Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Adam Smith (D-WA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the ranking members of the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs – three of whom boycotted Trump’s inauguration — sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis requesting the Department of Defense “review a potentially serious violation of the Emoluments Clause by retired Lt. General Michael Flynn,” President Trump’s National Security Advisor.
The six Democrats said in a joint statement, “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. 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 six Dems said in their announcement that, “The Department of Defense warns its retired officers against accepting any direct or indirect payments from foreign governments because retired officers continue to hold offices of trust under the Constitution.”
There has been no response from the Department of Defense, but past and present senior US military and intelligence officers told Homeland Security Today the six Dems’ “implication in their letter and public statement” that Flynn somehow “is in bed with Russian propagandists – and, presumably, Russian intelligence — is absolutely deplorable and beneath the positions they hold in Congress – they should be ashamed,” as one senior military officer familiar with matter said on background.
The six Democrats asserted that, “Since his retirement in 2014, Flynn has made regular appearances on RT, which US intelligence officials concluded is the ‘Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,’” referring to the January 9 Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) report, Background to Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution.
RT is the first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news.
The ODNI report said, “RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan has close ties to top Russian Government officials, especially First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration of Russia Aleksey Gromov, who reportedly manages political TV coverage in Russia and is one of the founders of RT.
In 2014, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Gromov and 19 other men to the Specially Designated Nationals List as part of sanctions against “cronies” of Putin’s for meddling in Ukraine. Gromov reputedly instructed Russian media to support Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine.
In May 2014, Gromov was added to the European Union’s sanctions list due to his role in the 2014 Crimean crisis, his assets in the EU frozen and is barred from entering the EU countries.
The Democrats presented no evidence Flynn had any association with Gromov or any other known or suspected Russian intelligence officials.
What they did say in their letter is that, “Flynn admitted to being paid on at least one of these occasions—at an RT gala in Moscow where he dined with … [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” adding, “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.”
Consequently, the six Democratic ranking members “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.”
“Former military commanders in the US, especially at the command level, routinely become part of recognized authorized speaker circuits and their engagements are routinely before heads of states of foreign governments. I would wager that every retired commander in each of the branches of the United States military for the past 50 years in a rank structure equivalent to General Flynn’s has been asked by our government (officially), and has given speeches in foreign countries to foreign dignitaries, including Russia,” said a 20 year Army veteran with the 20th Special Forces Group who served in Afghanistan and Iraq,” who added, “I have briefed Flynn before and worked in his CoC, albeit far down the line. Everyone knows he’s as honest and above board as they come.”
Continuing, he said, “Most Generals who’ve been retired as long as Flynn have already made a lot more speeches, all paid in some form or another, to several foreign governments, most of which had questionable relations with America. They are sort of expected to do this, in spite of the Emoluments Clause. I’ve heard some of them complain about the fact that they were expected to do this. I predict this will die from lack of enthusiasm very soon, seen for what it is; pure politics.”
He added, “Preaching to the choir now, I know, but it’s worth pointing out that if [Rep.] Thompson was actually concerned about this and really saw it as a threat, he would have written many, many letters in the past requesting many, many similar investigations into the actions of many, many folks, especially the Clintons,” noting that, “While his wife served as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton earned speaking fees around the globe totaling more than $48 million; speeches that were approved by [Hillary Clinton’s] State Department. During Hillary’s stint as Secretary of State, Bill earned about $48 million, more than half of the which was paid by companies in China, Japan, Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Cayman Islands, among others, all approved by Hillary’s State Department.”
A career high-ranking CIA covert operations officer said, “What people need to understand is that we are witnessing a propaganda war on a par with anything the Soviet Union every waged. First came the effort to paint Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate magnate, as a hardline, neo-Nazi racist and homophobe. That did not work, so now we have an orchestrated full scale assault on the legitimacy of his Presidency, painting him and his supporters as minions of the Kremlin and puppets of Russian intelligence. Pure propaganda.”