Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans heard quite a bit about the once-obscure provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause. As regular readers know, the clause prohibits U.S. officials from receiving payments from foreign governments.
This took on new significance while Trump was in the White House because the Republican appeared to benefit from a system in which foreign governments could spend quite a bit of money at a Trump-owned business. In one especially notorious instance, the then-president explored a scheme in which foreign governments would’ve been required to spend money at one of his properties.
But the Emoluments Clause doesn’t just apply to presidents; it also applies to servicemen and women in the military and White House national security advisors. Take Michael Flynn, for example. The Washington Post reported:
Michael Flynn, the retired Army general and onetime adviser to President Donald Trump, was cited by the Defense Department inspector general for failing to disclose lucrative speaking engagements and other business arrangements with foreign entities, prompting the U.S. government to pursue tens of thousands of dollars in penalties against him, according to documents.
Flynn was one of the most scandal-plagued members of Team Trump for a great many reasons, but among the most jarring was the money he received from foreign governments.
Indeed, Pentagon investigators found that Flynn received nearly $450,000 from Turkish and Russian interests in 2015, including compensation he received for an event celebrating RT — the Kremlin-run news agency — when Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin.
It was soon after when Flynn began advising then-candidate Trump, and after the 2016 election, briefly served as White House national security advisor. (He was forced out after lying to the FBI about his covert communications with Russia. Flynn was ultimately the beneficiary of one of Trump’s most brazenly corrupt pardons.)
Part of the problem with the payments, however, was the inconvenient fact that Flynn didn’t seek government approval beforehand — which necessarily created an Emoluments Clause problem.
The Post’s report noted that Craig Schmauder, an Army lawyer, told Flynn in writing, “When there is a finding that a military retiree has violated the Emoluments Clause, the United States Government may pursue a debt collection.”
In this case, that means the Army wants to recoup $38,557.06 from the disgraced retired general.
This comes against a backdrop in which the public has learned that Flynn attended a December 2020 meeting in the Oval Office in which participants discussed declaring a national emergency as part of a scheme to keep Trump in power despite his defeat. The retired general also reportedly raised the prospect of deploying U.S. troops, seizing voting machines, and declaring martial law as part of an apparent coup attempt.
Months later, he sat down with the Jan. 6 committee and repeatedly pleaded the Fifth. Among the questions Flynn wouldn’t answer: whether he believes in the peaceful transition of power in the United States.