A letter from the Pentagon has informed members of Congress that it has no records of a trip by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Moscow in 2015, Politico reported, leading to questions about whether proper vetting procedures were performed on recently resigned presidential adviser.
The trip — and the Pentagon’s apparent obliviousness to it — raised questions because Flynn received payment for speaking at a state gala for broadcaster RT, which receives significant funding from the Russian government, according to Newsmax. This could mean that as a retired lieutenant general, Flynn is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits government officials from taking gifts from foreign governments.
In an interview with The Washington Post in August, Flynn confirmed that he had received payment for the appearance on behalf of RT.
“I do public speaking. It was in Russia. It was a paid speaking opportunity,” Flynn said. “I get paid so much. The speaker’s bureau got paid so much, based on our contract.”
“The gig was to do an interview with (RT correspondent) Sophie Shevardnadze,” he said later in the interview. “It was an interview in front of the forum, probably 200 people in the audience. My purpose there was I was asked to talk about radical Islam in the Middle East.”
As a response to this revelation, the leaders of the House Oversight Committee — Republican Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland — have sent a letter which asks Flynn’s speaking agency for details on what the retired military man was paid, indicating he may have violated the Emoluments Clause.
According to the Chaffetz-Cummings letter, Flynn was required to report the Moscow speaking engagement to the Pentagon, as well as the payments he received.
Given the high-profile nature of Flynn’s speaking engagement, it was obviously no secret that he’d been to Moscow. Any thorough vetting of the nominee’s past should have turned up the fact that he’d made a speaking trip to Russia, but apparently had not filed the paperwork required of a retired military officer — and one holding general rank, no less.
Which raises the question: Why didn’t the team vetting Flynn turn up what appears to be an obvious failure to follow documentation requirements?
Was the president misled to believe that he had a “clean” candidate when there were significant issues with Flynn’s nomination?
It’s hard to believe that overlooking this would be unintentional. It raises a lot of interesting question about whether President Trump was led down the primrose path, and who led him there — and why.
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