Email #154: Michael Flynn

President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appears to have misled multiple people while committing multiple crimes.

Because he is a retired military officer and the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn may have violated the Constitution, which prohibits members of the government from taking money from other countries without permission from Congress. The House Oversight Committee concluded in April that Flynn received $45,000 for speaking at a Russian government television station gala in 2015 and $530,000 for lobbying for the Turkish government in 2016, and that he failed to report that money on his security clearance form, in which “knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment.” He also failed to register with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit, which is an additional felony.

In March, after having already been fired from the Trump administration, Flynn revealed that he had been employed by Turkey from August to November, while he was also working as the Trump campaign’s principal foreign policy adviser. The administration stated that it had not known about Flynn’s foreign activities. But Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote to Vice-President Pence in November: “Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests.” This means that Flynn also violated President Trump’s executive order prohibiting lobbyists who become government employees from participating in decisions on issues they lobbied for.

President Obama also warned President Trump about Flynn days after the election, telling him that Flynn was under investigation for his potential role in Russia’s interference in the presidential race in favor of the Trump campaign. Flynn then spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day that President Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia for that interference. Flynn denied this, and the administration repeated that denial–even though acting Attorney General Sally Yates had informed the administration that recordings of Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador contradicted the account that Vice-President Pence said Flynn had given him. After President Trump fired Flynn three weeks later, Pence said: “I was disappointed to learn that … the facts that had been conveyed to me by Gen. Flynn were inaccurate.”

Although Flynn may have initially misled his fellow members of the Trump administration, I am concerned why they ignored the facts documented by Rep. Cummings, the Justice Department, and President Obama himself instead maintaining that Flynn had committed no felonies and had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador until those facts were leaked to and reported nationally by the press.

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, it is your responsibility to oversee the conduct of the executive branch, a duty you pursued rigorously during the Obama administration, especially in regard to Secretary Clinton’s inadequately protected emails. Oddly, you have expressed concern about only one aspect of this convoluted case: the White House leaks. While the unauthorized communication of classified information is significant, Flynn appears to have committed multiple crimes, and the administration appears to have been aware of those crimes while either doing nothing about them or, worse, covering them up. Sally Yates–who President Trump fired in January–was originally scheduled to testify before the House in March but was blocked by the White House on the grounds that the content of her testimony was privileged information. She did, however, testify before the Senate yesterday, stating that she had told the administration that “General Flynn was compromised by the Russians” and that the administration took no action.

Although Flynn is still being investigated and presumably will be prosecuted, what steps are you taking to hold the President accountable for ignoring the crimes committed by his National Security Adviser?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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