Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appears to have lied to security clearance investigators by telling them he was paid by "U.S. companies" when he traveled to Russia in December 2015, according to a letter released Monday by the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee."The Oversight Committee has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal," said Rep. Elijiah Cummings of Maryland in a letter to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)."Specifically, the Committee has obtained a Report of Investigation dated March 14, 2016, showing that General Flynn told security clearance investigators that he was paid by 'U.S. companies' when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The actual source of the funds for General Flynn's trip was not a U.S. company, but the Russian media propaganda arm, RT."
As Donald Trump's Russia scandal has progressed, we've been confronted with instances in which people close to the president failed to disclose Russian ties that should've been divulged. And sins of omission are important, outright deceptions are even more serious.Take Michael Flynn, for example.
The payments Flynn received from Russia have long been a point of contention for Trump's top former national security aide -- someone the president kept at his post for 18 days, even after the Justice Department told the White House Flynn had been compromised by Moscow -- but allegations that he deliberately misled U.S. investigators in official documents are a new development.It also sheds new light on why Flynn, who pleaded the Fifth yesterday in response to a Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry, has been so eager to cut an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for his testimony in the Russia scandal. As the New York Times' report noted, "Intentionally lying to federal investigators is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison."And this doesn't even factor in the fact that Flynn was supposed to register as a foreign agent -- a step he failed to take -- which also appears to be a crime.This puts the former White House National Security Advisor in a rather desperate position, which is precisely the sort of dynamic that makes Trump World nervous. The Atlantic recently quoted a White House source saying the president is "worried about" Flynn because officials in the West Wing "don't know what Flynn's going to say."There was also a report last week that suggested the president, ignoring the advice of counsel, recently reached out to Flynn directly, raising the specter of possible witness tampering.Finally, note that yesterday's letter from Elijiah Cummings and other Democrats on the House Oversight Committee wasn't a press release, intended to expose alleged wrongdoing; rather it was a letter to Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), urging the panel's Republican leader to start issuing subpoenas to obtain documents the White House has heretofore kept under wraps.Whether Chaffetz and other GOP members of the committee care what the latest evidence shows remains to be seen.Postscript: From time to time, it's worth remembering that Flynn spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer, where he declared, "If I did a tenth of what [Hillary Clinton] did, I would be in jail today."Clinton, of course, wasn't indicted. Flynn, who did 10 times what she did, is facing the real possibility of incarceration.