WASHINGTON — Former business associates of Michael Flynn have told lawmakers he traveled to the Middle East in 2015 as part of a private proposal to build nuclear power plants across the region, a trip the former Trump administration national security adviser never disclosed during his security clearance process.
In a letter released Wednesday, two top House Democrats revealed companies involved in the proposal provided details of Flynn’s trip in June 2015 that suggest he also failed to report contacts with Israeli and Egyptian government officials. The lawmakers – Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. – are now asking the companies and Flynn to provide the names and nationalities of any officials he met with during the trip abroad.
The information released by the lawmakers is the latest evidence Flynn didn’t fully account for his foreign contacts and business entanglements even though he was liable for possible federal criminal penalties for lying or omitting such information. Security clearance questionnaires specifically ask applicants to report any meetings abroad or contacts with foreign government officials that occurred in the previous seven years. As a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn maintained a security clearance. His last renewal was in early 2016.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing Flynn’s foreign interactions as part of his probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible coordination with Trump associates. Earlier this year, that investigation incorporated an ongoing federal probe into Flynn’s lobbying for a Turkish businessman during the final months of the presidential campaign.
Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment on the letter. Flynn’s legal team has previously said he’d like to cooperate with Congress, but only intended to respond to subpoenas that compel him to do so. As members of the minority party, Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, do not have subpoena power.
Cummings and Engel first raised concerns in June about Flynn’s 2015 Mideast trip after Newsweek reported Flynn had worked with companies angling to persuade foreign governments and companies to join in a plan to build a cluster of 40 nuclear plants in the Mideast for civilian power needs. The lawmakers also seized on a comment Flynn made in congressional testimony in the summer of 2015, in which he said he had just returned from the Middle East.
Because of the potential for a criminal violation, the two lawmakers say they are providing Mueller with the responses from the companies.