Did Donald Trump and Mike Pence both lie about what they knew about disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of foreign interests?
Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, told reporters on Thursday that the president wasn’t aware that Flynn was hired to lobby on behalf of Turkish interests during the run up to the election last year.
Pence himself denied knowing about it as well in an interview with Fox News last night, saying he first heard about it when the story broke about Flynn registering with the Justice Department as a foreign agent earlier this week.
The only problem with both of those claims comes from the news that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote a letter to Pence on November 18th asking for more info on Flynn’s work as a lobbyist and the potential conflicts of interest that it posed.
Both Politico and The Daily Caller had found out about the Flynn Intel Group, Flynn’s consulting firm, being hired to lobby on behalf of Turkish interests only days earlier. This news coverage prompted Cummings to send Pence an urgent inquiry. According to Business Insider:
“Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests,” Cummings wrote.
“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests, stating: ‘They want to keep posted on what we all want to be informed of: the present situation, the transition between President Obama and President-Elect Trump.’ When asked whether the firm had been hired because of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s close ties to President-elect Trump, Mr. Kelley responded, ‘I hope so.'”
Now Cummings won’t let the administration get away with denying any knowledge of Flynn’s dubious double dealing during the time before the former general was fired for ostensibly misleading Pence about his conversations with Russian agents.
“In addition to being in the press, I warned the Vice President directly three months ago about the conflicts created by Lt. General Flynn’s company lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests,” Cummings said.
“If the Vice President had heeded my warnings, it’s clear now he could have prevented the problems that occurred with Lt. General Flynn. Republicans in Congress are doing a disservice to the White House and our national security interests by not conducting rigorous and serious oversight of the administration, especially to help catch issues early and address them.”
The Trump administration keeps straining credulity with denials even when presented with hard evidence to the contrary. Let’s see how they try to wiggle out of this one.