The top Democrats on six House committees on Wednesday demanded that the Defense Department explain a speaking fee paid to national security adviser Michael Flynn for a speech given in Russia in 2015, suggesting that he may have accepted a payment from a foreign government.
Flynn has acknowledged that on at least one occasion he was paid by the state-run Russian media outlet RT — through a speaker’s bureau — to speak about “radical Islam in the Middle East.”
When he gave the speech, during an RT gala in Moscow, Flynn dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It remains unclear how much General Flynn was paid for his dinner with Vladimir Putin, whether he received additional payments from Russian or other foreign sources on separate occasions, or whether he sought the approval of the Department of Defense or Congress to accept any of these payments,” the lawmakers write.
“It is extremely concerning that General Flynn chose to accept payment for appearing at a gala hosted by the propaganda arm of the Russian government, which attacked the United States in an effort to undermine our election,” they wrote.
“Even more concerning is that General Flynn, who President Trump has now chosen to be his National Security Advisor, may have violated the Constitution in the process.”
The emoluments clause prohibits any person “holding any Office of Profit or Trust” from accepting gifts or payments from any foreign country. In the past, the Defense Department has advised retired service members that they may still be subject to the law because they could be recalled into service.
The letter, sent by the ranking members of the Oversight, Armed Services, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, demands that Defense Secretary James Mattis provide a swath of documentation related to the speech.
Specifically, they requested “all communications in the possession of the Department of Defense between Flynn and Russian or other foreign officials, information about all direct or indirect payments he received from any foreign source, and documents relating to his work on behalf of the Leading Authorities Inc. speakers bureau.”
Concerns about alleged ties between members of President Trump’s still-nascent administration and Russia has roiled amongst Democrats, even as Republicans have tried to downplay them.
Both the House and Senate Intelligence panels have launched broader probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, which will include probing “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
The FBI and five other agencies are also reportedly investigating if Russia secretly helped President Trump win the election.