The defense inspector general discovered evidence that Michael Flynn 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 in 2017 to federal criminal charges that he lied to the FBI during the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, then President Donald Trump, Flynn and his supporters claimed that Flynn was the victim of persecution politics .
Flynn’s accusation, they insisted, without evidence, was the result of a vast conspiracy by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies to sabotage the presidential campaign and Trump’s presidency. Trump forgave Flynn in the last days of his presidency.
But in pleading guilty in 2017, Flynn also admitted to having committed another crime: related to his acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Turkish government without registering with the justice department as an agent of a foreign government, which it was required by law.
Now, according to people familiar with the confidential findings of the recently concluded IG investigation, the Guardian may reveal that Flynn was warned years before that his acceptance of foreign money and his failure to register as a foreign agent would likely be illegal.
In addition, Flynn’s conduct occurred while he was a private citizen, long before Trump became president. Taken together, this appears to constitute powerful new evidence that discredits Trump and Flynn’s allegations of political persecution by those who oppose Trump’s agenda.
The new disclosures portray how a former military officer, despite his training to obey rules and orders, was driven by personal gain to break the law.
The Defense Intelligence Agency warned Flynn in an October 8, 2014 letter that his acceptance of foreign money could be a potential violation of federal law, as well as the emoluments clause in the United States constitution, which likewise prohibits such foreign payments to government officials.
On November 30, 2016, the justice department separately notified Flynn that he could be violating a federal law, known as the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or Fara, in relation to his work as a lobbyist for the Turkish strongman Recep regime. Tayyip Erdoğan. The law required Flynn to register with the DoJ as a foreign agent and to disclose details of his lobbying work to the DoJ as well.
Although DIA warned against accepting foreign money, Flynn still accepted $ 45,000 from RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization described by US intelligence agencies as the “main Kremlin international propaganda medium”, $ 22,000 from other Russian interests and $ 530,000 to serve as a lobbyist for Turkey. And despite the warning from the justice department, Flynn did not comply with the Fara 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 serving as a foreign policy advisor for Trump’s presidential campaign. On November 18, 2016, Trump, then president-elect, appointed Flynn to be his national security adviser.
As Flynn ignored the DIA’s warnings that his acceptance of foreign money would violate federal law, the DoD inspector general is currently presenting to the secretary of the army that Flynn must hand over to the US Treasury a portion of the income Flynn received from foreign sources . The IG alleges that payments were illegal under the emoluments clause, as interpreted by the executive branch’s legal opinions and related federal legislation.
This remedy appears to be civil and not criminal.
And as a result of ignoring the DoJ’s advice the following year, in 2017, Flynn, pleading guilty to federal charges of lying to the FBI during an investigation of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election, also admitted that he had violated the law. federal in relation to its lobbying work for Turkey.
In its letter of 8 October 2014 to Flynn, the DIA warned: “The Fees Clause … as interpreted in the opinions of the Comptroller General and the Department of Justice of the Legal Advisory Office, prohibits the receipt of consultancy fees, gifts, travel expenses, fees, or salary of all retired military personnel “of foreign interests. The same letter stated that such payments would be a violation of federal law.
The constitution’s emoluments clause specifically prohibits any person “holding any Profit or Trust Position” from accepting “any gift, Emolument, Position or Title, of any kind, from any King, Prince or Foreign State”.
Subsequent legal advice from the executive branch and a federal law prohibited retired military personnel from accepting emoluments or compensation for foreign interests because officers could be called back into active service at any time and therefore considered a person in a position of trust. public.
Retired military officers like Flynn can receive emoluments or foreign compensation if they first seek approval from Congress, the Secretary of State and, in the case of Flynn, as a retired military officer, the Secretary of the Army. But Flynn did not.
Clark Cunningham, a professor at the Georgia State University School of Law and an expert on fees, told the Guardian: “There is no doubt that the money received by Flynn to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government or to promote Russian interests would be considered a fee” .
Flynn himself had originally requested the agency’s ethics board. The first sentence of the agency’s letter stated: “This letter responds to your request for a written opinion on the ethical restrictions that apply to your United States Army retirement. “
In May 2016, the former DIA directors’ chief of staff wrote to Flynn and other former DIA directors, to remind them that, despite their retirement, they were still required to report any significant new intelligence information. the agency. Flynn’s acceptance of RT money and other Russian interests would certainly have been in DIA’s interest, but Flynn withheld that information, the documents show.
On November 30, 2016, the justice department in its own letter to Flynn, warned him that it 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 under the Act”.
A spokesman for the DoD inspector general said in a statement that they had “ended our investigation” of Flynn on January 27 – having investigated allegations that “Flynn failed to obtain the necessary approval from the Army and the State Department before receiving any fee from an entity controlled by the foreign government ”.
Since then, the IG had “forwarded a number of administrative matters by memorandum 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 across the government have routinely done in high-profile investigations.
The Washington Post first reported in March that the DoD inspector general had completed his investigation of Flynn. But details of why the IG came to its conclusions, as Flynn was warned before accepting hundreds of thousands of foreign interests that could violate the law, have not been previously reported.
A year after being warned that such foreign taxes 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), at which he was sitting next to by 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 been involved in a covert intelligence agency campaign to help elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton, and that RT played a vital role in that effort.
The late Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, then the Democrat’s position on the House government’s oversight and reform committee, sounded a prescient alarm when he pointed out that Trump had “chosen as his national security adviser someone who violated the constitution by accepting dozens. thousands of dollars from a global adversary that attacked our democracy ”.
Flynn remained in office only 24 days. He was forced to resign by Trump after admitting that he lied to other senior government officials – and to the FBI – about conversations he had with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
On December 29, 2016, the outgoing Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia for its secret interference in the 2016 presidential election. That same day, Flynn and Kislyak talked on the phone – conversations intercepted by US intelligence agencies. Flynn was heard advising Kislayk not to retaliate against the US for sanctions.
Questioned by the FBI, Flynn denied giving Kislyak this advice.
On December 1, 2017, Flynn agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, as part of a plea bargain with special attorney Robert Muller, which he had “voluntarily and intentionally” made “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to FBI regarding his conversations with Kislyak.
As part of his bargain, Flynn also admitted to having raped Fara by failing to disclose his work as a lobbyist on behalf of Turkey to the government.
In May 2020, then-attorney general William Barr ordered Flynn’s conviction to be overturned. On November 25, 2020, Trump granted Flynn total forgiveness.