Ex-Trump aide Flynn defies Senate subpoena in Russia probe

The Democratic congressman said a March 2016 Pentagon report on Flynn's security clearance application showed that Flynn claimed his trips overseas were funded by USA companies, when documents show that RT paid for the December trip to the Moscow gala.

Flynn, a key target in the explosive probe into links between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election, "will be asserting his rights under the Fifth Amendment", the source told AFP.

The full Senate, or the 15-member panel formally known as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, could seek a judges order compelling Flynn to comply.

Democrats are expressing alarm at a report alleging that President Donald Trump asked two top intelligence officials to publicly deny collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

The letter, sent Monday by Flynn's legal team to the Senate Intelligence committee, lays out the case for Flynn to invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and his decision not to produce documents in response to a congressional subpoena. Warner said he and Senate intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina hoped to meet with Robert Mueller, the Justice Department's special counsel in the Russian Federation investigation, to talk about what Comey can and cannot say in his testimony.

Flynn's refusal comes as Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, cited a previously undisclosed document alleging that Flynn had "lied" to security-clearance investigators about payments he received "directly" from Russia for appearing at a December 2015 gala hosted by Russian state-owned media company RT.

In fact, a trip Flynn made to Moscow in December 2015, where he attended a gala dinner and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was paid for by Russia Today, which USA officials consider a state-run propaganda arm, according to documents previously released by the House Oversight Committee.

Intentionally lying to federal investigators is a felony which could put Flynn in prison for up to five years.

"Multiple Members of Congress have demanded that he be investigated and even prosecuted", Flynn attorneys Robert Kelner, Stephen Anthony and Brian Smith wrote in their letter.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was sacked from his position as Trump's national security adviser in February.

Mr Trump appointed Mr Flynn as his top national security aide in January, but he was forced to resign after less than a month on the job for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. and then misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Brennan also said Trump might have broken protocol if he revealed highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States in a White House meeting earlier this month.

Democratic Rep. Cummings said Monday that Flynn repeatedly provided inconsistent or untruthful statements to us security clearance investigators in January 2016 before the renewal of his credentials. The problem is that he apparently also told investigators all the funding for the trip (which included visits to other countries besides Russia) came exclusively from US companies. But the Oversight Committee released detailed email and payment records months ago showing that the source of Flynn's payment of more than $33,000 was RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network that has been labeled a propaganda network by USA intelligence.

The letter says RT paid for Flynn's appearance by routing the money through his speaker's bureau, which is a USA company.

In addition to the RT payments, Flynn has come under scrutiny for collecting more than $500,000 for lobbying work on behalf of Turkish interests.

In his letter, Cummings cited a standard security clearance question that asks respondents to disclose contacts with foreign governments or their representatives. However, Cummings points to Flynn having sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and received $45,000 to attend an event hosted by Russian television network RT.

He says the Russian intelligence official denied that Russia was meddling, but said he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now, the committee's top Democrat is saying that Flynn didn't just fail to notify the Pentagon of those payments - he told government investigators that such payments didn't exist when he applied for top-secret security clearance in February of past year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interactions between Flynn and the committee.

"The context in which the committee has called for General Flynn's testimonial production of documents makes it clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him", Kelner said.

However, Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and declined to furnish the panel with relevant documents in his possession. “If youre innocent, why do you take the Fifth Amendment?”.

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