image

Donald Trump

Ex-Trump aide Flynn declines US Senate subpoena in Russia probe

Michael Flynn is key witness in congressional Russia probes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 10:29pm

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn has declined to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee as it investigates possible Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment constitutional protection against self-incrimination, according to a letter to the Senate committee from his attorney.

Flynn’s attorneys did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The retired lieutenant general is a key witness in the Russia probe, which has roiled the first months of President Donald Trump’s presidency with a spate of negative news reports.

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the top Republican and Democrat on the intelligence panel, said in a statement they were disappointed by Flynn’s decision, but would “vigorously pursue” his testimony and documents related to the investigation.

The committee is conducting one of the main congressional probes into US intelligence agency reports of Russian meddling in the election and whether there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and Trump denies any collusion.

Separately on Monday, the Washington Post reported that Trump asked two of the country’s top intelligence officials, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers, to help him deny any collusion between his team and Russia during his presidential campaign.

Coats and Rogers declined the request, the Post reported.

Flynn apparently misled Pentagon investigators about his foreign connections when he sought to renew his security clearance in early 2016, according to a document obtained by congressional Democrats and released in part on Monday.

Interviewed as part of the clearance renewal process, Flynn said all of his foreign trips as a private citizen “were funded by US companies,” according to excerpts of a March 14, 2016, report compiled by security clearance investigators.

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 US officials consider a state-run propaganda arm, according to documents previously released by the House Oversight Committee.

The document is the latest to shed light on how Flynn received a clearance and was hired as Trump’s national security advisor. He was forced to resign in February after less than a month for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Excerpts were released by Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House committee.

Flynn’s decision to decline to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena was first reported by the Associated Press.

Watch: Flynn rejects Trump-Russia probe subpoena

His attorney wrote to the committee that “the context in which the Committee has called for General Flynn’s testimonial production of documents makes clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him.”

Flynn’s legal team said he was rejecting the subpoena because the committee spurned his offer, made by the retired Army general in a May 8 letter, “to give a full account of the facts and to answer the committee’s questions, should the circumstances permit, including assurances against unfair prosecution. We stated that, absent such assurances, General Flynn would respectfully decline your request for an interview and for production of documents.”

It was not clear what the committee would do if Flynn decided not to comply.

Two other former Trump associates - one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Republican operative Roger Stone - have turned over documents the Senate panel had requested, while a third - campaign adviser Carter Page - had not yet complied, NBC News reported, citing a congressional source.

Flynn has acknowledged being a paid consultant to the Turkish government during the campaign.