Pentagon report shows Flynn misled investigators about Russia trip

Michael Flynn and Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits next to retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, left, as they attend an exhibition marking the 10th anniversary of RT (Russia Today) television news channel in Moscow, Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo: Mikhail KlimentyevSputnik/Kremlin via Reuters)

While seeking a renewal of his security clearance in early 2016, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn falsely told government investigators that he had only been compensated by “U.S. companies” for his overseas travels — just two months after he took an all-expense paid trip to Moscow under a $45,000 contract funded by RT, the Russian government television network, according to excerpts from an internal Pentagon report released Monday by a top House Democrat.

The still secret report also quoted Flynn as telling investigators that “had not received any benefit from a foreign country” even though RT flew him and his son first class to Moscow and put them up at a five-star hotel for the three-day trip.

In addition, Flynn told investigators he had had only “insubstantial contact” with foreign nationals. He failed to mention that he had sat next to Russian president Vladimir Putin at an RT dinner during his Moscow trip, according to the excerpts of the report released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The internal Pentagon Report of Investigation and other documents “appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal,” Cummings asserted in a letter to committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

The excerpts from the internal report could potentially add to the legal troubles of Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser before being fired over his misleading accounts of a conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last December. “You can go to jail for this,” tweeted Matthew Miller, former chief spokesman for the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder. How much legal jeopardy he is in over the matter would likely depend on whether prosecutors can show Flynn intended to deceive the security investigators.

The excerpts were released the same day that Flynn’s lawyer sent the Senate Intelligence Committee a letter stating that his client was refusing to honor a subpoena to turn over documents in his possession, citing “an escalating public frenzy against him” and the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel as grounds for invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Late Monday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and ranking minority member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., signaled they may now seek to hold Flynn in contempt of Congress, saying in a statement they will “vigorously pursue” his testimony and the production of “any and all pertinent materials pursuant to the committee’s authorities.”

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined comment to Yahoo News. Kelner has previously said that Flynn had informed the Pentagon about his RT trip, both before and after it took place, but hadn’t responded to questions about the details of how it was funded.

The Report of Investigation was based on a Feb. 2016 interview with Flynn while he was seeking to renew his security clearance and trying to recruit clients for a consulting firm he had founded after being forced to step down as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

After filling out a security clearance form, in which he was asked to check off his answers to questions about foreign contacts, he was then directly questioned by investigators. Specifically, he was asked about his December 2015 trip to Russia, as well as trips to Japan and Saudi Arabia.

“All trips were funded by U.S. companies, as they were seeking business in other Countries and requested that HE visit the countries to develop business,” the report stated, according to the Cummings letter. [Caps in original.]

When initially questioned about the RT trip by Yahoo News during last year’s Republican National Convention, Flynn responded: “I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me,” and told a reporter that the funding came from his U.S.-based speaker’s bureau.

“General Flynn’s claims directly contradict documents the Committee has obtained showing that RT paid more than $45,000 for General Flynn’s participation in the 2015 gala in Moscow,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “These funds were transferred from RT, through a London-based bank, to General Flynn’s speaker’s bureau in the United States, Leading Authorities, Inc., and ultimately to General Flynn’s company. As one RT official stated in an email: “We will be covering the payment of General Flynn’s fee.”

Cummings also notes that in filling out his SF-86 — the form required to renew his security clearance — Flynn was asked if had any contact with a foreign government “or its representatives” during the previous seven years.

“FLYNN stated on all of the trips HE had only insubstantial contact with foreign nationals,” the Pentagon report stated.

“It is difficult to understand how General Flynn could have believed that his dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin was an ‘insubstantial contact,’” Cummings wrote in his letter to Chaffetz. (Cummings added that a copy of the letter was going to Mueller at the Justice Department.)

Cummings also cited another potentially misleading response from Flynn to the investigators. “FLYNN stated HE has never had any problems at this or any other employment, including no reprimands, forced resignations or terminations,” the report stated. In fact, Flynn was widely reported to have been removed from his post as DIA director in 2014 by top Obama administration officials who had concerns about his management skills.

Flynn’s responses to defense security investigators were sharply criticized by Douglas Wise, the former deputy director of DIA who briefly overlapped with him in the summer of 2014 before Flynn was removed from his post. “It’s bizarre,” Wise told Yahoo News. “He certainly knew the intent of the questions — and he parsed his answers to mislead — without a doubt.”

The letter comes amid new disclosures that President Trump asked then FBI director James Comey to back off an investigation of Flynn as well as a report by Yahoo News that the president has maintained contact with his former adviser.

In his letter, Cummings cited the Report of Investigation as a basis for Chaffetz to subpoena White House documents relating to Flynn — a step he has so far refused to take.

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