Michael Flynn attends a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, DC, USA, 10 February 2017. 
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA

Bipartisan agreement: Michael Flynn may have broken law

Updated
Remember when Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was seeking an immunity deal? It may have been out of concern that he broke a law or two.
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.
Let’s note for the record that Chaffetz hasn’t exactly been overly aggressive in holding Trump administration officials accountable for alleged misdeeds, so the fact that even the Utah Republican is publicly expressing concerns about this adds important context.

Indeed, when he spoke to reporters today, Chaffetz stood alongside House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who went on to note that the Trump White House has “refused” to provide the oversight panel “with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request, and that is unacceptable.”

On that same point, the White House claiming executive privilege is apparently on the table as a possible response to congressional requests for information.

Of particular interest in this case was Flynn’s application for security clearance, in which he was legally required to disclose foreign payments, but in this case, the retired general did not. Though his wording was a little clunky, Jason Chaffetz suggested to NBC News that Flynn may have broken the law.

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

Of course, a related question is why in the world the White House didn’t vet Flynn thoroughly before he was named as the president’s National Security Advisor. Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters today Flynn filled out the appropriate forms, which may be true, but it doesn’t explain why officials didn’t examine those forms to see if the information therein was accurate.

This isn’t especially complicated: if Flynn failed to follow the law and disclose the payments, was there no one in the administration responsible for due diligence?

As for the larger Russia scandal and the investigation into what transpired, Reuters had a helpful report on the scope of the inquiry.
The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records.

With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity.
Each of the seven are reportedly part-time. None are lawyers. None, the Reuters report added, “possess substantial investigative experience or a background in Russian affairs.” I don’t doubt these folks are doing their best, but given the severity of the scandal, they could use some real, full-time help.

Remember, we’re talking about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation, which was supposed to be the more serious probe in the wake of Devin Nunes’ ridiculous antics, which at least temporarily derailed the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

For context, note that the Senate panel investigating Bush-era torture policies had 20 staff members. The House GOP’s Benghazi committee had 46 staffers and eight interns. The commission investigating intelligence related to Saddam Hussein’s WMD had 88 staffers.

In case this isn’t obvious, the size of the professional staff helps reflect the seriousness of the investigation: more personnel means a more thorough inquiry. And given what we now know, Congress isn’t doing enough to get answers to questions surrounding the Russia scandal.

Bring on the special counsel.

Russia and Scandals

Bipartisan agreement: Michael Flynn may have broken law

Updated