The two top lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are investigating whether retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn violated the Constitution when he had paid speaking engagements in Russia in 2014 and 2015.
“We are attempting to determine the amount Lieutenant General Flynn received for his appearance, the source of the funding, and whether he may have received payments from any other foreign sources for additional engagements,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chair and ranking member of the committee, wrote in a letter on Thursday.
The letter was addressed to Mark French, the CEO of Leading Authorities Inc., which handled Flynn’s speaking gigs.
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution bars office holders from accepting direct and indirect gifts or payments from foreign governments. Flynn retired from the Army in 2014, but the Department of Defense has said the clause also applies to retired military officers because they may re-enter service.
Flynn made a number of appearances on RT, the Russia propaganda media outlet. In 2015, he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala in honor of RT in Moscow. Flynn told The Washington Post he was merely a guest at the event and did not ask to sit next to Putin.
The lawmakers are seeking information about who arranged and funded Flynn’s trip to Moscow, a complete list of his appearances on RT and whom he interacted with at the network, and his speaking contract from Leading Authorities.
The probe follows Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser after reports that he’d discussed sanctions with Russian officials in late December prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Flynn’s talk with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., came a day before President Barack Obama’s administration announced sanctions on the Russian government.
Trump on Thursday said he fired Flynn because he did not tell the truth about his discussions with Russian officials, and not because Flynn did anything illegal or improper.
“I didn’t direct him ― but I would have directed him, because that’s his job,” the president said during a press conference at the White House.
”What he did wasn’t wrong,” he added.
Chaffetz’s interest in investigating Flynn’s ties to Russia is surprising. On Tuesday, the Utah congressman said he would not pursue an investigation because the issue had “taken care of itself” with Flynn’s resignation. He later joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte in asking the Department of Justice’s inspector general to open an investigation into the leaks from Trump’s White House.
Read the letter from Chaffetz and Cummings below: