Chaffetz: No evidence that Flynn complied with law on foreign contacts

The headaches created by Michael Flynn for the White House have not yet ended. The House Oversight Committee has probed the former national security advisor’s security clearance and previous activities as a consultant and speaker, and has come to some uncomfortable conclusions — or at least status updates. Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) declared afterward that the committee had seen “no information and no data” that showed Flynn complied with legal requirements to seek permission for those contacts, either from State or the Army. Flynn was required to get authorization from both, according to Chaffetz:

The senior members of Congress on the House Oversight Committee says classified military documents show that the Trump administration’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did not ask permission or inform the U.S. government about payments he received for appearances before Russian organizations in 2015 and for lobbying that helped Turkey’s government.

Flynn’s failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments raises concern whether Flynn violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers. That’s according to Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Cummings also announced that Flynn had failed to report his earnings from those business contacts on his security clearance application, a serious omission and also a violation of the law. Both Cummings and Chaffetz signaled that Flynn could face prosecution for these failings, and strongly suggested that he surrender the money paid to him as a first step in dealing with the situation.

Meanwhile, the committee requested more documents from the White House on Flynn’s vetting, and on his termination. They have declined to do so, according to Cummings, and they’re taking it public as a result:

These documents would likely fall under executive privilege, especially since the national security advisor position does not require Senate confirmation. Discussions between advisors and the president are those most covered by executive privilege, and it’s safe to assume that discussions and vetting of advisors outside of the Senate’s scope would fall under that, too. The exception to executive privilege is evidence of a crime, but one would have to posit a cover-up to force that matter — and Trump dumped Flynn within a few weeks, making a cover-up accusation harder to stick. The committee can go after Flynn all it wants, but it’s unlikely to get much out of a pursuit of Trump in this matter. The worst damage they can do has already been done: they’ve made it clear just how badly the White House bungled the vetting on Flynn. If the Trump team has decided to ride it out, that’s probably not a bad calculation on their part.

One has to wonder just how much this relates to Chaffetz’ decision to retire at the end of this term, too. He’s not exactly been a Trump ally over the last couple of years, and he must have expected to be using this chairmanship as a check on Hillary Clinton’s power. Digging up dirt (or screw-ups) in the Trump administration in this manner won’t endear him to grassroots Republicans, even if it does provide everyone a reliable indicator of what’s on the level and what’s merely partisan sniping. A man with bigger ambitions might want to distance himself from that role, but as long as it’s assigned to him, Chaffetz seems comfortable playing it out — and playing it straight, too.