclosed last month by House Democrats.
Flynn resigned just days after the date of the initial financial disclosure after it became public that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
The disclosure forms show Flynn made as much as $1.5 million last year. According to his financial snapshot, Flynn received $827,055 in salary and bonus from his firm, Flynn Intel Group, alone.
The retired lieutenant general listed a speaking engagement for “RT TV,” the Russian TV network, when asked in the form to disclose “compensation exceeding $5,000 in a year,” but did not specify the amount.
CNN previously reported that Flynn, according to a top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, was paid more than $45,000 by RT, formerly called Russia Today, for a speech in Moscow in December 2015. The US intelligence community has long assessed RT to be a propaganda tool of the Kremlin, writing in a January report on Russian interference in the US election that the organization had participated in disinformation campaigns aimed at the US. Flynn initially said he was paid by his speakers bureau for the talk.
The forms say Flynn received “compensation exceeding $5,000 in a year” from the Russian airline and cybersecurity company for speaking engagements in the United States. House Democrats last month also revealed the existence of those two speeches, saying Flynn received $11,250 from the airline and $11,250 from the cybersecurity firm.
The White House acknowledged in March that Trump’s transition team was aware before Flynn was tapped to serve as national security adviser that he had engaged in work that would likely require him to register his consulting firm as a foreign agent.
Flynn’s Justice Department filing last month raised questions when it revealed that Flynn’s firm worked on behalf of a Turkish-owned company, Inovo BV, to improve US confidence in Turkey’s business climate.
Flynn Intel Group received $530,000 in payments from the company and acknowledged in its registration as a foreign agent that the work may have benefited the Turkish government.
Revelations such as this are one possible explanation for why Flynn’s attorney is reportedly seeking some kind of immunity agreement before his client would agree to testify before any Congressional committee investigating these matters. Over and above whatever it is that Flynn might be asked to testify about, there have already been sufficient reports about his own failures to properly comply with the law to raise questions about his exposure to possible prosecution for failure to disclose relationships with Russia and other foreign governments. Depending on whether or not these failures were willful, Flynn could be exposed to significant monetary penalties and/or jail time and would most likely end up with a criminal record that could result in him losing his security clearance and being shut out of a wide range of positions that someone in his positions would otherwise be eligible for after having retired from the military after as long a career as he had. Taking all of that into account, it would be foolish to leave him open to open-ended questioning without an immunity agreement.
In addition to providing further insight into the motivation behind Flynn seeking an immunity agreement in exchange for his testimony, these latest allegations regarding Flynn provide yet another layer to the reports about connections between people close to President Trump and Russian officials and oligarchs. These allegations are of particular interest since they involve Russia Today, the cable “news” network that carried by many American cable outlets and which is owned and funded by the Russian Government. The network, which usually goes by the abbreviation “RT” today, has long been a source of what is clearly pro-Russian propaganda, most notably during the Russian intervention in Crimea and other parts of eastern Ukraine. It often features appearances by people on the fringes of American politics such as former Members of Congress such as Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. And, most notably, is known to be a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The fact that Flynn was so closely involved with the network speaks volumes, and the fact that he failed to disclose that involvement while working for the Trump campaign and Administration certainly does raise eyebrows.