Moral Low Ground


Trump Lies: Pence, Trump Lawyers Knew Flynn Was Foreign Agent Weeks Before Firing

Gen. Mike Flynn during his Senate confirmation hearings following his nomination as National Security Adviser. (Photo: Democracy Now!/Creative Commons)

The Trump administration has been caught in another lie with the revelation that Vice President-elect Mike Pence and lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump knew national security adviser nominee Michael Flynn was lobbying for a foreign government.

The Washington Post reports Flynn’s attorneys informed the incoming White House legal team during the presidential transition that the former general may need to officially register as a foreign agent, a phone call that raised no alarms within the Trump team despite the highly sensitive national security cabinet position in which Flynn would be serving.

Furthermore, the Miami Herald reports Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told Pence in a November 18 letter that Flynn’s lobbying for the Turkish government and a speech he gave in Russia could amount to ethics violations. Flynn was Trump’s principal foreign policy adviser throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s involvement in advising Mr. Trump on matters relating to Turkey or Russia – including attending classified briefings on those matters – could violate the Trump for America, Inc. Code of Ethical Conduct,” Cummings wrote.

Additionally, the Associated Press reports Flynn’s representatives also had a second conversation with the White House counsel’s office following Trump’s January 20 inauguration and confirmed that Flynn would register as a foreign agent.

On Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump did not know about Flynn’s foreign lobbying when he tapped him to become national security adviser. On Saturday, the White House also denied the AP report of a second, post-inauguration talk.

Vice President Mike Pence also repeatedly lied about what he knew, telling Fox News on Thursday that “hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it, and I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”

“You’re disappointed by the story?” an apparently incredulous Bret Baier asked Pence.

“The first I heard of it,” Pence doubled down. “And I think it is, uh, it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.”

Trump fired Flynn on February 13 after the national security adviser lied to Pence about a meeting he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — three weeks after the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn’s exchange with Kislyak had been monitored and that what he told Pence differed from the transcript of the conversation.

Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey was publicly revealed this week after he registered with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit and admitted he had been paid $530,000 from August-November 2016 for work that may have benefited the Turkish government. According to the Associated Press, Flynn worked in an intelligence-gathering and propaganda capacity for Turkey, collecting information about Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen — who resides in Pennsylvania and who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses of fomenting a failed 2016 coup against him — and pressuring US officials to take action against Gülen, who Turkish authorities want extradited to Turkey. Human rights advocates warn Gülen faces the possibility of torture if he is sent back. However, in an Election Day editorial published by The Hill titled “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support,” Flynn argued against providing Gülen a safe haven in the US.

In addition to his lobbying for Turkey, Flynn was also paid $40,000 to appear at a 2015 dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Russian state-owned news network RT, where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After Flynn joined the Trump administration, he agreed to refrain from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments for the rest of his life, and to abstain from all lobbying for five years. His previous work did not violate that pledge since it occurred before he was named national security adviser. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires US citizens who lobby on behalf of foreign governments or political entities to inform the Justice Department of their work.

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