The Wheels Are Falling Off Pence’s Claims Of Ignorance On Flynn
The first major eruption of scandal in the Donald Trump administration happened only a few weeks after he was inaugurated, when National Security Adviser Mike Flynn resigned. Flynn’s resignation came after it was revealed that he had spoken with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the phone and had sought to assure Moscow about sanctions, on the day that President Barack Obama ordered Russian nationals deported in connection with the Russian interference in the 2016 election. The official reason that Trump offered for why he demanded Flynn’s resignation was that Flynn had misled the Vice President, Mike Pence. Now Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings has poked a big hole in the administration’s story, once again raising serious questions about who knew what when in connection to Russia’s interference in America’s election.
On February 16th, CNBC reported that Trump said he fired Flynn because of what he had said to Pence. Trump said,
On February 20th, Pence finally made a statement about it after several days. CNN reported that Pence said,
The issues surrounding Flynn have not gone away. Flynn only registered as a foreign agent in March. This means he was secretly an active foreign agent while holding one of America’s top intelligence positions.
Pence claimed in March that “today was the first I heard of” Flynn’s financial ties to foreign governments. This marked the second time that Pence claimed ignorance about Flynn.
On Tuesday, Democratic House Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, issued a statement to Shareblue that he has no idea why Pence would claim that he didn’t know that Flynn was a foreign agent, because Cummings warned Pence personally. Cummings said,
“In addition to being in the press in the fall — well after General Flynn’s last background check — I warned the Vice President directly six months ago about the conflicts created by Lt. General Flynn’s company lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests. It is unclear whether the White House heeded my warnings or did any vetting at all, but it’s clear now that they could have prevented the problems that occurred with Lt. General Flynn. Republicans in Congress are doing a disservice to the White House and our national security interests by not conducting rigorous and serious oversight of the Administration, especially to help catch issues early and address them.”
The statement linked to a letter, archived on the official House website, addressed from Cummings to Pence, dated November 18th, 2016. In the letter, Cummings told Pence about Flynn’s ties to Turkey.
“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. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests, stating: “They want to keep posted on what we all want to be informed of: the present situation, the transition between President Obama and President-Elect Trump.” When asked whether the firm had been hired because of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s close ties to President-elect Trump, Mr. Kelley responded, ‘I hope so.’”
Cummings’s letter also warned Pence about Flynn’s financial ties to Russia,
“Lt. Gen. Flynn also was paid to travel to Moscow in December 2015 and join Vladimir Putin at the ehad table during a dinner honoring the Kremlin-backed media network RT. During the event, Lt. Gen. Flynn gave a speech that was highly critical of the United States, stating, ‘The United States can’t sit there and say, ‘Russia, you’re bad.’ Lt. Gen. Flynn has stated that he was paid by his speaker’s bureau, LAI, but he has not disclosed how much he made or what entity hired LAI.”
Since that letter was sent, more information has surfaced about how much Flynn was making to work for foreign governments while in the inner circle of the Trump team. On April 25th, The Guardian reported that the House Oversight Committee had discovered payments Flynn received that he failed to report in compliance with the law,
“In 2015, Flynn received about $45,000 for attending Russian state TV network RT’s gala dinner in Moscow, where he sat next to Russian president Vladimir Putin. He also received $530,000 for consulting work that likely benefited the Turkish government while working as a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign.”
This issue is likely to heat up again soon, as star testimony is scheduled. Next week, Sally Yates is scheduled to testify to the House Oversight Committee. CNN reported that she is likely to powerfully contradict the Trump administration on what Pence knew about Flynn. Yates was the acting Attorney General during the transition to the Trump administration. Trump fired her three weeks after she says she warned the White House about Flynn.