Dem bill would block former intel chiefs from lobbying for foreign governments

Dem bill would block former intel chiefs from lobbying for foreign governments
© Stefani Reynolds

House Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would block former U.S. intelligence officials from lobbying for a foreign government.

The effort is meant in part to prevent another situation like that of Michael Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director who in 2017 retroactively registered as a foreign agent lobbying for Turkish interests.

The bill, titled the Intelligence Directors Lobbying Prevention Act, would bar members of the U.S. intelligence community (IC) who are charged with protecting the nation from then lobbying for a foreign government.

Lawmakers have compared the effort to a lifetime ban that prevents executive branch appointees from lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity.

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Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroDems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings Texas student says he lost military scholarship due to Trump's new transgender policy Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is leading the legislative push to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, which requires by law that any entity doing work in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government, political party or official must be registered.

"Given General Flynn's dealings with Russia and Turkey, we must ensure Intelligence Community heads do not lobby on behalf of another nation and jeopardize U.S. national security interests," Castro said in a statement to The Hill.

"That's why I introduced legislation to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 to ban former heads of any IC agency from serving as a lobbyist for another government. It's the right thing to do for U.S. national security, and the smart thing to do for holding the IC to the highest ethical standards in their word," he added.

While the bill does not name Flynn — who led the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration and briefly served as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE's first national security adviser before being ousted — it recounts a situation that matches his description.

"Given recent revelations regarding previous heads of elements of the intelligence community lobbying on behalf of foreign principals, Congress should codify and expand the Executive Order signed by President Trump on January 28, 2017, so that it applies to the heads of elements of the intelligence community," the bill says.

If enacted, the director of national intelligence would be required to submit a report to Congress detailing whether former agency heads are complying with the bill.

Democratic Reps. André Carson (Ind.) and Jim McGovern (Mass.) are also original co-sponsors of the bill. 

Flynn, who served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until 2014, came under scrutiny in 2016 following his consulting firm's work for a Dutch company that had ties to the Turkish government.

In particular, he drew attention to his work for Turkey after publishing an op-ed in The Hill on Election Day 2016 in which he defended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from criticism of his crackdown on dissidents.

He also attacked a Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gülen, a political foe of Erdoğan's living under self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, calling him a “shady Islamic mullah” who “portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist.”

It was later revealed that Flynn's now-defunct consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, received $530,000 from Dutch-based company called Inovo BV, which had ties to the Turkish government.

Flynn and his consulting firm then retroactively registered in March 2017 as foreign agents working on behalf of Turkey.

In a December 2017 legal filing, the retired Army lieutenant general admitted to lying to federal investigators in his March filings to the Department of Justice. He said that he falsely stated in the filing that his consulting firm was unaware of the extent of Inovo BV's ties to Turkey and also claiming the op-ed was done of his own volition.

Flynn also became entangled in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia probe and pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about statements he made to a Russian diplomat. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

A month into Trump's presidency, Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it was revealed that he had lied about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Mueller, in a December sentencing memo, recommended that Flynn serve no jail time, stating that he provided “substantial assistance” in several unspecified cases on top of the probe. He has yet to be sentenced.

Flynn's longtime business partner, Bijan Kian, was also charged by federal authorities in December for working as an unregistered foreign agent.