The Defense Department Inspector General has found evidence that Michael Flynn has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign interests and governments, despite repeated warnings from the DoD and the Justice Department that his conduct may be illegal, the Guardian may reveal.
After the retired general pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in 2017 that he lied to the FBI during its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump, Flynn and their supporters claimed that Flynn was the victim. of political persecution. .
Flynn’s prosecution, they insisted, without evidence, was the result of a massive conspiracy by the FBI and US intelligence to sabotage Trump’s presidential campaign and presidency. Trump pardoned Flynn in the last days of his presidency.
But while pleading guilty in 2017, Flynn also admitted that he had committed another crime: related to his acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government of Turkey without registering with the Ministry of Justice as an agent of a foreign government, which was required by law.
Now, according to people familiar with the confidential findings of the recently completed IG investigation, the Guardian may reveal that years earlier, Flynn had been warned that his acceptance of foreign money and not registering as a foreign agent would likely be illegal.
In addition, Flynn’s behavior happened while he was a private person long before Trump became president. Taken together, this appears to be powerful new evidence that discredits Trump and Flynn’s claims about political persecution by those who oppose Trump’s agenda.
The new revelations show how, despite his training to obey rules and orders, a former military officer was instead driven by personal gain to break the law.
The Defense Intelligence Agency first warned Flynn in a letter dated October 8, 2014, that his acceptance of foreign money would be possible be a potential violation of federal law, as well as the emoluments clause of the United States Constitution, which similarly prohibits such foreign payments to government officials.
On November 30, 2016, Justice separately warned Flynn that he may be violating a federal law, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or Fara, in connection with his work as a lobbyist for the Turkish regime of strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The law required Flynn to register with the DoJ as a foreign agent and also truthfully disclose details of his lobbying work to the DoJ.
Despite the DIA’s warning not to accept foreign money, Flynn still accepted $ 45,000 from RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization described by U.S. intelligence agencies as “ the Kremlin’s main international propaganda channel, ” $ 22,000 from other Russian interests and $ 530,000 to serve as a lobbyist for Turkey. And despite the warning from the judiciary, Flynn did not live up to Fara’s statute.
Flynn resigned as director of DIA in early August 2014. More than a year later, in December 2015, he accepted payments from RT. From August 2016 to November of the same year, Flynn worked as an unregistered lobbyist for Turkey – while at the same time serving as a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign. On November 18, 2016, Trump, the then president, named Flynn as his national security adviser.
Because Flynn ignored the DIA’s warnings that his acceptance of foreign money would be in violation of federal law, the DoD’s Inspector General is currently proposing to the Secretary of the Army that Flynn share a portion of Flynn’s proceeds to the U.S. treasury must hand over. received from foreign sources. The IG argues that the payments were illegal under the emoluments clause, as interpreted by executive legal advice and related federal law.
This remedy appears to be civil rather than criminal.
And as a result of ignoring the DoJ’s advice, the following year, in 2017, Flynn also admitted guilty to federal allegations that he lied to the FBI during an investigation into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election. he had violated federal law in regards to his lobbying work for Turkey.
In its letter of October 8, 2014 to Flynn, the DIA warned: “The emoluments clause … as interpreted in the advice of Comptroller General, and by the Department of Justice or Office of Legal Counsel, prohibits receiving advice, gifts, travel expenses, fees, or salary by all retired military personnel “from foreign interests. The same letter stated that such payments would be in violation of federal law.”
The emoluments clause of the constitution specifically prohibits any person “holding an Office of Profit of Trust” from accepting “any gift, consideration, office or title of any kind, from a king, prince or foreign state.”
Subsequent legal counsel from the executive and a federal law prohibit retired military officers from accepting emoluments or compensation from foreign interests because the officers could be recalled from active duty at any time and thus considered a person holding a position of public trust held.
Retired military officers such as Flynn can receive emoluments or foreign compensation if they first seek approval from Congress, the Secretary of State and, in Flynn’s case, as a retired military officer, the Secretary of the Army. But Flynn didn’t.
Clark Cunningham, a professor at Georgia State University College of Law and an expert on emoluments, told The Guardian: “There is little doubt that money Flynn receives to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government or to promote Russian interests. would be considered. emoluments ”.
Flynn himself had originally sought ethical advice from the agency. The first sentence of the agency’s letter read, “This letter is in response to your request a written opinion on the ethical restrictions that will apply to your retirement from the United States military. “
In May 2016, the Chief of Staff wrote to former DIA directors Flynn and other former DIA directors to remind them that despite their retirement, they still had to report important new intelligence information to the agency. Flynn’s acceptance of money from RT and other Russian interests would certainly have been of interest to the DIA, but Flynn withheld this information, documents show.
On November 30, 2016, the Justice Department warned him in its own letter to Flynn that they had received information that Flynn “ may have been involved in [lobbying] activities on behalf of the Government of Turkey ”. DoJ officials then warned Flynn, “If such allegations are true, you may be required to register by law.”
A spokesman for the DoD’s Inspector General said in a statement that they had “ closed our investigation into Flynn ” on Jan. 27 – after investigating allegations that “ Flynn had failed to obtain the required military and ministry approval. from State Department before they receive compensation from an entity under foreign government ”.
The IG had since “forwarded various administrative matters by memo to the Acting Secretary of the Army for review and appropriate action.”
The spokesman declined to say whether the Inspector General will release a public report on his findings, as the DoD IG and other IGs have routinely done in high-profile investigations throughout the government.
The Washington Post first reported in March that the DoD’s inspector general had completed his investigation into Flynn. But details of why the IG came to its findings, such as Flynn being warned before accepting hundreds of thousands of foreign interests, could violate the law, have not been previously reported.
A year after being warned that such foreign fees may be illegal, Flynn accepted more than $ 45,000 to speak at a gala dinner in Moscow hosted by RT (formerly known as Russia Today), where he sat next to Vladimir Putin. Flynn also accepted an additional $ 23,000 from other Russian interests.
After Trump was elected president on January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community formally concluded that Russia had conducted a secret intelligence campaign to help elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, and that RT had played a pivotal role in it.
The late Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, when the Democrat’s ranking in the House oversaw and the administration’s reform committee, sounded a far-sighted alarm by pointing out that Trump had “ selected as his national security adviser someone who had violated the constitution by dollars from a global opponent who attacked our democracy ”.
Flynn only stayed in office for 24 days. He was forced to resign by Trump after admitting to lying to other senior officials – and the FBI – about conversations he had with then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
On December 29, 2016, the outgoing Obama administration had imposed sanctions on Russia for its covert interference in the 2016 presidential election. That same day, Flynn and Kislyak spoke via phone calls intercepted by US intelligence services. Flynn was bugged to Kislayk not to retaliate against the US for the sanctions.
When questioned by the FBI, Flynn denied ever giving such advice to Kislyak.
On December 1, 2017, Flynn agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, as part of a plea with special counsel Robert Muller that he “knowingly” made “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about his talks with Kislyak.
As part of his plea, Flynn also admitted to violating Fara by not disclosing to the government his work as a lobbyist on behalf of Turkey.
In May 2020, then Attorney General William Barr ordered that Flynn’s conviction be dropped. On November 25, 2020, Trump granted Flynn a full pardon.