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House Oversight Leaders: Flynn May Have Broken Law, Didn't Report Foreign Payments

The White House declined to give Congress documents about former NSA Michael Flynn’s payments from foreign governments, including Russia.
Image:  Michael Flynn
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington on Feb. 1, 2017.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn might have violated the law by not disclosing payments from the governments of Russia and Turkey, the bipartisan leaders of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else. And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for the violation of law,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the committee, told reporters.

Flynn received nearly $34,000 in December 2015 to speak at an gala celebrating Russian TV, a state-run news channel deemed by U.S. intelligence officials as an arm of the Russian government. He also received more than $500,000 for lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.

Chaffetz and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the highest ranking Democrat on the panel, addressed reporters shortly after releasing a letter from the White House declining their request for more information about the payments.

Related: Guess Who Came to Dinner With Flynn and Putin

“The White House has refused to provide this Committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request, and that is unacceptable,” Cummings said.

Chaffetz, however, told NBC News he does not believe the White House is being uncooperative. He simply thinks they don't have any information to share.

"The reality is I just don’t think there are any documents because Gen. Flynn was required to proactively ask permission prior to engaging with Russia and Turkey. Not only was he supposed to ask for permission, he was supposed to get permission, and he didn’t," he said.

A White House official told NBC News that most of the documents the committee asked for would be in the possession of other agencies, while other inquiries were too expansive.

“To ask the White House to produce documents that were not in possession of the White House is ridiculous," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. The committee received some of the requested information from departments outside the White House, Spicer said.

Cummings and Chaffetz spoke to reporters after viewing classified memos and the lieutenant general’s disclosure form. It appears Flynn did not report the payments when applying to renew his security clearance. Cummings said the potential crime is punishable with up to five years in prison.

“I see no information or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz said.

In a statement, Flynn's lawyer said he properly briefed Department of Defense officials about his speech in Moscow.

"As has previously been reported, Gen. Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of [the Department of Defense], extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings," attorney Robert Kelner said.

Flynn served as an adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign and was chosen as the president's national security adviser. Flynn resigned in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.